When Atari announced its upcoming “Ataribox” earlier this year, it was a fairly transparent attempt to cash-in on the retro gaming craze that Nintendo kicked off with the NES Classic last fall. There were, however, some concerns about how Atari would make money in the first place, or whether anyone would actually want the platform. Unlike Nintendo, which has always maintained a tight grip on its franchises and properties, rarely making them available for platforms it doesn’t control, Atari has released any number of collections and bundles for various platforms. The initial console reveal was just a video of a faux-wood box, with no information on the platform’s hardware or capabilities.
Atari has now released some of those details, and they aren’t exactly what we were hoping for. The upcoming Atari Box will run on an AMD processor with an integrated Radeon GPU and a customized Linux interface. Atari goes on to claim: “As well as being a great gaming device, Ataribox is also a full PC experience for the TV, bringing you streaming, applications, social, browsing, music, and more. Most TV devices have closed systems and content stores. Linux lets us be more open; you can access & customise the OS, & you can access games you’ve bought from other content platforms (if compatible with the OS and HW).”
The company claims there will be a ton of classic Atari games preloaded along with current titles from a range of studios. It’s going to be funded via donations on Indiegogo, as opposed to being, you know, funded, and Atari claims it’ll ship in the spring of 2018 with an expected price range of $ 250 to $ 300.
Haven’t We Seen This Before?
There are a few things to note before slapping down money on this platform. First, the microconsole business, which pundits once thought would drag on the PS4 and Xbox One’s sales, crashed and burned. Devices like the Ouya completely failed to catch on, while other handhelds and small consoles, like the Nvidia Shield and Nvidia TV, have been used more for video and game streaming than as an independent game platform. The PlayStation TV from Sony was canceled several years after it launched.
Then there’s the price. At $ 250 to $ 300, the Ataribox isn’t priced like a microconsole; it’s priced to compete with actual consoles. There are Xbox One S bundles from Microsoft available for as low as $ 250. While the Xbox One isn’t as powerful as the PS4, and neither are as powerful as a PC, does anybody seriously think Atari is going to build a custom gaming solution that can compete with even the older Xbox One for the same amount of money? The Atari of today isn’t the company that kicked off the gaming revolution 40 years ago. The engineers that drove the first arcade and home gaming era have retired or long since quit the company. Today, Atari is a licensing and trademark program, not a hardware-builder.
That’s the central problem of the Ataribox. At $ 50 to $ 70, some users might like to pick one up for the nostalgia factor. At $ 250 to $ 300, there are going to be better solutions. Atari could conceivably bring some indie games to its platform, but it’s not going to have much traction in the market at that price point.
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