|Martin Goldberg is a veteran game industry developer, writer, archiver, and historian who is well known and respected in the Atari community. Marty’s articles can be found in many gaming publications, and he co-authored Atari Inc. Business is Fun, A Complete History of Atar Inc. in collaboration with Curt Vendel as part of their effort to preserve Atari history with their Atari Museum archive.
The period during which Aquaventure is thought to have been under development was one of change and turmoil within the Consumer Division and at Atari overall. Atari was scrambling to cover losses from a steadily worsening video game market. During the summer Jim Morgan was named as CEO of Atari, replacing Ray Kassar. But at the time of the announcement, Jim was still employed by Phillip Morris and wanted to take a sabbatical so Manny Gerard was tasked with running the company on a day-to-day basis until JIm could officially step into the CEO role at Atari. As a result of all the change, it seems there was even less executive supervision of the consumer development team, and less reporting on their activity making its way up to the top.
Jim Morgan started work at Atari on September 9th, and within a few weeks he issued a company-wide freeze on all projects and products in development. A month-long product-by product evaluation period followed during which a large number of projects were modified or completely canceled. Atari’s Ataritel advanced telephone division is an example of one large casualty of the process. It also caused delays in other products that were scheduled to be released for that holiday season.
The two Aquaventure ROMs that have been discovered so far have July and August dates. From what Gary Shannon has recently related to Atari prototype games expert Matt Reichart, Aquaventure was done and ready to be released and as a result Gary was set up for receiving a deadline bonus. What most likely happened is that Aquaventure was a victim of the development freeze and resulting product culling as Jim Morgan looked to make the company’s offerings leaner to help Atari weather what some were nicknaming the “Atari Crash.”