More than three years after it was first revealed, the initial batch of finalized Atari VCS consoles are finally ready to ship. At this moment, thousands of Atari VCS units are en route from a manufacturing facility in China to the United States, where they will then be sorted and sent out to Indiegogo backers, some of which preordered the console as far back as May 2018.
This is an encouraging development in what has been a somewhat discouraging road for backers and onlookers. I fall into the latter category, having cut my console teeth on the original Atari 2600 in the 1980s, before being drawn into the world of PCs by way of the Commodore 64. From there, the rest is history.
There were times the Atari VCS project (originally called Ataribox) looked like it would be history as well. The console was plagued by several delays, and key events like the console's architect, Rob Wyatt, quitting the project amid claims he had not been paid did not instill confidence that this day would ever come.
That is really just the tip of the controversial iceberg. A timeline of troubled events pertaining to the reborn retro console can be found on the Atari VCS subreddit. It includes the time Atari referred to reporters at The Register as "irresponsible trolls" for the way an interview at GDC was portrayed in an article.
It's all water under the bridge in River Raid at this point, because Atari VCS consoles are finally going out, thereby shifting the focus to how it performs and whether or not it is worth forking over $250 or more (opens in new tab) for one (depending on the model and bundled accessories). Having taken so long to make it to market, though, the Atari VCS risks being overshadowed by next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft. In particular, it seems a tough sell next to the Xbox Series S, which costs $300.
In any event, backers will soon get their hands on the Ryzen-powered Atari VCS. The initial shipment also includes the limited edition Atari VCS 800 Collector's Edition model, of which there are 6,000 numbered and authenticated units.
Also for the first time, Atari shared a bunch of assembly line photos on Medium that depict the Collector's Edition model. There is also a photo of pallets stacked with thousands of Atari VCS consoles "waiting to be trucked to the port."