When Apple announced, four years ago, that they would be releasing an iPhone SDK (for free) and opening an App Store where developers far and wide could peddle their creations, it became immediately clear to us that iOS (née iPhone) gaming was going to be huge. As developers jumped on board and began crafting titles for the platform, many noted that a game creation environment emerged that harkened back to the early-'80s home computer days when a single developer could sit down with an idea, bang out some code, and sell his game at the store down the block -- a floppy wrapped up nicely in a zip-lock bag. The barrier to entry was, again, nil.

Plenty of major studios began porting iOS versions of their large console titles over, sure, but it's really been the wonderful indie developers out there, following that development model of olde, that have contributed most of what's really special to iOS gaming. It's also worth noting that a great many of the true App Store gems adhere to the gameplay model that was the standard back in those early days of video games, both in the home and in the arcade: simple gameplay that's instantly engaging, delivering "just one more game" fun in short play-sessions. They really knew how to do it way back when -- fields of encroaching Asteroids, a furiously barreling Centipede, the quick thinking demanded of a Missile Commander, and the battle with gravity that is Gravitar. Wonderful stuff.

I'm thrilled to report that something incredible has just been revealed that stands to generate gameplay opportunities for iOS gamers that marry that white-knuckle gaming excellence of decades past with the here and now of a particular mobile gaming platform. In perhaps the biggest news ever to come out of an iOS game studio, Seamus Blackley, co-creator of the Xbox, has formed the startup Innovative Leisure and has pulled together a team of famous designers from the Atari of the '70s and '80s to create original, new games for the "new arcade," which is this team's term for the iOS platform.

The veteran Atari developers in question, or "Jedi Council," includes Ed Rotberg, creator of Battlezone; Owen Rubin, creator of Major Havoc and Space Duel; Rich Adam, creator of Gravitar and co-developer of Missile Command; Ed Logg, co-creator of Asteroids and Centipede; Dennis Koble, creator of Touch Me and Shooting Gallery; Bruce Merrit, creator of Black Widow; and Tim Skelly (of Cinematronics, not Atari), creator of Rip-Off. In all, 11 developers of olde, along with several young interns, make up the group. "This is the dream team from Atari," says Blackley.

As Blackley told VentureBeat,

“We had that big collection of games, and we love the history of game design,” Blackley said. “I’m lucky because I love games and following that love has always done me well. Once we figured out the iPhone is the new arcade, that games from the old days fit this new audience and their on-the-go lifestyle, we knew what to do. There is already a group of people who know how to operate and innovate in this space. They had the longest string of hit games in history. And they wanted to get back together again.”

Blackley's partner in the venture, chief executive Van Burnham, came to know many of the early Atari game designers in writing her 2003 book Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984. She introduced them to Blackley, and the like-minded group formed a close relationship. During this time, Blackley and Burnham created their own arcade in an LA warehouse, which they called the "Supercade," filled with rows and rows of vintage cabinets, gathered to illustrate the history of gameplay, as viewed by its curators. And, it is within this arcade in LA that the team of designers will work together on their new iOS creations, so as to gather inspiration by the games that surround them.

To start, the team came up with 30 game ideas in all, narrowed the list down to the 10 best, and pitched them to the publishing house THQ, who indicated they wanted them all. Right now, seven of the titles are in development. (THQ has first right of refusal on all of the team's titles, in exchange for funding, but Blackley indicates he can shop around any ideas the publisher dismisses.)

As a particular retro game lover -- and lover of those titles that stay close to that lean formula of decades past -- this news excites me in ways not easy to express. And, I have a feeling I won't be the only one whose hair stood up on the back of their neck in hearing it. Rest assured we will bring full coverage of any and all news out of Innovative Leisure, including further details the team will be sharing at next week's DICE Summit in Las Vegas.

Read the full interview story over at VentureBeat, and the photo gallery at Time is worth a look.

