back to article The Ataribox lives, as a prototype, supposedly

The reboot of the classic Atari games console is back on, with prototypes to be displayed at the Games Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco later this month. The news follows three months of dead air in the wake of the company's decision to pull out of pre-order plans at the last minute. Last month, the Ataribox's …

  1. J. R. Hartley


    The Walker lives, as a prototype.

  2. Flakk

    But it was saved from ignominious death from former employee Chesnais who bought the name and the intellectual property rights.

    Well, no. Atari did die a thoroughly ignominious death at the hands of Infogrammes, one of the many that shamelessly passed Atari around in attempts to cash in on the name. Chesnais may believe he can bring it back to life. News Flash: I don't need another HDMI device to play Atari games. Most people don't. PCs, along with many consoles released over the past 15 years, have been emulating classic Atari games via retail and homebrew packages.

    Any new Atari console is going to have to offer far more than a 90 game bundle and a slew of unrelated and superfluous apps. A cartridge slot that takes original 2600 and 7800 games would be welcome, as would pin-compatible, faithful reproductions of the original joysticks (terrible as they are in comparison to modern controllers).

    Put something on the market that I can really play with, and I'll be first in line to get one.

    1. Irongut


      "WA cartridge slot that takes original 2600 and 7800 games would be welcome, as would pin-compatible, faithful reproductions of the original joysticks (terrible as they are in comparison to modern controllers)."

      That is what I really want from Ataribox too. I still have my 2600, cartridges, joysticks and even paddle controllers so I'd jump at some modern hardware that would let me use them with a modern TV.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The entire "Atari" operation consists of just ten people? Surely even the a licensing operation would require more than that? Do they count people in their subsidiaries using the "Atari" name?

      Frankly, it's probably not worth caring- the only relevant thing is that the current "Atari" has no connection with the original company beyond the name. Anything resembling a direct continuation of the original Atari Inc. after it split in 1984 (i.e. Jack Tramiel's "Atari Corp"- the former home division- and "Atari Games"- the former arcade division) themselves fizzled out or ceased operations around twenty years ago.

      And it's been that long- since Tramiel sold the "Atari" name to Hasbro and they started milking the IP in the late 90s- that the Atari name has been used to sell endless rehashes of their same old late-70s to mid-80s IP, and used for nostalgia-exploiting purposes in general. Would anyone give a toss about the bandwagon-jumping cryptocurrency announcement if it hadn't come from (masquerading-as-the-original) "Atari"? Of course not.

      Similarly, would anyone give a toss about some mediocre half-baked, pointless and (no doubt) underpowered console/PC hybrid if it wasn't using the Atari name and trying to get attention by including classic VCS/2600 games (for about the millionth time)? Games that pretty much *anything* could emulate in its sleep these days? As if to ram the point home, it has the now-cliched wood grain.

      I notice that Kodak- although (unlike Atari) still legally the original company, but vastly pared-down since its bankruptcy a few years back and a shadow of its former self- is also rapidly morphing into a brand whose primary business is using their name and identity as a shorthand for nostalgia and for attention-grabbing purposes. (Let's remember that they jumped on the cryptocurrency bandwagon a couple of months back as well; let's also note that you don't see Fujifilm doing stuff like this because- unlike Kodak- they saw the writing on the wall and didn't make short-termist, foot-dragging decisions until it was too late for them to transition to the digital age).

      I think what I'm saying is that this nostalgia-exploiting tedium wore out its welcome long ago- it's past scraping the bottom of the barrel and now digging halfway to China.

      1. Mark 85

        You mentioned Kodak.... they're slowly morphing into a patent troll for the patents they hung on possibly not just an ordinary troll but a legitimate one. I know of one former engineer who's still in touch and he thinks that there's going to be an attempt to come back. What products is anyone's guess.

        1. Danny 14

          pc? any pseudo modern android phone can emulate games. Indeed scummvm runs really well. couple with a bluetooth keyboard, mouse and hdmi and my note 3 keeps me entertained in many premier inns (their hdmi sockets are great nowadays)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I know of one former engineer who's still in touch and he thinks that there's going to be an attempt to come back."

