When Atari first announced the Ataribox last summer, gamers that are into all things retro were rightfully excited. The forthcoming console even looked like the Atari that gamers of the '80s grew up with. Not long after, likely many folks got a bit worried when pre-orders were delayed in December, with some fearing the entire project could be nothing more than vaporware. However, as the Ataribox draws a bit closer to prime time, it has undergone a name change to the Atari VCS.
We already knew that the Atari VCS would have an AMD APU inside with integrated Radeon graphics and would offer a “full PC experience,” as well as built in retro classic titles. This means the ability to surf the web, send email, stream music, and do all that PC stuff you might want on your TV in the living room. It will also play more modern game titles as well as Atari titles. Recently, however, new details on the Atari VCS have turned up in a Eurogamer interview with Michael Arzt, COO of Atari Connected Devices during this year’s Game Developers Conference.
Arzt says that Atari is targeting two groups, with one being the folks over 35-years-old who remember playing the console and playing Atari games in the arcade. The other group is the younger crowd that Arzt says see Atari as more of a cool old brand and want modern capabilities like Streaming video services such as Hulu and Netflix. Arzt says that the Atari VCS is less expensive than a PC and eliminates the need to connect a laptop to the TV. The VCS will support a wireless or USB mouse and keyboard and supports Bluetooth.
Arzt got even more specific noting that any Bluetooth or USB controller will work with the VCS. The price point for the Atari VCS is $249 to $299, but Arzt says that “we’re always hoping we can do better.” As for the official controllers that people might want, Atari is working with a peripheral partner to build its controllers because Arzt says “we want it to be a good one, that’s important for us.” The controllers will be announced, “a little bit further down the line.”
As for why Atari is showing off the hardware now without having details on something as important as controllers ready, Arzt essentially says it is to prove to the naysayers that cried “vaporware” back in December that the console is real. The exec says that the showstopper in December was the controller.
Arzt said, “We did not like the controller we had before, we did not like the partner we were working with, we did not like the business plan, we did not like the design. It did not fit with the other stuff. That was the thing that ultimately paused it there, but it was a great opportunity to [say] hey, we’re paused now, we’ll take a breath, let’s do a top-to-bottom audit of everything else, right? There were things that were good, but we felt like if we do this to it, it’ll be even better. Timing wise, we realised we’re going forward with this, but it’s not baked yet, so let’s bake it so more.”
Arzt says that Atari will disclose more about the product and the pre-order program by the end of this month. He declined to give any details on exactly what that announcement might entail.