The classic Atari console is reborn, as Atari revives the video game system as a computer. Sorta. Kinda.
If your living room had at least one of the video game systems out now, we wouldn’t be surprised. While a game console is clearly built for games, they can be used for much more, with access to media services for streaming alongside playing those games.
But not everyone fancies the style of games we have today. Often long and involved, if you’re someone who prefers a casual game, you might play some of the smaller titles on your console or even have a Steam account with a bunch of downloaded games there.
Games weren’t always as involved as they are today, mind you, and older titles could be quick, fun, and by today’s standards, retrolicious.
That’s a mood and sentiment Atari seems intent on bringing back, relaunching a console from one of the names that started gaming. While you might typically think of Nintendo, Sega, and recently Microsoft and Sony, Atari was one of the first, and it is bringing back games with a new take on a console, with a “Video Computer System”.
Technically, that’s what the Atari VCS is, and it says it in the name: VCS stands for “Video Computer System”.
So Atari’s return to the world of consoles isn’t so much a gaming console, but rather a small computer, powered by an AMD chip and graphics component, with a 32GB drive and 8GB RAM, both of which can be upgraded and customised.
Set to be brought to Australia by Bluemouth Interactive, from spec alone, the Atari VCS is built more like a small console than a computer, though like other consoles, it relies on parts similar to what you might find in a modern-day computer.
And yet the VCS aims to be a little bit different.
Inspired by the classic Atari 2600 yet made modern, the console supports 4K gaming, making it very different from the older below-HD resolutions of its cousin, which came from a time before we even had designations like “HD”, “Full HD”, and “4K”. It supports WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, and USB — things that didn’t exist back in the 80s when the 2600 rocked up — and yet Atari is keeping some of the vibe, complete with wood on the console.
Atari will include over 100 classic gaming titles preinstalled on the system, running across both old arcade games and from the Atari 2600, with other titles to be made available through the Atari VCS Store later in the year. The games aren’t reportedly just emulated versions, and have been made to work with rumble and LED effects for the controllers the Atari VCS comes with, making them a little bit different.
Locally, the Atari VCS will include access to a service called “Antstream Arcade”, which provides access to what’s known as the “Netflix of games”, providing access to classics such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Mortal Kombat, Earthworm Jim, Double Dragon, and lots of others, potentially making the Atari VCS into an emulation station of sorts.
Atari wants to go further than that, though, and because the VCS is a “computer system”, the company is allowing you to install your own operating system to the console, basically making it a combination between console and your computer if you choose to.
Even if you don’t want to install Windows or Linux to it, we’re told that it uses Chrome as its built-in browser, and so supports Google’s Workspace apps, as well, and should support streaming services, basically making it a console for a generation that may not be as enthused with new games as they are the classics.
“We’re so excited to bring this reimagined ‘80s icon back in a completely modern way to everyone’s living rooms with the Atari VCS,” said David Provan, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Bluemouth.
“The system brings a hit of nostalgia to fans with its classic arcade titles, but also complete versatility to play newer games and stream all in the same place,” he said.
The Atari VCS also comes with a price tag that might speak to the niche audience it attracts, but also to the flexibility Atari is going for here, priced at $849.95 in Australia. Yep, that’s more than the fabled PlayStation 5 you may still have trouble finding, and more than the Xbox Series X that isn’t remarkably easy to source, either.
It’s worth noting that you can typically find converted versions of these classic games on the modern consoles, but that may not be the point of what the Atari VCS is going for.
Rather than simply let you relive the joy of those games, Atari’s VCS looks like it aims to update the experience ever so slightly, including wireless controllers adapted to match those games, and throw them onto a bigger and more resolution-friendly screen. This isn’t for an old CRT TV, but rather those big high-res TVs we’re all buying today.
For now, the price may be a little higher than you expect, but with the system going for a retro Atari vibe made for today complete with a wooden exterior, our guess is that you’re paying not just for the old games made new, but some of the sentiment a classic system should come with.