From the late '70s to the mid '80s, Atari was synonymous with video games, reigning supreme at home and in the arcades. Fast forward to the present day, and the company is a sold-off shadow of its former self.
Despite this, there's a new Atari console in the wings, dubbed 'Ataribox'. No, really. Here are the first pictures along with everything we know (or think we know) about the machine.
At this year's E3 Expo, Atari announced it was working on a new video game console. Since then, the company has been drip-feeding us details details via digital newsletters sent to subscribers. (How fittingly retro.) Here are the details we know so far.
What is the Ataribox?
The Ataribox is Atari's bold attempt to re-enter the video games market with dedicated hardware. This is a big deal. Atari's previous games console, the ill-fated Jaguar, came out all the way back in 1993.
Needless to say, the video games landscape has changed dramatically since then. While Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have been duking it out for the past two decades, 'Atari' (actually Infogrames using the Atari license) has contented itself with making third-party software - mostly in the form of mobile games and retro remakes.
What does the Ataribox look like?
Feast yer eyes!
We're fairly certain these are just renders: the prototype (if it even exists at this stage) is presumably a long way off from mass production. Nevertheless, it gives a pretty good indication of what to expect from the finished product. As you can see, in addition to a black and red version, Atari is also working on a faux wood option in the style of the Atari 2600 of old.
At present, the Ataribox's processor, graphics capabilities and OS remain a mystery. However, Atari did reveal that the machine will come with an SD card slot, HDMI output, four USB inputs and an ethernet port.
We're expecting a very low-specced machine for a number of reasons. First, Atari lacks the financial clout to create something on par with the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 (let alone PS4 Pro and Scorpio.) Second, the big draw here is clearly retro gaming. Nobody wants to play blistering 3D re-imaginings of Centipede or Missile Command - we just want the originals, preferably with HD TV optimisation. And third, the device's physical dimensions appear too small to house beefy components and fans.
We're willing to bet that Atari is going after the same market as the Nintendo SNES Classic with this thing - and the specifications will reflect this. With that said, Atari did drop this interesting statement in the aforementioned newsletter (emphasis ours):
As you can guess, [the system's ports] suggest modern internal specs. It also means that while we will be delivering classic gaming content, we will also be delivering current gaming content.
Of course, this could just mean it will be capable of playing mid-range PC games at low settings or Atari's existing Android titles. Time will tell.
How much will the Ataribox cost?
Atari has yet to release pricing details. It will need to tread very carefully here: too cheap, and it runs the risk of being dismissed as a disposable retro-themed toy. Too expensive, and they'll likely have another Jaguar on their hands. We wouldn't be surprised if the final price point falls somewhere in the region of $US150-$200. (At least, we hope that's the case.)
An insider who spoke to Eurogamer claims that Atari plans to finance the console through crowd funding. This means early adopters will likely need to "pre-order" the device on Kickstarter with no guarantee of an end product.
We're not too pleased about this, to be honest. Stretch goals have a habit of muddying exciting concepts with superfluous extras nobody really wants. This is especially true when it comes to hardware. Hopefully the stretch goals will just be extra games.
Ataribox launch date
Predictably, Atari is keeping shtum on availability. The announcement post noted that the company was still in the process of navigating "challenges and decision points" which suggests we're a long way off from launch. Mind you, the Atari 2600 first appeared in 1977 - we imagine Atari would be keen to get it out the door this year so it can capitalise on anniversary hype.
Are you keen to pick up one of these things at launch? What games are you hoping to see included at launch? Tell us in the comments!