Atari’s Next Console to be Nostalgically Branded as the VCS

Posted on March 20, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Games with 22 Comments

Atari's Next Console to be Nostalgically Branded as the VCS

Atari’s very first video game console was originally branded as the Video Computer System, or VCS. So it is perhaps not surprising, given the wave of personal technology nostalgia that is currently sweeping a certain demographic, that the firm will brand its new console as the VCS as well.

“Every person at Atari and every partner involved with the new platform is just as fanatical about the brand and its heritage as our biggest fans are,” Atari COO Michael Arzt says. “With the Atari VCS name, we know how important it is to get everything completely right and that’s why we briefly paused an imminent launch late last year. It was a difficult decision with the countdown underway, but we weren’t willing to go forward with even one thing out of alignment. We hope that Atari’s fans appreciate our extreme attention to detail and are as excited about the Atari VCS as we are.”

Mr. Arzt is referring there to the fact that Atari had previously announced that it would ship a new console, then dubbed the Ataribox, by the end of 2017. The goal, then as now, was to take advantage of two increasingly popular trends: A dramatic upswing in the popularity of video games as a first-class entertainment experience and a surge in nostalgia among a generation of younger folk who are not spending money on traditional big purchases like homes and cars and thus have lots of disposable income.

Obviously, the Ataribox brand was, well, terrible. And while one might debate whether Atari reusing the VCS brand is wise, I like it: The brand has positive connotations, and of course, the product itself looks a lot like that original VCS by design. In many ways, the new console has as much in common with the original as the modern Volkswagen Beetle does with the original car.

Even the logo is nostalgic

In any event, the newly-dubbed Atari VCS will be shown off publicly this week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. And Atari says “the objective” is to reveal a pre-order date for the console in April. I assume the plan is to ship this thing in time for the holiday selling period at the latest.

As for the console itself, it will “serve up lots of classic content,” as Atari puts it—-I assume that means “play classic Atari games,” of which there are many. (I suspect it’s just a small PC running emulation software.) But it is apparently really designed as a completely new hub device or appliance for the living room. It is perhaps notable that the division of Atari that is responsible for the VCS is called Connected Devices.

What that means, however, is still unclear. And the Atari announcement is about as vague as it can be. And my expectation is that this console could see some short-term success if it simply sticks to bringing classic Atari games—spanning its VCS/2600, 5200, 7800, and XE Game System consoles, plus its consumer-oriented computers like the 400/800, XE-series, and maybe even ST-series—to the 21st-century living room.

We’ll see.


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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Atari’s Next Console to be Nostalgically Branded as the VCS”

  1. wolters

    My tech world started with the Atari 2600 and evolved to Colecovision, Commodore Vic-20, Commodore 64, Amiga 500, Amiga 2000, Amiga 2500, Windows PC, Atari Jaguar, Dreamcast and XBOX. Yet even after all of those exciting advancements, I still love Atari.

    I am excited about "Atari VCS" but worried it just may another collection that doesn't include all games. I know there are "rights" to be obtained but it would be nice to see the entire Atari catalog in there, including E.T. Yes, E.T.

    • ChristopherCollins

      In reply to wolters:

      Agreed... Especially on the ET front too. Good and bad games. At the very least a way to add ROM's 'unofficially'.

      • wolters

        In reply to ChristopherCollins:

        I'm strangely nostalgic for E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Sword Quest, Adventure, Superman. The adventure genre always appealed to me, even if the games weren't all that great.

        And yes, "unofficially" we can get them but if they truly try to make this as complete as possible, I will support this for sure.

  2. thalter

    The current retro gaming fad is being driven largely by the availability cheap hardware (Raspberry Pi) and open source emulator packages (such as RetroPie). But the most important piece is the ready availability of thousands of ROM images available to (illegally) download.

    The technical expertise to assemble a Raspberry Pi, install RetroPie and download/install ROMs is beyond many people, so I could see this doing well as a turnkey Retro gaming system. Unfortunately, I fear that it will be hobbled (like most of the Flashback consoles) by only having a small handful of games.

