Atari VCS Console Is Now Available For Retro Gaming Goodness, But Its Price Tag Stings
The game console previously known as Project Ataribox and later rebranded as the Atari Video Computer Systems (or Atari VCS for short
) is finally available at retail, four years after it was first revealed. Its arrival comes after Microsoft and Sony launched their Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 consoles, which is notable because of the price.
Therein lies the caveat or the Atari VCS (one of them, anyway). The base model Atari VCS 800 Onyx runs $299.99 without an bundled controllers, while the Atari VCS 800 Black Walnut and Onyx All-In System bundles run $399.99. Buyers who opt for the bundle receive an Atari VCS Classic Joystick and Atari VCS Modern Controller, each of which sells for $59.99 if purchased separately.
So you're essentially looking at $300 or $400, depending on the version/bundle you choose. That puts the retro game console in similar pricing territory as the latest cutting-edge consoles from Microsoft and Sony—going in ascending order, it costs $299.99 for the Xbox Series S, $399.99 for the PlayStation 5 All-Digital Edition, and $499.99 for the Xbox Series X
and PlayStation 5, both with a built-in Blu-ray drive.
Let me say this—I have very fond memories of the Atari 2600 that the Atari VCS aims to reignite. I came before the NES era, and the Atari 2600 was what I cut my gaming teeth on as a kid. Many of the titles I remember playing are available for free on the Atari VCS, such as Adventure, Haunted House, Sword Quest, Yars Revenge, and others.
They are part of the Atari VCS Vault Volume 1, which contains over 100 classic Atari 2600 and arcade games, optimized for the VCS. A second collection (Atari VCS Vault Volume 2) adds 50 more games for $5, available from the Atari Store.
"Owners can enjoy a growing library of games from popular independent developers, over 100 free arcade and Atari 2600 classics, plus game streaming services such as Antstream Arcade. Atari VCS owners can even load up their favorite movies and TV shows—directly from the Atari VCS dashboard—or with help from the Atari VCS Companion app, available in the App Store and Google Play—using their favorite streaming media services, including 4K HDR content, as well as listen to music, shop, access their social media, and more," Atari explains.
Still, it's a tough sell for the money, even for someone with fond memories the Atari 2600. There are definitely some neat and intriguing aspects of the Atari VCS, such as Atari pitching it as a PC/console hybrid. But it is not especially powerful as a PC. It sports a Ryzen Embedded R1606G processor (with Radeon Vega 3 graphics) based on AMD's original 14nm Zen architecture, 8GB of DDR4 memory, and 32GB of internal storage.
Some parts of the system can be upgraded, at least. For example, it sports an M.2 socket to add a high-speed solid state drive, and SO-DIMM slots to inject more memory into the hybrid PC/console. Load up an OS—Windows, Ubuntu, ChromeOS—and you have a PC in the mold of a retro Atari system, which is pretty cool.
Any optional DIY upgrades obviously come at an additional cost, and you're still bound by the performance of the embedded CPU with integrated graphics. That's okay for a general purpose PC, but is it worth the asking price? Atari is about to find out. Here's where the Atari VCS is available to buy...
Atari is also hoping that developers will embrace the Atari VCS with new games (of which there are already some), as well Antstream Arcade being a draw. I'm skeptical that this will be enough to lure gamers into spending several hundred dollars on the Atari VCS, but like Atari, I'll find out soon enough.
Show of hands, does anyone plan on buying one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!