          How? They're not a cheesy has-been singer fed up of spending time with his family. If there was any way to recapture their former glory, they'd have done it by now. They tried getting into inkjet printers a few years back, but that was already an established market with established players.

          AFAIK, they sold off a lot of assets (including patents) to keep afloat prior to the bankruptcy, when it was obvious they were having to sell things that might ensure their long-term survival to keep afloat in the short term. They apparently had to sell more patents as part of the bankruptcy process itself. A large chunk of the company- including the most of the remainder of their traditional photographic line- has now been spun off (as Kodak Alaris) to cover debts to the UK Kodak pension plan.

          They might be able to get some money from their remaining patents (whether or not one views this as "trolling" or "legitimate"). And I'm sure they'll continue trying to exploit their name recognition, as it's one of the few things they have left.

    3. FuzzyWuzzys

      Well said!

      Who is this aimed at? True afficiandos buy the original consoles of eBay and such like. Those of us who want to simply play the games and relive a few childhood memories will simply get the emulators, which work on nay platform. Unless as you say they reproduce it faithfully it will never truly fit in.

      The biggest problem is securing the rights to use the games, trying to find all those developers from 30 years ago is a huge task, some are no longer with us and no one knows who owns the rights. You need a team of a dozen people just working securing legal rights to use games. While completely illegal, that's something that emulators have a huge advantage with over these "reboots".

      All very noble but it'll simply be another retro collector novelty that'll only last a year or two and then you'll find it in the bargain bin at the local electronics gadget store for a fiver.

      1. jason 7

        Re: Well said!

        It will last 15 minutes before folks think "well that was a waste of money!"

        The Atari was the best we had nearly 40 years ago. Other than a couple of games it doesn't really hold up today.

        But some folks are suckers for nostalgia.

  3. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

    Problems all around

    If they were to reproduce the venerable 2600 and successors, it would be unforgivable to take 8 months to create a prototype of a thoroughly known hardware, barely more powerful than a modern pocket calculator.

    On the other hand...

    "offer games and more: bringing a full PC experience to the TV, it will also include streaming, applications, social, browsing, and music"

    They are muddling the hardware throwing lots of unneeded and unwanted[1] cr*p to it, and that's probably what is weighting them down.

    [1] if you are interested in reliving your Atari memories, do you *really* want leaderboards and farcebook integration?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Problems all around

      Make the games' 2 player option work multiplayer over the net and they'd probably end up selling quite a bit.

      It's rumoured Nintendo will do this with the Switch.

  4. Brex

    As long as I can play Enduro, no problem.

    Enduro all the way!

    1. MrT

      Re: As long as I can play Enduro, no problem.

      I'll be waiting for the announcement that they'll be releasing 'ET' in slightly concrete-covered cartridge format...

    2. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: As long as I can play Enduro, no problem.

      I loved how it was easier to play during the night stages as you were only overtaking pairs of tail lights rather than full-width cars.

  5. Jay Lenovo

    The Atari Channel

    One of the most amazing qualities of the Atari home gaming console was the fact that NOW you (ordinary joe) could put your own programming on the TV and interact with it. Attaching a special "adapter" on the back allowed you to jailbreak (if you will) the regular channel 3-4 programming and input your own.

    Now you're not just watching the TV, I'm putting stuff on it, cool interactive game stuff.

  6. J27

    Seeing as there are a number of off the shelf boards that anyone and their Mum could have just pulled off that shelf and stuck in a cheap plastic case it's amazing it's taken this long. Hell, they could have just re-branded a cheap Chinese Android box and just slapped their logo and a few quick ports onto it. It's not like they have the resources to build a full console anyway, it's going to be half-baked no matter what. Might as well go full rip-off.

