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Weak release schedule prompts Atari losses

Continued sales of existing titles keep Atari in the number two spot Stateside.

Publisher Atari has announced a net loss for its September quarter, with falling revenues being pinned on a sparse release schedule - but projections for the coming quarter, which includes the holiday season, are strong.

For the three months ended September 30, Atari saw its revenues drop from $109.4 million to $60.6 million - causing a drop into loss for the company, with a net loss of $28.7 million recorded, compared with a net profit of $731,000 in the same period last year.

The company also paid a $39.4 million one-time dividend to its parent company, Infogrames, as part of a settlement of a large long-term debt, which brought the overall loss for the quarter to $68.1 million.

However, despite the poor results for the September quarter, Atari has maintained its position as the number two publisher in the USA for the year to date (behind Electronic Arts in the number one spot), with revenues supported by titles such as Enter the Matrix, Dungeons and Dragons, Dragonball Z, Test Drive and Backyard Sports.

For the coming quarter, which ends in December and includes the vital holiday sales season, Atari expects to register revenues of between $215 and $235 million, with income of between $28 and $36 million. The publisher is hoping for one of its strongest Christmas line-ups ever, with titles from the company's key franchises such as Dragonball Z, Neverwinter Nights and Magic the Gathering being joined by new products such as Terminator 3, Mission Impossible: Operation Surma and Kya.

Two key products won't arrive until after Christmas, however, with Unreal Tournament 2004 and Driver 3 now being slated as key titles for quarter four. For the year as a whole, Atari's guidance remains unchanged - net revenues of $560 to $590 million and net income of $35 to $45 million are expected, not counting the one-time dividend payments associated with recent recapitalisation.

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