The Ataribox is right here at GDC, however it

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The Atari VCS, within the flesh.


James Martin/CNET

Good information: We lastly perceive what the mysterious Ataribox is all about. We’ve touched its deliciously retro ribbed plastic body, and given its classic-meets-modern joystick a wiggle. The Atari VCS seems prefer it may very well be an actual product, one you is likely to be proud to personal and show.

Bad information: There’s not a lot proof it is actual but. Atari did not convey a working VCS to the 2018 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, solely mockups. Though the corporate has an fascinating imaginative and prescient for the field, we weren’t capable of strive a single recreation.

“We’d all wish to be BAM, there it’s, it is superior. That day will come,” says Atari engineer Joe Moak. “Today will not be that day.”


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Our first have a look at the Ataribox: The Atari VCS


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In truth, Atari execs informed us there isn’t any longer a set worth or a promised launch date for the console — as a result of lots of its key items, like its AMD processor and customised Linux working system, are nonetheless coming collectively.

If you’ve got been following the Ataribox carefully, that is somewhat stunning: When Atari delayed it last year, the corporate stated there was simply “one key factor on our guidelines” left to repair.

But for those who’re prepared to present Atari the good thing about the doubt — it is not like they’re taking your cash but! — the corporate’s pitch nonetheless sounds fairly neat. 

The pitch

Atari COO Michael Arzt apologizes for all of the issues he cannot inform me — like when, the place, how a lot, how highly effective, and so on. the Atari VCS is likely to be. 

But he nonetheless paints an image of a fascinating product: a reasonably tiny, full-fledged Linux desktop pc that additionally comes with a boatload of Atari video games. Over 100 basic titles and a “handful” of “reimagined” Atari video games too.

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The new Atari VCS joystick.


James Martin/CNET

He says Atari needs to construct hardware and software program once more, and it is also opening the doorways to third-party builders who need to strive turning Atari’s basic video games into one thing new. 

So not simply the likes of Adventure, Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede and Pong, although these are all however confirmed. You ought to count on extra video games like Tempest 4000 as properly:

“We’re actively courting builders who need to both port their stuff over to the field, or need to strive a sexy partnership deal to recreate and reinvent our basic IP,” says Arzt.

Atari nonetheless has good relationships with virtually all of the basic Atari recreation publishers like Activision, in response to Arzt, so even for those who do not see a basic recreation on day one, it is more likely to come to the platform as properly.

Since the Atari VCS is principally an Ubuntu Linux pc, it could additionally be capable to play video games distributed on the Linux model of Steam — although Atari says it does not but understand how properly video games like Borderlands 2 for Linux may run. 

While Atari’s constructing a customized interface for video games and media choices like Netflix and YouTube (which you will entry by means of an internet browser, not devoted apps) there’ll even be a sandbox so that you can mess around with Linux, too.

Execs say you’ll hook up a mouse, keyboard, and any Bluetooth or USB XInput controller for those who like, however Atari could have a few devoted gamepads on faucet as properly. One’s a modernized Bluetooth model of Atari’s basic joystick — the joystick rotates to double as a basic Atari paddle — and the opposite’s a useless ringer for Microsoft’s Xbox One gamepad. 

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Atari’s Xbox One-like “Modern” gamepad.


James Martin/CNET

(“It’s not possible to innovate on the controller,” says Atari CEO Fred Chesnais, once I ask in the event that they’re frightened about followers who’ll declare they’re copying Microsoft’s work.)

That controller is the explanation the Ataribox was first delayed, by the best way. Atari says it had an unspecified concern with its hardware accomplice on the gamepad, and that precipitated them to abort the preliminary launch. But the best way execs inform it, that one concern triggered a full audit of the mission, which brings us to the awkward state of issues in the present day. 

“As we began digging somewhat deeper, we discovered there have been extra issues that have been perhaps 90 % of the place we wished to be as an alternative of 100 %,” says Arzt.

And now, it has been lengthy sufficient that the corporate’s contemplating whether or not it ought to transfer to a more recent, quicker AMD processor than the Bristol Ridge chip it initially deliberate to make use of. Which may imply an extended wait. 

“It means an excessive amount of to us to get it proper, it means an excessive amount of to the followers to get it proper,” says Arzt, once I push for even a tough ballpark when the Atari VCS may ship. “It’ll ship when it is prepared.”

Me, I hate it when companies ship unfinished products. I am prepared to attend.

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