  3. Maui

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  4. charms55

    I actually am excited about this. I have moved my Xbox 360 upstairs as with the kids on the PS4 I rarely get TV time anyhow. They have a Nintendo Switch, Sony Vita, Nintendo DS 3D, as well as sometimes playing my 950 and the Nexus 5, lordy I can't keep up. But having owned the original Atari Pong (followed a Coleco), then the 2600, an Atari 400, upgraded with a real keyboard and Indus 5 1/4 drive, I have a soft spot in my head for Atari. I typed in hex code from Compute magazine for my first word processor, and subscribed to A.N.A.L.O.G. and ST. I do hope that beyond the legacy games in original format, they might decide to update their own games. They are still a huge name in arcade and there is much to be mined there. What is left unknown is the whole "connected" bit.

  5. jimchamplin

    So it’s made of less cheap plastic with slightly less pitiful flimsy controllers but sells for $300 at ThinkGeek instead of $30 at Bed Bath and Beyond.


  6. skane2600

    I'd be interested only if it could accept 2600 cartridges as well as "baked-in" games.

  7. zybch

    Atari has NOTHING to do with this pointless con.

    Its the brainfart of the same scammer responsible for the 'gameband' several years ago; a simpe usb drive-in-a-bracelett with some open source software on it and sold for many times its actual worth while being marketed as a complete computer games system.

  8. Bart

    Cute, but pointless.

  9. X911ty12

    If I don't have to blow on a cartridge occasionally to make it work i'm not interested.

  10. lvthunder

    I wonder how much it will cost?

  11. PeteB

    This isn't really Atari. Just some sheisters that bought the name of a long dead company.

    This would've been exciting if they were making new games. Or modern takes on old classics. But I have little confidence this is more than a raspberry pi in an overpriced case running an emulator.

    • zybch

      In reply to zybch:

      Hehehe, looks like some pathetic little flower doesn't like the truth or bother to click on the link and see for themselves that this product and the con-artist behind it (Fergal Mac Conuladh). Just google his name and take a look at the utter scam TEDx bullcrap talk he did a few years ago. Just look at the cavalcade of fake job positions this snake oil salesman claims to have, hes either lying his ass off or was so utterly inept and dishonest he got sacked. a LOT.

      Looking at the Gameband scam, its clear that hes just a dishonest cretin.

      I hope you buy this scam and lose your money, because you're sure as hell not going to get a real product.

  12. bbold

    As an Atari fanatic, I'm super excited to see what comes out. I'll be first in line to buy a VCS :D It looks gorgeous.

    Does anyone know if there is an official website for this thing, and how to pre-order when it is available? Price?

    • zybch

      In reply to bbold:

      You're a fool then. Its a scam, like everything else the guy responsible for it (Fergal Mac Conuladh) has done. He has a long kickstarter history of scam products. In fact they're all pretty much the SAME product, but each one claiming to be the first of its kind, being years late in delivering, the end product being nothing like the one they got funding for. The guy’s LinkedIn profile reads like a character from Silicon Valley: a CEO of various incarnations of rapidly pivoting smoke/mirrors vaporware startups that promise a lot while having nothing.

      Save your money.

  13. Patrick3D

    Atari's first game console was actually a home version of Pong which preceded the 2600 "VCS" by a year. If I'm not mistaken, Ultra Pong also preceded the VCS by a few months and had 16 games (versions of Pong) and supported 4 players.

  14. Sarge

    It all began with Atari for me, I bought the VCS from Sears (under their branding) when there was only about 4 cartridges available at the time.  I still remember ordering new games from Atari and the anticipation of the UPS delivery to fire up a new experience.

    I still dig out my Atari 800 once in a while which still runs so I can play a little M.U.L.E and other classics. It's about time to expose my kids to this system and then watch them moan and groan since they are used to an XBOX :-)

  15. Jorge Garcia

    Since we're dreaming here, I'd like for MS to SOMEDAY make an X-Box 360 "retro/mini" game console that is the size of just a CD drive (like a discman)...only a bit thicker to accommodate the chips that it would need, and the controller hook-ups. that would be incredible to me as the XB360 and PS3 were the most complete game consoles ever. The Chinese will eventually crack the XB360 and make this console a reality, but I'd like an official "mini" console from Microsoft itself. I know, never going to happen!