March 20, 2018 // 11:05 a.m.
Atari has issued a somewhat belated update on the status of its Ataribox console project, including a rebrand from Ataribox to Atari VCS - sharing a name with the company's first attempt at a home console, the Atari Video Computer System that would itself be renamed to the now-iconic Atari 2600 branding later in its life.
Leaning heavily on nostalgia, which is the current holder of the Atari brand's primary marketable resource, the Ataribox was unveiled back in 2017 as an ultra-compact PC in a chassis heavily inspired by the original Atari 2600. By September Atari was ready with prototype images and the promise of an open, Linux-powered AMD-based microcomputer pre-loaded with Atari games old and new but also compatible with a range of third-party software - including productivity suites and other non-gaming applications.
Unsurprisingly, Atari - which has never had skin in the console hardware market under the brand's current ownership - turned to crowdfunding to raise the cash required to build the system en masse, pledging a $249-$299 price range and a Spring 2018 launch the company then revised for a pre-Christmas opening on Indiegogo.
Sadly, the project was hit by a last-minute unspecified delay over what the company described as a 'key element'. Today's update, then, is welcome news that the project isn't dead - but somewhat light on firm commitments to a launch window.
'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,' claims Michael Arzt, Atari chief operating officer of Connected Devices, the division behind the freshly-rebranded Ataribox. '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.'
To prove it's serious, the company has released additional images of the Atari VCS along with Classic Joystick - based, naturally, on the black-and-red joystick supplied with the original Atari 2600 - and Modern Controller accessories, and is showing the functional prototypes off at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this week. The company has also pledged that it will 'reveal the exclusive pre-order date for the Atari VCS during the month of April 2018', which is a somewhat flowery way of saying that it's not ready to say when its delayed crowdfunding campaign will now open.
More information on the Atari VCS is available on the official website.