  • http://profiles.google.com/karl.thoroddsen Karl Thoroddsen

    As a fellow developer and retro fan I wish them all the best.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rogers/1369203091 Scott Rogers

      Yeah, I like all of these guys. I just hope THQ's financial woes doesn't keep this from happening.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, just recently read about the THQ financial situation which is a bit shaky, but this development team sounds like we could be in for a treat! Never enough retro or retro-inspired games for me. 

  • http://twitter.com/MyPaperMonsters Robots vs Wizards

    I don't know, dude be wearin a suit. Thats usually the first sign some $99 freemium is on the horizon.
    Happy to eat my words though!

  • http://twitter.com/touchgameplay TouchGamePlay

    Just for the Record:

    New Team, new Games - I don`t wanna see any cheese or hyped retro Classic Port from this Team of Old Scool Talents.

    You Guys should inspire others and don`t just do the usual if you create a Team like this which has more Potential at the current Point then some of the Big Players might have ever.So take you Time Boys because it`s seem like we could finally move to the next Level with this Years upcoming new iDevice from Apple & Samsung and I wanna see finally some improvements in Storytelling, Gameplay and Graphics that is out of the Box Thinking.

    It seem like it`s finally Time to push the Mobil Gaming of both Worlds (iOS & Android) to a new Level and I can`t wait to be a Part of this Adventure.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome, many of these games such as RipOff and Gravitar have no peers in my mind to this day. Black Widow is woefully underrated as well.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_URQOKQFXGJ2JAKZ6MODNSQSEUI Bernie -

    i doubt if any if not all of these old geezers still have it in them. and i hope they do. but time will tell.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/HR3TJBH4DKDZ247EQXTF3YG4NQ Montgomery

    Seamus is the Jason Calacanis of games. He's been talking about assorted games companies for more than 10 years, but I still don't see any products. The fact that he's got coverage in VC blogs doesn't surprise me but TA got sucked into his fertilizer firehose?


    Actually calling him the Jason Calacanis of games is probably being too charitable. He's more like Josh Harris. Has he put himself on a 24 hour webcam yet?

    The fact that THQ is doing about as well as Atari in 1984, pretty much seals the deal - in a casket. Delisting notice from Nasdaq? Check. 56m loss for Xmas quarter? Check. No wonder there's a picture of the game ET on his wall from his moldy 2005 photo at CAA where he no longer works.

    There's a phrase for situations like these, it's called circling the drain.

    But hey Seamus did win the PT Barnum award, no joke, so at least the next chapter of fail has a title.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, the hairs are still standing up pretty much everywhere from reading this! Really exciting. I think these guys could come up with the goods. Just look at what Jeff Minter is managing to produce now - arguably some of his best work. Now somebody needs to approach Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001638515552 Peter Hirschberg

    Why does the article have a picture of my arcade? If this was a photo taken by Blake at one of my game days that's totally cool - i'm just a little sore about the whole Atari thing still.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/HR3TJBH4DKDZ247EQXTF3YG4NQ Montgomery

      Peter :
      I noticed the borrowed barn pic too. The original blog had their 'warehouse' - and of course it can't hold a candle to your incredible digs (still need to visit sometime). But considering the article is a piece of VC fluff about someone with less than stellar ethics, you can't blame them for being consistent in their behavior.

      Are you on coinopspace? It's got a much nicer collector scene than KLOV.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/rekzkarz#a0df5 rekzkarz

    There's no school like the old school -- but on iOS it'd be Nu Skool vs old school.  Not sure a 'tetris' or 'asteroids' or 'missile command' game will have the same appeal in 2012 -- but those games were minimalistic b/c of necessity.  Maybe older devs will have some ideas they've been holding onto for a long time?

  • http://twitter.com/invalidname Chris Adamson

    Nice to see Tim Skelly keeping busy. I have his book of videogame-themed cartoons from the 80s, titled "Shoot the Robot, Then Shoot Mom".