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PortalOne’s release of Atari’s Breakout pits players against Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell

PortalOne's release of Atari's Breakout pits players against Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell


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PortalOne has turned multiplayer games into game shows, and now it’s enabling players to see if they can beat Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell at Atari’s Breakout.

In this hybrid game-show platform, celebrities like Bushnell show what they can do to get a high score in an arcade-style game. Then the players have 24 hours to beat the score, compete with each other, and ultimately win prizes.

“We’re building what we call hybrid games. So we’re basically taking the strengths of the games industry and combining that with the strengths of the TV industry to create an even more engaging experience,” said Bård Anders Kasin, in an interview with GamesBeat.

Breakout, which debuts tonight at 6 p.m. Pacific on PortalOne, is the second Atari title to become available on PortalOne’s platform, joining the first Atari hybrid game, Centipede.

“You have 24 hours to master this level and become the best. And of course, some players play just to kill time. And some players play to have fun, others to be social with their friends,” Stig Olav Kasin said. “We have a lot of families playing together actually.”

Nolan Bushnell is the cofounder of Atari.

The original Breaktout debuted in 1976 for the Atari 2600 console.

“I have a lot of affection for Breakout. It was the game that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak worked on with me at Atari,” said Bushnell, in an interview with GamesBeat. “And so there’s kind of an interesting history that goes with it. I’ve been helping Atari with some of their stuff right now. And so anything that helps the brand, the Atari brand right now, is very important. I think this helps us in that mission of modernizing the Atari brand.”

New gameplay for Breakout

PortalOne has all sorts of arcade games.

PortalOne’s hybrid games combine the strengths of both the games industry and the TV industry, bringing them together in one platform thanks to the Unreal Engine. Shows take place directly inside the games, giving you the unique chance to compete against your favorite stars and celebrities on your phone. Bushnell is kicking off the latest season today.

“Nolan is fantastic. He has been a fantastic supporter and a good friend and also someone who has given us a lot of extremely strong advice over the years. So we really appreciate that. And it’s impacted us a lot so,” said Bård Anders Kasin.

PortalOne’s hybrid games operate in 24-hour tournaments, and every day, you can compete to win real prizes based on luck, or skill. It’s the brainchild of brothers Bård Anders Kasin and Stig Olav Kasin, who founded the company in 2018. And they have now done more than 500 shows based on the hybrid model to date.

PortalOne’s version of Breakout honors the core principles of the original 1970s smash hit that you all know and love: vibrant and retro aesthetic; easy-to-learn but hard-to-master gameplay; and of course, the iconic Breakout paddle joining you in your quest to break those bricks.

In the PortalOne hybrid game of Breakout, you are tasked with one simple but challenging goal: race against the timer, with an unlimited number of lives, to smash as many bricks as possible to get the highest score you can. In an evolution of the original format, you’ll be playing Breakout in 100-second rounds. The introduction of the timer means that you can focus on achieving the best score to climb the Breakout Leaderboard in any 24-Hour Tournament, bringing you to victory.

The game is available in 3D, allowing you to become immersed in colorful gameplay. You can still experience Breakout in the classic top-down view of the original, or choose to get closer to the action and get down on the playing field with a brand new depth view in 3D.

For the first time in Breakout’s history, you’ll now be able to compete in live rounds against your favorite celebrities and stars during PortalOne’s shows.

Origins

Bård Anders Kasin was cofounder of The Future Group, another Norwegian startup that used game engines for TV production, creating the first interactive mixed reality show for TV. Bård Anders Kasin said that the company created a lot of virtual production company that is much more widespread today.

While PortalOne is a separate company, that tech generated at The Future Group and the learnings from it were useful to PortalOne. The Future Group is today focusing on technology for broadcast studios.

“With PortalOne, we’ve developed a completely new technology that works completely differently than anything else out there. And that has a major impact on how we’re able to produce these hybrid game experiences,” said Bård Anders Kasin. “We’ve done more than 500 shows now. It’s a very different way of doing things than before.”

“It’s a culmination of what we’ve done in our careers,” said Stig Olav Kasin, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We’ve come to the stage now where we are able to create these experiences that we have been dreaming about for many, many years. Now we are here going back to the roots. It was like in the kids’ room when we were like 13 and 15 years old.”

