Atari VCS: Nostalgia ReimaginedDecember 14, 2019
The Atari 2600. It was not the first video game console, but it was the most popular. The use of ROM cartridges instead of built-in software is a trend that continues to this day. Over 30 million units were sold over its 15-year lifespan. Sadly, it is remembered more for causing the video game crash of the 80s. Nevertheless, plenty of gamers have fond memories of the system… which is exactly why Atari is bringing it back.
Sharing the same original name for the 2600, the Atari VCS is a modern take on the classic console. Utilizing a new open platform, the VCS will offer both new and original games for download or built into the system. It will also allow users to connect USBs and use other operating systems (like Windows or Linux) and play them on their television. There’s even an option for aspiring developers to create their own games and apps to share online or with friends and family.
All of the features sound very modern in origin, but the Atari VCS is not ignoring its roots. The design of the machine and controllers are all direct replicas of those from the 70s, with the expected tweaks to accommodate modern sensibilities. The “Black Walnut” edition even duplicates the iconic wooden veneer on the popular “Woodie” version. Perhaps the most interesting thing will be seeing modern games played on an old-fashioned joystick.
A ROUGH BOOT-UP
Unlike many classic console repackages, like the NES Mini by Nintendo or Sega’s Genesis Mini, the VCS was funded on Indiegogo. Atari started the campaign, and will be built in-house, but most of the money came from crowdfunding. This may strike some as odd, but as the VCS is a fusion console and not just a recreation, the need for crowdfunding is justified. Furthermore, Atari has had a tremulous history, especially financially. (All these factors might contribute to the price tag- a hefty $389.99 US.)
This has, unfortunately, continued into the production of the VCS. The project was first announced in 2017, and since then has gone through multiple developers and management teams. There were frequent delays, with the release date now being pushed back to spring 2020. COO Michael Artz said in December 2019 that issues with partnership contracts resulted in the lack of communication between the company and consumers. He promised to provide more regular updates soon, up to the console’s retail launch. Rumors abound that some companies haven’t been paid, either.
Whether the rumors are true or not, Atari fans will have to wait to get their hands on the VCS. Perhaps this is deliberate- a later launch will mean no holiday rush, which is what doomed the original 2600. The whispers of the rocky development could just be a case of sabotage- by who, no one knows. But the Atari VCS is, in many ways, a console built on nostalgia. A little extra waiting will only make those fond memories stronger.