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Atari’s New Console Probably Won’t Be Like the NES Classic

The company is back with new hardware, most likely not a simple plug-in-and-play micro-console.

by Mike Diver
Jun 19 2017, 2:40pm

History tells of a great console war during the 8-and 16-bit years, between Sega and Nintendo. But, of course, that's not the whole story. Many, many, manufacturers wanted a slice of the video gaming market in the 1980s and 1990s, beyond the two superpowers and before the impact of Sony and Microsoft. There was the TurboGrafx-16. The Super A'can. The Action Max. The Casio PV-1000. Countless more. Some you know. Some you don't. But Atari? You definitely know Atari.

First came the 2600, originally called the VCS before Atari released a successor, the 5200. Which was followed by the 7800. Which was followed by the XEGS. Which was followed by the Lynx. Which was followed by the Jaguar. Which was followed by the complete closure of Atari's console manufacturing operation in 1996 due to catastrophically low sales. I might've missed a few, there, but that's the potted history. Atari as a brand still exists, of course, but it's had no official hardware on shelves for over 20 years.

Until, well, sometime sorta soon, ish. The "Ataribox" (surely a codename) is a thing, a very real thing, that the company's been working on for some years now. Atari CEO Fred Chesnais opened up to VentureBeat during last week's E3, confirming, "We're back in the hardware business." He added the new system is based on PC technology, and that a fuller reveal will follow. Meantime, all we have to go on is the trailer above, and a website, ataribox.com.

VentureBeat, and others, immediately speculated that the "Ataribox" would be a micro-console, pre-loaded with old-school Atari games, like the Nintendo Classic Mini of last year. But that doesn't sound like the kind of operation that'd necessitate many years' work; and when you go to the system's website, it features some interesting contact emails.

There's one for media enquiries, naturally; one for applying to work for Atari on this project, jobs@; and one for external developers to contact them on, dev@, presumably to know more about the console's specifications and see whether their games could find a new home.

The video shows off some VCS-style wood panelling and Atari's iconic logo—coming soon to a cinema near you in Blade Runner 2049. And that's about it. Those email addresses, though—you wouldn't invite people to reach out with their experience, their existing or imminent third-party products, if you were putting together a plug-in-and-play micro-console, would you?

Good luck, I guess, Atari. But you died once already. Horribly. Today's market is much changed from 20 years ago. Sega's making games for Nintendo. Nintendo's selling fewer systems than Sony. Sony's making more money from video games than it is home stereo systems or televisions. Hell, you could still buy a Walkman in 1996. I know, I had (and still have) one.

I never wanted a Jaguar, though, to live alongside our household's Sega and Nintendo systems, which might be telling. And it's going to take Something Special to make gamers look the way of Something New, from a brand relatively unknown to the younger end of today's player spectrum, instead of at their Xboxes and PlayStations. I hate to play the pessimist, but I'm feeling pretty Simpsons meme at this announcement. You?

Edit: Oh wait, what if, and bear with me here, what if this is all Blade Runner marketing? Just thought of that. I wouldn't rule it out.