A new Breakout

Much of the work was giving Breakout a 3D makeover.

“One thing that was so important to us was to try to keep the respect for the original and keep the feel of the original and at the same time tried to sort of modernize it into a hybrid game that could work in the context of 3D with the guest,” Stig Olav Kasin said.

“I I think you guys nailed it,” Bushnell said. “It clearly has the bones of Breakout.”

Using your mobile phone or tablet, you can play any PortalOne hybrid game throughout the day, and then tune into the Arcade Show, hosted inside the PortalOne app. During the show, you compete directly against the special guest of the day, who is immersed as a game character in a ‘supersized’ version of the game itself.

“It’s quite impressive technology. I was able to play Breakout multiple times the other day, and it’s really fun. I was able to actually increase my skill with a little bit of practice,” Bushnell said. “It has all the excitement of the initial Breakout, and now all the fun of 3D. So I’m a big fan.”

PortalOne’s Arcade Show has starred guests like Justin Bieber, Jack ‘CouRage’ Dunlop, Tori Kelly, and Daniel Mac. 

Stig Olav Kasin (left) and Bård Anders Kasin started PortalOne.

“You get to play against special guests, and the guest is then placed directly into the game as a real physical person running around in the game. And you get to compete against them for a high score,” Bård Anders Kasin said.

The tournament flows in seasons, with big finales and sponsorships.

“Like in the regular Breakout, you want to break through to the back wall as fast as you can. And that’s where magic happens,” Bushnell said.

Stig Olav Kasin said the metrics are getting better over time.

“People are playing more games and are spending more time. They’re sticking around longer,” Stig Olav Kasin said.

In the Season Premiere on June 8, players will take on Bushnell. Throughout the next season, players will be able to play against a superstar lineup of guests, including an Olympic gold medalist, YouTube stars, TikTok sensations – and even pop idol Demi Lovato.

Atari is one of the most legendary games companies in history, and we’re lucky to be partnered with them to bring their classic arcade titles into the hybrid game genre,” said Bård Anders Kasin, CEO of PortalOne, in a statement. “Even almost 50 years after its release, Breakout still remains to be one of the most influential games titles ever, thanks to its strong game mechanics and iconic aesthetic. We’re grateful to Atari for working with us as an IP partner, and we look forward to continuing to bring even more iconic Atari titles into the hybrid games genre in the years ahead.” 

The platform focuses on arcade games, including a lot of Atari titles. PortalOne has a deal with Atari to use its games in this game-show format.

“At PortalOne, we’re excited to bring Breakout’s legacy to a new audience, while integrating and immersing stars of all kinds into the game for the first time,” said Stig Olav Kasin, CXO of PortalOne, said:. Throughout the creation of PortalOne’s Breakout, it has been essential to balance the feel of the original legacy while introducing new hybrid game elements. In PortalOne’s Breakout, expect to experience delicious, vibrant visuals, dynamic gameplay, and new, creative twists. We’re super excited for you to all experience the hybrid game of Breakout for the first time.”

PortalOne’s mobile app, “PortalOne Arcade”, is free-to-play, and is available on the App Store and Google Play in the US and Canada. Players outside of PortalOne’s geographies can join the waitlist. Players will be able to play on mobile, console, PC and in virtual reality.

PortalOne has raised $75 million in funding from investors including Founders Fund, Tiger Global, Atari, Animoca Brands, music executive Scooter Braun, Arielle Zuckerberg, as well as the founders of Twitch, Dreamhaven, Blizzard and Riot Games.

The brothers have figured out how to do studio production at lower costs for their shows inside the game.

“If you really want to be gobsmacked, their studio is more than state of the art where they can combine us into the game and show,” Bushnell said.

Bushnell isn’t convinced his high score will last.

“When you get old, your reaction time isn’t what it was,” Bushnell said.

The brothers believe they have found a new kind of business that will last for years.

“The ambition for PortalOne is to create the destination for hybrid games,” said Stig Olav Kasin. “So in the same way that Netflix, you know, is a destination for TV series and movies, you have Spotify as a destination for the music of all types of genres, and so on. That is our vision of creating a destination for hybrid games, where the DNA is the combination of TV and games.”

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