Atari has made a name for itself based on a number of high profile, iconic video game properties. Those properties have become beacons of history, etched in the annals of video game iconography. However, according to court documents, Target seems to be encroaching on Atari’s iconic space with its own game called Foot Pong.
According to The Blast, the outlet managed to get its hands on legal documents indicating that Atari is suing Target for copyright infringement, counterfeiting, and trademark infringement — with $150,000 per registered copyright violation, and $2 million per registered trademark violation. Those are some hefty numbers, no doubt, especially when taking into consideration that those figures would apply to every instance where Target has Foot Pong installed.
But what is Foot Pong and why exactly is Atari aggressively suing over this game? Well, it turns out that Foot Pong is actually exactly what it sounds like. It’s the classic Atari game of Pong, only you play it with your feet via a motion-based video pad on the ground. You control one side of the paddle with your foot in a low frame-rate game of Pong. Think of it like a Wii game controlled by the Wii-Mote or a Switch game controlled by the Joy-Cons, only instead of using your hands you use your feet.
Target had the Foot Pong games installed through its stores, and will continue to do so up through March 2019. Originally, Atari sent a cease and desist letter to Target to get the retail chain to remove the gaming device from the store floors, because it claimed that it was “identical in overall look and feel to the original Pong.” The observation isn’t wrong. It literally is classic Pong simply play on the floor… with your feet.
The cease and desist letter didn’t quite fall on deaf ears. But it was futile, given Target’s insistence in moving forward with the floor-based version of Pong up until the end of the first quarter of 2019.
The thing is, will it be worth it?
In some ways, you also have to question if Atari has a point with this lawsuit. If the Foot Pong game is completely innocuous and not generating profit or mind share for Target, then the company could easily get rid of the floor-based game and call it a day. But if the endeavor is generating mind share for Target and increasing visibility of the company’s brand in a marketable way, then it could potentially justify Atari’s claim that Target is infringing on Atari’s property for the sake of increasing the worth of its own brand.
But on the subject matter of worth… Atari has had a rough go of it over the years, so much so that in order to get the Atari VCS console made, the company had to crowdfund it. There was also an issue with the royalties allegedly not being paid to developer Frontier Developments, the makers of Roller Coaster Tycoon and Elite Dangerous, which resulted in Frontier suing for $2.2 million in owed royalties.
So now the big question is: Will Target fold or will the company hold up until March 2019? And given Atari’s financial woes, will the company be able to mount a proper offense to get Target to pay up before the company retires Foot Pong?