The Atari VCS gaming machine is launching at retail in just a few months, after starting its rollout to backers of its crowdfunding campaign last December. And the hybrid console could be just the salve for gamers who are tired of the PS5 and Xbox Series X hype, stock shortages, and the ever-raging console wars.
Speaking to T3, Atari VCS COO, Michael Arzt, reckons the new console/PC is a breath of fresh air for gamers, saying: "the Atari VCS provides consumers who may be weary of the iterative nature of the console wars something different to consider."
The system is intended to slot into your living room setup, and packs a slew of functionality into its retro chassis that feeds into the current craving for nostalgic products with a modern-day twist; we want to be transported back to the good old days, but not at the cost of losing the convenience of our everyday tech – and this is the hardware that will do just that.
"First and foremost the Atari VS was designed for the living room, merging the benefits of a console, a streaming box, and a multimedia PC," says Arzt.
"The PC functionality, the all-in-one nature of the device, and the broad accessibility of streaming services means it can carry the lion’s share of gaming and streaming activity in any living room. Plus, that doesn’t preclude people using the Atari VCS as a dedicated mini-PC.
"Users can tap into a wide variety of traditional PC functionalities, from office work, to email, to online shopping to PC gaming and much more. There has been a lot of interest in the VCS as a PC, in part because it provides so much incremental value compared to other mini-PCs in our price range."
The idea resonates with fans, clearly, with the Indiegogo campaign smashing its $100,000 target, and raking in $3 million. Arzt says pre-orders have "been strong", and that the units landing with Indiegogo backers will only serve to "increase interest and drive additional pre-order volume."
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"Consumers are responding very positively to the idea of a PC/console hybrid," Arzt adds. "The 'hybrid' label does a good job of summing up what the Atari VCS is and what it offers.
"That blend of console, PC, PC gaming device, and streaming device offers a lot of flexibility, and a lot of value... We are actually pretty excited to see how people utilize both PC Mode and Atari Mode. Every computer plays games and video. Not every computer is an Atari."
The heritage of the brand is certainly a big draw for fans, young and old alike, and the company has been planning to tap into that fanbase ever since CEO Frederic Chesnais took over in 2013, with the intention to "revive and reimagine the core elements of the brand," – specifically a return to its roots with the console hybrid.
"Hardware is part of Atari’s DNA and will complement the existing licensing and software business, and provide an important platform for expansion in gaming, entertainment, and blockchain."
Meanwhile, the library of Atari titles from decades past "adds additional appeal for retro gamers and legacy brand fans," according to Arzt, He shares that more games are on the way to the Atari VCS this year, and given that it's a mini PC, it can run a slew of PC games already – although temper your expectations based on the specs.
The Atari VCS isn't exactly cheap, at $389.99 (approx. £285/ AU$504) for the console bundled with a controller and joystick; you can pick up an Xbox Series S for $100 less, or a PS5 Digital Edition for almost exactly the same price.
Availability of Sony and Microsoft's consoles, coupled with scalper and bot issues, has meant that both systems have proven almost impossible to get hold of, even with our PS5 stock tracker and where to buy Xbox Series X guide. We may start to see frustrated gamers give up on trying to secure a next gen console, and sink that money into alternative hardware instead, like the Atari VCS.
The console is expected to start shipping this spring, and is available to pre-order directly from Atari, as well as Walmart, and Gamestop. There's no word on a release outside of the US just yet, but Arzt teases that there's been interest from a number of international distributors, so we could see the Atari VCS roll out in other regions this year.