    1. Danny 14

      it would have been easier to rebox a raspberry pi with custom inputs.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Atari - not the same

    Atari became niche and greatly unnoticed by the wider market. Now someone invent a way I can use my Atari alongside my PS4 etc

    and I’ll be happy.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    At Ari's Fine Silex and Stone Smoothing Shop....

    Shit was horrid.

    But the wood lining made it worth it.

    And what do you mean, "vaporware"? It existed in what amounts to the computing stone age. So how can it now exist now? (It's not like it's on the level of classical Greek's Parthenon's Fine Engineering, which the Greeks of nowadays are apparently unable to reproduce accurately. That's what you get when your genetic potential is diluted by ... ARGH! JOKE JOKE! HELP!!! MACEDONIA FOREVER!!!)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It’s just a PC case... far as I can tell it’s just a custom case for a standard PC board.

    Maybe with some eBay “2600 to USB” adaptor.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Not a Game Box

    Just a money box, you have to keep feeding it.

    I paid $183.00 AU$ for a Sony Playstation 1, years ago and had to keep spending $50 on controllers after the back lever style buttons would jam,. Once jammed they would always jam.

    5 x 50 = $250++++

    I gave up, as was just too expensive to play.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Atari is dead

    So is Commodore.... we need to move on.

  12. Snorlax

    Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be

    How is this different from the Atari Flashback 7?

    An Atari console knockoff might be fun for five minutes, but let’s be honest - the games and the controllers were crap.

    The Chinese bang out Atari clones for a couple of dollars. Why spend $250-300 the Ataribox is rumoured to cost for the same experience? Might as well buy a boxed mint condition original 2600 if you like to spend that kind of money revisiting your youth

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be

      "Might as well buy a boxed mint condition original 2600 if you like to spend that kind of money revisiting your youth"

      I only want to revisit my youth if I can be richer, sexier and living at a better address.

      I won't get any of that from an ancient games console.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This approach has worked very well for the Vega+... I can only expect similar levels of success here as well.

  14. J27

    "fans of the classic brand and its wooden styling got themselves in lather."

    This strikes me as a hilarious statement from my point of view. Here in Canada (and the USA). Atari was vanquished in the late 80's by the video game crash and Nintendo outperforming them at every turn. They ended their run with the massive failure of the Atari Lynx (which seemed like a good system but had terrible distribution and no games) and the commercial failure of the Atari Jaguar (which was so expensive that I had absolutely no chance of ever seeing one as a child). The Atari ST was a total non-entity (as was the Amiga in all it's forms) as the PC market was split almost entirely between DOS machines and Macs.

    Now, I understand that you guys in the UK had a different experience in the UK. But if Infogrames "Atari" thinks they're going to sell many of these in the North American market, they're dead wrong. Nintendo can do that because they have positive mind-share, over here Atari has been a dead brand since the late 80's.

    1. Gio Ciampa

      "The Atari ST was a total non-entity"

      You obviously didn't know any musicians...

      1. Uberior

        Re: "The Atari ST was a total non-entity"

        I loved my Atari ST. It was £299 and is still in my parent's loft. Upgraded to 2.5Mb, double sided internal drive, double sided external drive, and a staggering 10Mb external hard drive.

        Using Microsoft Word (yes for the Atari ST) and Degas Elite for artwork along with a bizarre hand held scanner, at least 4 issues of our school magazine was prepared on my home computer way back in 1988/89 - the BBC, Mac or PC just did not have the same options for gaming as well as sensible stuff at a reasonable price for the home.

        As I run off a few copies of a document on my colour laser printer here, it's a good reminder that in order to get basic economical colour printing in 1988 at school, we had to print the document on my Star LC10 with a high-carbon content ribbon, then use a thermal copier to transfer those prints onto ink-duplicator sheets, then a separate sheet and run through the ink-duplicator for each colour we wanted to use.

  15. James Hughes 1

    Pretty sure you could make this with a Pi 0 in a box, and a few small PCB's for joystick interfacing.

    Max cost $35, depending on how posh you want the box to be.

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