If you're old enough to remember playing on an Atari 2600 game console, then you know how far gaming has come in the decades that have followed. There is a certain charm to games like Pong and Adventure, mostly in a nostalgic sense, but is it enough to warrant a throwback system with a retro catalog of games? The Atari VCS will answer that question.
In case you missed it, the Atari VCS (formerly known as the Ataribox) was teased two years ago at E3, and eventually found its way to Indiegogo. After a full year, the crowdfunding campaign has ended, with over 11,600 backers successfully pledging more than $3 million.
So, what do we know about the Atari VCS? It's a set-top gaming console running a custom Linux-based operating system, powered by a 14nm Ryzen APU featuring a pair of Zen CPU cores and Vega graphics.
"This new processor replaces the model from the Bristol Ridge family that had been in the plan since originally selected for the Atari VCS back in 2017. AMD's all-new Ryzen embedded chip will be faster, cooler, and more efficient, allowing the VCS to benefit from a simpler and more effective power architecture and thermal solution," the Atari VCS team a few months ago.
Retro gaming is the console's bread and butter, and the company says it will feature more than 100 home and arcade classics at launch, with more to be added later. That alone would be a tough sell, even with the pitch that it can apparently handle 4K gaming at up to 60 fps.
The company is also pitching this as a streaming media box, with support for 4K HDR video, and a platform for creating TV-based games and apps. There is also a 'Sandbox Mode' that users can boot into, so that the Atari VCS becomes a multimedia PC.
"Enjoy access to all-new games, remastered favorites, classic console emulators, streaming multimedia, and personal apps—or create and share your own. Load existing PC game libraries via Sandbox Mode and play triple-A and indie favorites too," the company says.
Booting to Sandbox Mode enables installing a secondary OS, such as Windows, Steam OS, or Chrome OS. How well it actually functions remains to be seen, but the capability is there.
The Atari VCS comes with just 32GB of internal storage, though more can be added by way of USB 3.1 (there are four USB ports, two each on the front and back). It also comes with 4GB of RAM on the Atari VCS 400 and 8GB on the Atari VCS 800, which is upgradeable, along with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity, a GbE LAN port, and an HDMI 2.0 port.
Preorders have opened up now, priced at starting at $249.99 (opens in new tab) for the base Atari VCS 400. It doesn't come with a classic joystick ($49.99) and/or modern controller ($59.99) built by PowerA, both of which are included with the Atari VCS 800 all-in bundle, for $389.99 (opens in new tab).
Backers who preordered through Indiegogo will receive their consoles starting in December. New preroders are expected to ship in March 2020.