The Atari VCS, a crowd-funded retro console in development by Atari, has lost its system architect and its design consultancy, as they claim to have not been paid for over six months, thus jeopardising the future of the project (via The Register).
Atari’s newest console is designed for its retro collection and was announced back in July 2017. It was initially titled the ‘Ataribox’, but it wasn’t a formal or comprehensive announcement, as Atari asked for interested consumers to supply their email addresses for sequential updates on the potential project. Atari was quiet for a while, until it revealed that prototypes of the Ataribox and its peripherals would be shown off at GDC 2018.
This turned out to not be the case. Chief operating officer Michael Arzt disclosed at the time that nothing had been done with the project since Atari’s first announcement. Then, Atari initiated an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $100,000 to develop the retro console. A little over $3 million was accrued from 11,340 backers, and Atari assured them that they’d have the console in their hands in June 2019.
Evidently, this never came to pass. When disgruntled backers took to Reddit to share their disappointment at the sporadic updates and the continual delays, Atari deleted the posts from the Atari VCS subreddit. Through investigation, The Register spoke to developers who have worked closely on the Atari VCS and learned that chief architect Rob Wyatt has in fact left the project.
In a statement to The Register, he said that ‘Atari haven’t paid invoices going back over six months’ to Tin Giant, his design consultancy. Tin Giant has been attached to the Atari VCS since 2018, and Wyatt explained that ‘as a small company, we have been lucky to survive this long.’ Other anonymous sources have described the development trajectory as a ‘shit show’, and that Atari executives struggle to understand how video game consoles work on a technical level. As such, Atari chose again and again to cut costs but it created a console that… isn’t a console at all.
In the shape it’s in now, the Atari VCS does not have its own operating system nor any mechanisms that would attach games to certain users. This places games at risk of piracy because there seem to be no security controls, and there’s no way of telling how games and other software would run on it. Finally, collated from all the stories sources had about the Atari VCS, it seems that it’s a ‘PC in an Atari-branded box.’ This is certainly not the product backers were promised, and given Atari’s financial troubles, it’s unlikely that the company would be able to change tack and deliver what was intended.
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