Ataribox – A Different Kind of Console

This week we learned a few new details about the Ataribox that will be coming our way soon.  Apart from the occasional trip down nostalgia lane, Atari is not a name that comes to mind to often anymore.  Sure, the company is a legend from the early days of gaming, but they have not released a new console since 1993.  Atari had already lost too much ground at that point to Nintendo and Sega.  Back in those days, the gaming system you chose to play didn’t put you in any kind of fan boy category like it does now.  Keep in mind that it was before the days of online gaming though, so it was exciting to go to a friends house and try out another system’s games.

This has changed quite a bit today.  Go on any gaming forum or comment section of a video game article and you will surely see some type of jab towards an Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, or PC user from a user of another system.  Your game console says as much about you as your choice of music, and most players are pretty set in their ways.  I can’t blame anyone for sticking with a particular system though.  I mean, why would you want to up and switch systems only to lose all your points, trophies, and rep that you have worked so hard to build up.  Well, Atari is betting that their new Ataribox console might be different enough to make you try something new… and they just might be right.

Ataribox (Photo courtesy of Atari)

I have to admit that when I first heard about the Ataribox, I thought ‘why are they doing this‘?  Atari has not had a console on the market since the Jaguar, and that system was not all that successful.  Was this an attempt to capitalize on the current trend of retro gaming consoles?  With the success of the NES Mini and the high demand for the soon to be released Super NES Mini, no one would blame them.  However, as we learned from new details released by Atari this week, they are going in a completely unexpected direction with the Ataribox.

The Ataribox is not a traditional console gaming system.  It is more of a PC/gaming console hybrid.  Instead of using its own operating system, it will run Linux with a customized, easy to use user interface.  As for hardware, the system will be powered by a customized AMD processor and will have Radeon graphics technology.  The use of Linux means that the OS will be accessible and customizable.

It also means that you will be able to access content that you have bought on other platforms.  Imagine that for a minute… if you are a PC gamer, you can buy a new gaming system without sacrificing the content you have previously bought.  It is unclear how powerful the hardware will be, but at a price point of $249-$299, it’s a good bet that it won’t be a major workhorse.  This means that some of the games you currently own may not be able to be played if it does not have the processing power.  Let’s not jump the gun yet though because it is still early in the development.

Ataribox (Photo courtesy of Atari)

It is an interesting idea though, and this kind of open thinking may give Atari the momentum it will need to break into a crowded market.  Players who cannot afford the PC hardware are getting of tired of console exclusives and not being able to play with friends who have a different system so this could be an answer for the more casual gamer.

The Ataribox will come pre-loaded with classic Atari retro games, and current titles from a “range of studios” will also be available.  With a price point of $249-$299, it may have just enough appeal to grab a share of the console gamer market.  We will have to wait to see who its main competitor will be, but I have a feeling it will be more on the Nintendo Switch level.

The design of the Ataribox prototype draws inspiration from the original 2600 system.  It is a sleek modern take on a classic design.  The prototype images show an all-black version as well a version with a real-wood inlay on the front.

The console will be launched on Indiegogo this fall.  Atari is taking this approach because they want the community to be part of the launch.  This will afford early adopters the opportunity to have early access, obtain special editions, and to be an active partner in the rollout.  The kid in me hopes that Atari is able to find a place in the current market, but until more details about the system and available titles are released, its anyone’s guess.

Tell us what you think of the Ataribox in the comments below!

Leave a Reply