The Jaguar seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for Atari back in the 90’s. Since the swift death of their last console, the company’s name has lived on in the form of merchandise, numerous anthology discs for major platforms, and the Atari Flashback line. If the return of infamous character Bubsy the Bobcat (also assumed to be roadkill after the god-awful Bubsy 3D) wasn’t enough proof for you that this is the year hell froze over for games, then look no further than the AtariBox.
Yes, that’s right…Atari is throwing their hat back in the ring with their first new console in well over 20 years. Although they’ve been pretty quiet as far as details are concerned, Atari recently released new information on what exactly this thing is and how much it will cost.
What The $#@? Is the AtariBox?
The AtariBox is pretty much a micro-console bearing the Atari name and, of course, that cozy wood-grain look of the company’s most remembered console- the Atari 2600. The AtariBox is set to boast
-Four USB ports
-Ethernet for wired internet connections
-SD Card Slot (plenty of potential for homebrew and emulation)
What can I do and play on it?
Similar to consoles like the Nvidia Shield, the AtariBox will double as a gaming platform and streaming center. While no word of what games can be played on it out of the box, it will offer a host of Atari classics that can be purchased digitally. And this is where my concern really starts to intensify.
Atari’s been riding on its legacy for far too long. We’ve seen several iterations of the Atari Flashback dedicated console, several compilation discs (including two recent volumes released for the PS4 and Xbox One)…all offering exactly the same lineup of games with a few changes here and there. Chances are, gamers who want to play classic Atari games have probably already found a way to do so. Now, if Atari decides to include more arcade-perfect conversions (especially something like Star Wars- quite the feat for its time) as well as games for other systems (emulation for the 5200 as well as the 8 bit computer line can be a bit tricky via the non-official means)…I think this could be a nice little feature. Even so, the AtariBox is going to need more than that if it doesn’t want to end up buried next to all those unsold copies of E.T in New Mexico.
Don’t hold your breath.
The AtariBox will be powered by an AMD customized processor with Radeon Graphics. This kind of processor works well with less demanding indie titles (Minecraft for instance), but it definitely will not do in running a game the scale of something like Destiny 2. It won’t be a PS4 or Xbox One killer. More likely, this will be something for the tinkerers/homebrew community to jump on. For anyone else…it’ll just be something perched next to their main consoles for streaming purposes. And chances are, those same folks who really wanted a streaming box will already have a Roku, Chromecast, FireStick, or Shield TV. What the AtariBox is doing sadly seems to be nothing new.
Do The Math
If the AtariBox succeeds in its crowdfunding goals, it is set to be released in Spring 2018 for the price of $250. This, right here, is the reason why I think the thing’s dead before it even hits shelves. The Nvidia Shield TV, which offers pretty much everything the AtariBox is set to offer and then some (including the streaming of Steam games), can be had for roughly $200. Currently, it’s arguably the most expensive streaming box on the market. The Chromecast, most Roku Players, and the Firestick can all be had for under $100. The $250 pricepoint, to me, makes the AtariBox an even harder sell than it already was to begin with.
As much as I love the Atari name (the 2600 was the first console I ever played games on, ever…and I still like to fire up Jungle Hunt and Centipede from time to time), I can’t help but feel the AtariBox is already as good as buried. What do you think? Does it have a chance or is its fate already sealed?