It’s been a while since we last heard from Atari’s attempts at bringing a console back onto the market in the form of the Ataribox. It seems in that time though it’s undergone a name change. Now called the Atari VCS the machine is now using the name of its famed predecessor (also known as the 2600) to sell itself to modern audiences. It’s a smart move – they’d already have rights to the name plus the original Ataribox name sounded a little too much like a backyard hacker project.
Offering Atari’s classic back catalogue running off a Intel driven, Linux OS that lets developers create more modern titles seems like they are trying to provide the best of both worlds but I don’t know now if that is going to work now. Right now it make me think of an Ouya with a retro skin and that didn’t work out too well in the end despite the initial hype and enthusiast dollars. Then there was the epic disaster that was the Retro VGS, Coleco Chamelon, etc.
I might sound a bit negative but there are a few things I like about what little I’ve seen so far. The console design with its retro styling is still appealing and is quite a smart bit of work that will get people interested who are familiar with the original system. The new joystick and gamepad look pretty nice too. I really like seeing the modern take on the classic CX40 joystick controller – iconic definitely, ergonomic not so much but it does its job. The pics supplied are mostly renders so we still don’t know how it will be when it is out in the wild. Then the next question will be if it could survive Activision’s Decathlon. I’m curious to find out how the whole system works and how good the software powering the machine is though it really shouldn’t matter to the end user if it is Linux or not. It’s like when Microsoft talks about the Xbox One OS being powered by Windows – most people don’t care about the plumbing only that it does what it’s supposed to.
Pre-orders will be announced some time in April but it is said to be in the order of $250-300 when it becomes available. You can join the waiting list from their website here. Considering an Atari Flashback offers 100 games and can often be found for under $100 there will need to be a lot of value added features to convince gamers it’s worth the investment when they could get an Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 for that price.