My Take on the New Atari VCS

Last week, Atari announced its latest gaming offering: the all-new Atari VCS. Formerly called the “Ataribox,” (from a defunct Kickstarter campaign from last year), the new VCS is a Linux-based machine with an AMD processor that promises to run games old and new. But even with the reveal, there still remained questions about the Atari VCS’s exact features and purpose. Venture Beat recently posted an interview with Atari CEO Fred Chesnais, who shed a little light on the matter, saying that the VCS may be built for nostalgia, but that it’s a totally modern machine that will come with classic (Atari) games installed and have the ability to stream.  For “$249,” you’ll get the console with two controllers – one a modern take on the old Atari joystick and the other looking like an Xbox controller wrapped in Atari’s signature black and orange color scheme. Of the new VCS itself, Chenais stated:

It’s a nice product. It fulfills a lot of functions. It addresses a lot of needs in the market.

More news about the new VCS is likely forthcoming, so it’ll be…interesting…to see how this thing pans out.

My take: When the “Ataribox” campaign popped up last year, it made sense. I mean, why wouldn’t Atari, still one of the most recognizable and historic names in gaming, at least try to get on the nostalgia bandwagon that had been so successfully driven by Nintendo’s mini versions of the NES and SNES? There’s definitely a margin of players today who prefer retro games – I know that I’ll always have a soft spot for Atari, as it was my first console. Now that the “Ataribox” has morphed into the new Atari VCS, it looks alright, and there’s no doubt that it appeals on a number of different levels, from styling to quality to…

…holy moly, guys. I’m trying here. I really am…but…

I just don’t understand the Atari VCS.  I mean, I understand it from Atari’s business point of view and current gaming trends, but beyond that…

I don’t get it.

First, the name. Because Atari already released the VCS (“Video Computer System)…in 1977. Granted, it eventually because better known as the Atari 2600, but still, why the heck recycle the name now?! Especially when the new VCS is being touted as much more than a video computer system. (Also, the human language has some wonderful words in it…why not get out there and explore!)

Second, the “need.” In the Venture Beat interview, Chenais says that with the new VCS, Atari has “the fans, the nostalgia” on its side. To an extent, I believe that includes me. But…I can play Atari games on my PC right now, and with an old-style joystick that plugs right into a USB port. I can also pick up inexpensive compilations of classic games for my newer consoles; some of these older games can even be streamed.  Maybe I don’t have immediate access to 200 old games, which seems to be what’s going to be made immediately available on the new VCS, but I can currently play the handful that I enjoy. And which 200 games are we talking about, anyway? Some of us will readily recall that not every game from the early “Golden Age” of gaming (1977-1983) was a winner. While it’s fun to explore games old and new that are unknown to us individually, going searching for that needle in the haystack isn’t always worth the effort. Much like with the poor Ouya, the new VCS seems an awful lot like little more than a collector’s item.

And finally, its functionality. Though details are still scant, I can’t see how the new VCS will add anything new to the currently landscape of PCs and game consoles. Being a Linux machine seems to be its only inroad to offering up a different means of utilization. And I read here that it might come with voice control. The box that’s being shown now has all the standard ports – HDMI, USB, Ethernet, and even a coaxial connection. It’s bound to have wi-fi, as well. Simply plug it into your TV to experience classic (and potentially new, independent) gaming and in-home browsing! You get your Netflix and your Spotify and all the comforts of the Internet! Hmmm…if only I could find an open outlet, considering that I already have half a dozen things hooked up to my TV that do the Exact. Same. Thing. Only none have that spiffy wood veneer.

(Article sources: Venture Beat, Pocket-Lint, Mashable)


Despite my initial feelings here, I’d like to see the new VCS become a success for Atari. But what do you think? For gamers, is it a win-win or a no-go?

Lede image © Atari

4 Comments

  1. Hatm0nster says:

    You touch on this, but it’s worth expanding upon. All they’ve done so far is talk about how “great” and “revolutionary” this system is going to be . They haven’t uttered so much as a single word as to what the thing actually does. At first glance, it looks like a simple machine for retro games. It even has the kind of name one would expect from such a device. However, not only have they said that it’s much more than that (I believe the exact quote was “it will change how people will interact with their TV”), but the system also has a modern controller. Why would you need a modern controller to play old Atari games?

    Where is the information? Who are they selling this to and what need do they aim to meet with this product? If Atari (or rather the company that’s currently calling itself “Atari”) really wants to sell this to us, they need to communicate what it’s for! 😡

    Liked by 3 people

    1. cary says:

      Ha! It all does seem a little shady, right? Not in the sense that Atari’s trying to dupe people, but the general lack of information about this “amazing” and “new” gaming console that’s supposed to be coming out for pre-orders next month (or so I’ve read) is troubling. They claim to have the hardcore fans behind them, but if I happened to have an Atari collection already, I couldn’t see how this thing would add any value to it. I read that there are folks out there looking forward to the new VCS, and I hope Atari puts out a product that’s worth their money. But like you say, without really know *anything* about the console now, it’s hard to get on board.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hatm0nster says:

        They’re kind of hurting themselves if you think about it. Sure they’ve got some people excited, but people like us can’t get into it because they haven’t told us why we should want it yet.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. DDOCentral says:

    Reblogged this on DDOCentral.

    Liked by 1 person

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