It’s possible that younger generations of gamers have completely forgotten the name “Atari,” but in the ’70s and early ’80s, it was the company to beat. A true pioneer of gaming, Atari was at the forefront of the arcade cabinet scene and produced some of the earliest home consoles on the market. The company is also responsible for hits such as Pong, Centipede, Missile Command, Breakout, Asteroids, and Gauntlet. Needless to say, Atari’s output as both a hardware and software manufacturer remains very influential.
Well, it seems like Atari CEO Fred Chesnais wants to make the former gaming giant a big part of the conversation again. Speaking with GamesBeat, he confirmed that the company is developing a brand new console. It’s called the Atari VCS (formerly called “Ataribox”), the company’s first console in more than 20 years. Atari’s last home console release was the 64-bit Atari Jaguar, which launched in 1993.
According to an Atari newsletter, the VCS will be a “full PC experience for the TV, bringing you streaming, applications, social, browsing, music, and more.” Atari VCS will come pre-loaded with retro titles as well as “current titles from a range of studios.” Atari has not named the studios it has partnered with for this new console.
Here’s everything we know about the new console:
Atari VCS Release Date
The Atari VCS will arrive in Spring 2019.
Atari VCS Price
Pre-sales for the Atari VCS will be made available exclusively through Indiegogo beginning May 30th. If you pre-order the console, you also get a time-limited Collector’s Edition featuring a classically-inspired wood-front.
A sleek black Onyx version will also be available, which will start at just $199 for a limited number of early-bird adopters. Other packages include the Classic Joystick and Modern Controller.
Atari VCS Trailer
Atari also dropped a trailer for the new console. It teases the return of the wood paneling that was a trademark of the old machines. Check out the trailer below:
A logo for the new console has also been revealed. It is as retro-looking as you’d expect:
Atari VCS Details
According to IGN, the Atari VCS isn’t the system that people have been speculating it is. The site claims that the VCS isn’t like the NES Mini, isn’t another take on the Android-fuelled Ouya concept, and isn’t a major new console. Instead, they compare it to a living room PC similar to the Steam Machine line.
The console apparently runs off a Linux-based system and will utilize a console-based interface in order to make it easier for casual audiences to use it. The VCS is also expected to ship for a fairly low price – $250-$300 – in comparison to other such living room PC devices. It will also include an array of classic Atari games right out of the box.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the VCS isn’t particularly powerful. Atari Connect COO Michael Arzt referred to it as a “good laptop without a keyboard.” That means that it likely won’t be able to handle many of the more demanding modern-day video games. While it will allow users to modify the system somewhat via a “sandbox” mode, the device likely won’t support stores like Steam right out of the gate.
Basically, it sounds like the VCS is meant for a very casual audience. Despite Atari’s laptop claims, the Atari VCS might be more closely compared to Google Chromecast with a little more hardware power and the ability to play games. It’s an incredibly odd device that sounds very similar to the Nvidia Shield. We’re not entirely certain that we know what Atari is trying to accomplish with it.
What we do know for sure is that the VCS will come with two controller options. Unsurprisingly, Atari fans will be able to use a joystick to play on the VCS. What is surprising is the second controller option: an ABXY gamepad similar to the Xbox One controller. Check out both designs below…
In an interview with VentureBeat, Atari VCS creator Feargal Mac stated that they intend to release the console sometime in 2018 following an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. It’s expected to retail for $250-$300 and will utilize an AMD processor and a Radeon graphics card.
“People are used to the flexibility of a PC, but most connected TV devices have closed systems and content stores,” said Mac. “We wanted to create a killer TV product where people can game, stream, and browse with as much freedom as possible, including accessing pre-owned games from other content providers.”
Atari plans on releasing two versions of the Atari VCS, one that resembles the original console’s classic wood panel design, and a more modern red and black edition, but each one will function exactly the same.