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74

Towel Designers

Atari’s high-strung prima donnas

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Fisher, A. (2018). Towel Designers. In Fisher, A. Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom). Twelve, pp. 74-84

78

Bob Whitehead: The four of us began to look up the numbers and we found out just the four of us were responsible for in excess of $200 million in sales, just our games. That was after a year and a half or so of sales.

David Crane: Since we went out to lunch together and tended to look at these things together, we totaled up the sales of all the games that we did. And that was interesting, because about 60 percent of the total sales from the previous year were games that the four of us did. Twenty percent of the revenues from the previous year were people who had left Atari, just to go off and do other things. And of the thirty people left, they accounted for about 20 percent of the revenue.

Al Miller: And so I researched the music and the book publishing industries to develop a contract that I thought would be fair for my situation at Atari. And I submitted it to my management, saying this is the kind of relationship I want. I want recognition for my work and I proposed something like a 2 or 3 percent commission royalty, which was pretty low relative to the music and the book publishing industry. And I started having discussions with my management and then it bopped up to senior management, Ray.

David Crane: We went into Ray Kassar’s office and we told them all about it.

Al Alcorn: They said, “Well, come on, give us a piece.” They didn’t want a lot, just five cents a cartridge.

[...]

Al Alcorn: Ray’s attitude was that the engineers were a bunch of high-strung prima donnas.

David Crane: And he said, “Well, you know this is a corporate product. It’s an engineering product. There are hundreds of employees at Atari. And if that guy over there didn’t do his job we wouldn’t have sold $60 million. If that guy over there didn’t do his job we wouldn’t have sold $60 million. In fact if the guy on the assembly line hadn’t put them together we wouldn’t have made $60 million on the games. So you are actually no more important than the guy on the assembly line who puts them together.” That was the end of that meeting. And in fact we were walked out by a senior vice president who just kind of chuckled at the way that meeting went and said, “Well, guys, it’s been nice knowing you.” Because he knew that we’d be gone soon.

honestly i side with crane here. ofc, that's not to defend the status quo of ridiculously high exec salaries. the immediate alternative is: more equal pay across the board, and only dealing with suppliers who have good labour/environmental practices and maybe even a cheaper product if salaries are too high

—p.78 by Adam Fisher 1 year ago

Bob Whitehead: The four of us began to look up the numbers and we found out just the four of us were responsible for in excess of $200 million in sales, just our games. That was after a year and a half or so of sales.

David Crane: Since we went out to lunch together and tended to look at these things together, we totaled up the sales of all the games that we did. And that was interesting, because about 60 percent of the total sales from the previous year were games that the four of us did. Twenty percent of the revenues from the previous year were people who had left Atari, just to go off and do other things. And of the thirty people left, they accounted for about 20 percent of the revenue.

Al Miller: And so I researched the music and the book publishing industries to develop a contract that I thought would be fair for my situation at Atari. And I submitted it to my management, saying this is the kind of relationship I want. I want recognition for my work and I proposed something like a 2 or 3 percent commission royalty, which was pretty low relative to the music and the book publishing industry. And I started having discussions with my management and then it bopped up to senior management, Ray.

David Crane: We went into Ray Kassar’s office and we told them all about it.

Al Alcorn: They said, “Well, come on, give us a piece.” They didn’t want a lot, just five cents a cartridge.

[...]

Al Alcorn: Ray’s attitude was that the engineers were a bunch of high-strung prima donnas.

David Crane: And he said, “Well, you know this is a corporate product. It’s an engineering product. There are hundreds of employees at Atari. And if that guy over there didn’t do his job we wouldn’t have sold $60 million. If that guy over there didn’t do his job we wouldn’t have sold $60 million. In fact if the guy on the assembly line hadn’t put them together we wouldn’t have made $60 million on the games. So you are actually no more important than the guy on the assembly line who puts them together.” That was the end of that meeting. And in fact we were walked out by a senior vice president who just kind of chuckled at the way that meeting went and said, “Well, guys, it’s been nice knowing you.” Because he knew that we’d be gone soon.

honestly i side with crane here. ofc, that's not to defend the status quo of ridiculously high exec salaries. the immediate alternative is: more equal pay across the board, and only dealing with suppliers who have good labour/environmental practices and maybe even a cheaper product if salaries are too high

—p.78 by Adam Fisher 1 year ago
84

Alan Kay: Atari was greedy and they were making a shitload of money off really obsolete games toward the end there.

Al Alcorn: You know in Silicon Valley if you don’t obsolete yourself somebody else will, right? The Warner guys didn’t really understand that. They were from an East Coast company and thought that they had an evergreen kind of product. They thought that they would just sit back and mint money for the rest of their lives selling the Atari VCS for the next twenty years.

that's a good saying actually

—p.84 by Adam Fisher 1 year ago

Alan Kay: Atari was greedy and they were making a shitload of money off really obsolete games toward the end there.

Al Alcorn: You know in Silicon Valley if you don’t obsolete yourself somebody else will, right? The Warner guys didn’t really understand that. They were from an East Coast company and thought that they had an evergreen kind of product. They thought that they would just sit back and mint money for the rest of their lives selling the Atari VCS for the next twenty years.

that's a good saying actually

—p.84 by Adam Fisher 1 year ago