What is the Atari VCS and Why I Want One

It’s been a while since we’ve heard much about Atari games systems. As I cut my teeth on old 2600 games, the company has always held a special place in my heart. Imagine my excitement when I heard about the release of the Atari VCS.

Given that I’m a sucker for anything retro in nature, this piques my interest quite a bit.

Usually, I wait until systems are actually out before I write about them. After all, there’s a big difference between saying what something will do and what it will actually have on opening day.

But, this got me too excited to wait.

What is the Atari VCS?

The Atari VCS is the new game console-computer hybrid system created with today’s technology. It includes built-in Ethernet, Bluetooth, HDMI, WiFi, and USB 3.0 connectivity. Driven with the AMD Ryzen processor and Radeon graphics, the Atari VCS will behave as you’d expect of a personal computer.

The unit is shipped with the Atari Vault, which consists of more than 100 games of arcade and home-console classics.

Utilizing a Debian Linux-based OS, you can run the system as Atari World or install Atari PC Mode with any other operating system.

What Can We Expect from the Atari VCS?

So, I’m fairly sure I’ll have to write up a proper review once I get my hands on an Atari VCS. But for now, I’ll break down some of the things the company says about the unit.

Now, these are just highlights that got my attention. There are plenty of other tidbits of goodness about this system.

Adding Other Gaming Platforms with PC Mode

In “PC Mode,” users can install second operating systems and use the console as a computer. Then, you can install other gaming platforms such as Steam to play games on the console.

Essentially, you turn the Atari VCS into a massive gaming platform ready for a slew of entertainment. Then again, this also depends on the hard drive size. Some of us have quite extensive libraries on Steam, Blizzard, and other gaming apps.

Speaking of drive size, it looks like we’ll start off with a 32GB eMMC capacity, which is kind of similar to SSD. There are quite a few differences between eMMC and SSD, so I won’t go into the overall mechanics.

Let’s just say the drives should be nice and fast.

And this is in addition to being able to use external hard drives through USB ports. So, there really is no need to fear about drive space when using PC Mode.

The Retro Look and Feel

I love the overall design of the Atari VCS. It’s built with its original ridge-top layout, and you can buy it with the original walnut appearance. Even the case is similar in design with its raised backing.

The All-In bundle comes with the retro Atari controller as well as a modern controller similar to the Xbox layout.

But, because I am the oldest in our group, I’m sure I’ll probably wind up using the original controller more often than not. Especially if the system comes with River Raid built-in.

Streaming Services and Multiplayer Support?

According to Atari, the VCS should have the capacity to view streaming videos. Apparently, Plex is one of the apps available. This is a streaming service for several companies such as Warner Bros. and MGM.

I’m not sure if I’ll use yet another streaming service seeing how I pay about $70 per month for the ones I have now.

Another part of the connectivity of the Atari VCS is perhaps multiplayer support. Through the partnership of AirConsole cloud-based gaming, there will be more than 150 single and multiplayer games available.

I’m curious to see if we can get a multiplayer game of Combat going on the Atari VCS. My brother and I spent hours upon hours playing that one on Dad’s Atari 2600 back in the day.

Upgrading the Hardware?

One thing that drives me nuts about gaming consoles is not being able to upgrade much, if anything. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I’m primarily a PC player. But, the Atari VCS does have some upgrade capabilities.

From what I can gather, the memory and drive are upgradeable.

Well, at least it’s something. I’d rather have the capacity to swap out CPUs, GPUs, and memory to expand what a system can do. Still, it’s nice to know you can give it more umph when needed.

Creating Games and Apps of Your Own

One element I’m highly interested in is being able to create your own games and apps for the Atari VCS. That means I’ll have to actually put effort into learning Unity. But it might be something worthwhile.

If you have any skill with Linux tools, you can also start development before the console is released.

Atari Storefront

Speaking of creating your own games and apps, you can also display your developments on the Atari Storefront. This works much like Steam in that individual developers can sell their games and tools on the system.

If you set up an exclusive Atari VCS title, you’ll receive 88% of royalties from someone buying your games. If not, then it’s an 80% share. This is better than some of the other systems that are out there for selling game titles.

There are times that I think that I’m in the wrong industry. I wonder how long it would take to learn something like Unity to the point where I could make a good enough game to retire?

Yet Another Console to Add to My Collection

In reality, I just don’t want to get my hopes up. Sure, the Atari VCS has a lot of cool-sounding features and capabilities. But if there is anything the gaming industry has taught us lately is that hype doesn’t mean fact.

In the end, all we can really do is wait and see. The Atari VCS is on pre-order now and should be released in the very near future. I just don’t know if I have $390 to dump into a new console.

I wonder if I can use it as my new streaming computer I am building? With PC Mode, I should be able to set it up as the OBS server when we play on Twitch or YouTube.

I just hope that the Atari VCS does better than its predecessor, the Jaguar. Then again, that was almost 30 years ago. I’m sure the company has developed better strategies since then.

Michael Brockbank
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Michael Brockbank

Michael developed ColoradoPlays to help various charities through his favorite pastime. Since then, the blog and Twitch channels have donated several hundred dollars to Extra Life, Geeks of Grandeur and Operation Supply Drop to name a few.

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