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Atari Sets Sights on Console Market with All-New System

The All-New Atari VCS has just been made available for pre-order, promising to launch somewhere in mid-2019.

The console’s physical design plays off the nostalgic vibes invoked by the company’s very name, but Atari has specified that the system won’t just be a repackaged version of old hardware. With promised console-essential features such as online multiplayer support as well as higher-end options like full 4k resolution support, the Atari VCS has been made to handle both classic and modern games.

Despite its new bells and whistles, the console’s branding and marketing have adopted more of a classic vibe to differentiate it from Sony and Microsoft’s flagship gaming consoles. From one of the console’s advertisements, Atari Industrial Designer David Krieger boasts about the game’s authentic 70’s design: “Its got toggle switches and wood grain, fins and angles… We found a way to inlay a real natural wood product and it’s a beautiful finish but it also becomes a real interactive part of the product. The interface shines through that material.”

COO of Atari Connected devices Michael Arzt reveals that the console’s classic functionality comes from its unique design: “PC architecture and Linux Operating System.” Arzt boasts of the hundreds of classic Atari games that the system will support on launch, but also promises that it will come well-equipped to handle the intense hardware requirements of modern gaming.

The project saw its humble beginnings during a long-since-concluded Indegogo campaign, where the console raised over 1,900% of its original $100,000 goal. Fans were more than happy to donate nearly two million dollars for the chance at seeing Atari’s new attempt to smash console competition and rival the fame garnered by its 1977 smash-hit, the Atari 2600.

But while the system’s attempt to fill the market niche of the “classic modern” may secure it a good bit of pre-launch hype, Atari will need much more if it wants to find a sustainable place in the current console market.

The ongoing competition between Sony and Microsoft has kept the console market out of the reach of would-be competitors for some time now. And for good reason; with the two major corporations already having large amounts of brand recognition, vast dedicated communities, and pitching competitive-priced high-end hardware against each other in a frantic battle for the public eye, smaller companies have next to no shot at making a dent. Even more intimidating is the ever-rising prevalence of console exclusivity, with console makers pouring cash into high-profile titles to ensure that their system is the only way to access certain experiences.

The most recent successful break into the console market was the Nintendo Wii, which made its debut in November 2006, and while the console’s family-oriented design and motion controllers may have helped its launch, arguably its biggest aid was access to globally-recognized Nintendo characters and franchises such as Mario and Smash Bros. And while Atari may have access to many classic exclusive titles such as Asteroids and Pong, these titles can be easily replicated in other systems and lack a marketable flagship character like Mario or Master Chief.

But its very likely that Atari is already well aware of how difficult it will be to break their way into an incredibly tight and decisive market. Their focus on small, classic titles is a nice touch, but an over-focus on this element might drag the console down a similar path as the ill-fated Ouya, a device that raised over four times as much as Atari on its crowdfunding campaign page with the promise of a tiny, affordable system that focused on indie titles, but flopped on release due to a poorly supported digital marketplace.

It is unclear at the moment what Atari will do to make the VCS push past its competition. But since many of the details of the system, such as asking price and hardware specs, are still under wraps, it seems almost certain that Atari has another card up their sleeves. Fans will just have to wait and see as more and more information about the system inevitably drops in the months approaching its 2019 release.

Featured Image Via Flickr / Bill Bradford

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