After what was possibly one of the biggest loads of retro gaming garbage to fail in the form of the Retro VGS / Coleco Chameleon you’d think that anyone wanting to come up with a product appealing to a similar audience would be more careful. However with what’s happened over the last few weeks in relation to the Atari VCS (ex-Ataribox) it’s looking a lot like history is repeating itself.
I was looking at Atari’s new console at the time of its announcement over two years ago with plenty of enthusiasm thanks to it supporting the company’s games as well as a design that immediately evoked the original 2600 design. It really seemed like something that a fan of classic systems would die for. It’s now been more than a year since the Indiegogo campaign was funded and we’ve not had any concrete news on when it would actually arrive in hacker’s hands. Worse still the hardware architect recently parted ways after failing to be paid for the last six months. If the reports are true the whole project is a mess and what may eventually arrive, if ever, is likely to be just a cut down PC with barely enough functionality to compete with consoles and PCs in a similar price range. So apart from the badge and a pretty case it’ll have nothing to make it stand out from the crowd… or be what interested people in the first place.
It’s really sad to see what Atari is now. What was once a company that had pioneered video games and home computers is nothing but a hand-me-down hollow shell of the past living off ancient IP. Successes with farming out flashback consoles seems to have made them think that making one from scratch should be easy and it’ll bite them in the backside eventually. The only thing I worry about is that when they do crash and burn a long history of games properties might die with them and that’ll be the true tragedy of this debacle.
It’s hard to say what Atari has been for… a long time, really! The life of the Atari brand has been extremely turbulent ever since… probably since Tramiel took over in the ’80s, to be honest. There was the split between Atari Games and Atari Corporation, there were the numerous disasters they had with stuff like the Jaguar, the brand was owned by Infogrames for a while… who even knows what Atari is any more? Certainly not the same Atari that they were back in the ’70s and ’80s, that’s for sure. In any way.
Although in some respects, that gives me a bit of hope. If the company’s classic collection of 2600 games as seen in the Atari Flashback Classics compilation can survive that much turbulence and changing of hands, it can weather the storm of whatever the VCS is — if anything. If the VCS flops — which it almost certainly will — then the Atari brand will just pass on to someone else yet again, I’m sure, and the cycle will begin anew…
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It is scary to think how often Atari has changed hands over the years but also amazing that so much of the IP has somehow remained in their own hands. Except Battlezone I think which now belongs to Rebellion? Anyways good on Atari if they can survive but like you say, there’ll likely be another company down the road to pick up the pieces and carry on.