Once upon a time, the Dragon Ball franchise was behind some of Atari’s highest grossing titles. Throw the words “dragon” “ball” and “budokai” on a box and Atari would be looking at money in the bank. Those days are behind us — Namco Bandai has announced that its secured exclusive North American rights to publish all future Dragon Ball titles across all major consoles and handhelds for the next five years.
The deal officially begins in January of 2010, but Namco Bandai are getting a head start later this year. The publisher has secured the rights to publish three Dragon Ball titles in 2009: Dragon Ball: Raging Blast for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo for the Wii; and Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans for Nintendo DS.
This comes as huge blow to Atari, who has recently faced some very public hard times — pulling out of E3, seeing Phil Harrison stepping down from his high-publicized position, and then selling off its European publishing arm. Our sources have been indicating trouble for Atari for quite some time now, too; we wouldn’t be surprised if Ghostbusters: The Videogame was the publisher’s last shelved retail title, if what we’re hearing has been accurate.
But despite its fiscal difficulty, we don’t think we’re seeing the last of Atari… just a few changes. The publisher has a huge back-catalog of strong, recognizable IPs that would be perfect for the digital download space. How does an updated version of Q*Bert or other classics sound? We wonder what the folks at Cryptic Studios are up to right now…