Retro Atari Box Gets a New Name

We’re still waiting for final pricing and shipping date information, but a new device inspired by the Atari 2600 gaming console from days of yore has a new name – the Atari VCS – and a retro-style logo to go with it.

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The new and somewhat delayed product, previously referred to as the “Ataribox,” will look a little bit like its ancient predecessor and feature a classic version of the Atari joystick and a more modern one (a prototype of that fancier controller is pictured) that includes an array of buttons and directional sticks akin to those one might find in a controller for a current-gen console.

Atari’s retro box and accessories were shown at the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. PCWorld likened Atari’s preview of its coming Linux-powered device to a “nostalgic mini-PC shrouded in faux wood and mystery,” with reporter Hayden Dingman coming away skeptical as to how real this coming entrant is at this juncture:

“Prototype” is maybe too lofty a term, though. This wasn’t a computer with some rough edges, or hardware in need of a fancy case. The opposite, actually. It was a very fancy-looking case...with nothing in it.

An internal battery appeared to power the front LEDs to give it the appearance it was in-use, but we didn’t actually see what it’s capable of. No user interface, no idea of what games it’ll run. This is still very much conceptual.”

We’ve asked for more specifics on pricing and product shipment plans, but Atari announced last year that the new device would sell for at least $249 and include a classic game catalog (it claims to own and/or manage a portfolio of more than 200 games and franchises, including Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, and Pong) along with access to streaming apps, web browsing and some social media hooks. At the time, Atari said it received more than 90,000 registrations.

“Every person at Atari and every partner involved with the new platform is just as fanatical about the brand and its heritage as our biggest fans are,” Michael Arzt, Atari’s COO of Connected Devices, said in a statement. “With the Atari VCS name, we know how important it is to get everything completely right and that’s why we briefly paused an imminent launch late last year. It was a difficult decision with the countdown underway, but we weren’t willing to go forward with even one thing out of alignment. We hope that Atari’s fans appreciate our extreme attention to detail and are as excited about the Atari VCS as we are.”   

Update: Atari provided a few more details that were shared at the event. Here’s a snapshot:

-The VCS in the product name is an initialism for Video Computer System. The company also confirmed that the prototypes shown were non-playable models.

-Final pricing is not yet announced, but more details on that should emerge when the pre-order data is announced.

-The base Atari VCS will include one classic style joystick/remote, and enhanced bundles that include the more modern controller and possibly other components are under discussion.

-Atari confirmed that the VCS hardware will support 4K, High Dynamic Range, and 60 frames per second, and an AMD x86 processor, likening its expected pefromance to a “higher-end PC laptop.”

-There will be onboard and expandable storage, support for dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 and USB 3.0.

-The device’s Linux-based OS will support a user interface optimized for TV screens, and users will have access to a “sandbox” that enables them to bring some home-made content to the platform.