We're just weeks away from the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, which will usher in a new generation of gaming with immersive 4K graphics, instantaneous load times and blistering framerates. But the upcoming Sony and Microsoft machines will also be joined by new hardware from one of the oldest names in console gaming: Atari.
The Indiegogo-backed Atari VCS has shown up in various forms at gaming trade shows since it was first announced several years ago. The console will play more than 100 classic Atari games including Pong, Asteroids and Centipede, and can function as a mini PC that lets users install their own operating system. It also won't come cheap at $390 — that's nearly the price of a $399 PS5 Digital Edition and more expensive than a $299 Xbox Series S.
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Speaking to Bloomberg, Atari CEO Frederic Chesnais believes that the VCS will still find an audience despite what might look like an uphill battle.
“We have a brand, we have a following — we think we are going to get some attention in any case," Chesnais told Bloomberg.
Atari hopes to make the VCS stand out with a built-in cryptocurrency system, which will allow gamers to buy and spend special "Atari Tokens" for purchasing games and in-game content. The company is also reportedly working on its own "stablecoin," which is a type of cryptocurrency that's less volatile than others in terms of shifting value.
With its price and feature set, it's unclear exactly who the Atari VCS is for. Retro consoles such as the SNES Classic and Sega Genesis Mini have proven popular lately, but those machines are affordable gift items that range from $59 to $79 in price. A $400 box seems like a tough sell for folks nostalgic for Tempest and Missile Command, and those interested in the customizable PC element could theoretically build their own retro game box with something as simple as a $29 Raspberry Pi 4.
Still, the Atari VCS has reportedly sold more than 11,500 pre-orders and earned more than $3 million in crowdfunding on Indiegogo, so there clearly is some appetite for the company's unique hybrid machine. It's highly unlikely that the VCS will steal any attention away from the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but we're eager to see exactly how Atari's mysterious game box works in the real world come November.
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