In 1977 the Atari VCS was released. No, that’s not a typo, the Atari 2600 was originally released under the name VCS (Video Computer System). Atari continued producing gaming systems through the 80’s and into the 90’s, with the Atari Jaguar 64 bringing this to an end in 1993. But now, more than 4 decades after the beginning, Atari is returning to the console market with the new Atari VCS.
Just a few days ago, Atari opened their pre-order campaign on Indiegogo. Many critics wondered how it would do, and as soon as the campaign was up the internet was flooded with their opinions. Although some are saying they don’t think it will be a great system, none can deny the success of the campaign so far. Within the first 24 hours, the campaign had already surpassed $2 million, shattering all expectations, and actually crashing Indiegogo.
The system will come with over 100 classic Atari games pre-loaded, and they are promising “the latest modern and Indie PC titles from a wide variety of independent developers.” So far, the only game besides the classics that we know about is “Tempest 4000,” a tube shooter based on Atari’s 1981 arcade game “Tempest.” Even with a lack of games announced as of yet, Atari is planning for a July 2019 shipping date, so there is a lot of time for others to be announced.
If for some reason there aren’t many games lined up for it by release, there are other options. VCS is built on an open source Linux OS, which will allow users to “load Homebrew games or customize your own unique platform,” one of the main selling points Atari is touting. This means we can expect many indie titles to be developed for it fairly fast, or you can create your own.
In the FAQ section there is something they mention that none of the critics seem to have noticed. In it they ask, “Will you be able to play Steam Games on Atari VCS?” And their answer is “Yes. Linux-based games from Steam and other platforms that meet Atari VCS hardware specifications should work.” As more developers are porting their games to Linux, this adds a lot of appeal to a system like the VCS.
On the campaign’s page, the specs for it are shown, and they’re surprisingly decent. The hardware is good enough to run most newer games with decent framerate, as long as the graphics aren’t set very high. So even though you might not see the next “Battlefield” on it, it has the power to handle most of the games we’ll see in the near future.
There are many questions still left unanswered about the Atari VCS, and many people still wondering if it will make, or break, the company. But if the pre-sale numbers are any indication, it appears to be a safe bet for Atari. My nostalgia is kicking in, so I might have to be one of those crazy Atari fanboys and put my money down.