A brand new retro console from Atari was revealed today. Named the Ataribox, the console is planned to deliver both classic and modern gaming content to players. That idea is reflected in two different versions of the Ataribox planned for distribution: a classic wood and black throwback to the original Atari 2600, and a modern black and orange alternative. Ataribox specifications, price, release date, and other details will be revealed over time. At the very least, don’t expect the console in 2017.
The internals of the Ataribox are described by Atari as “modern internal specs,” implying that the console is much more than just emulation hardware akin to the NES and SNES Classics. In a previous interview, Atari CEO Frederic Chesnais described the console as powered by PC technology. And just looking at the ports on the back of the Ataribox confirms that, as it features four USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port too. No cartridges for the Ataribox though, because this thing is all-digital.
That doesn’t mean that the Ataribox won’t be an emulation box, however. The classic look of the console alone should be persuasive regarding Atari’s goal of distributing older games with the Ataribox, though to what scale is still unclear. But it’s Atari’s wariness in focusing on those classic games that’s perhaps most telling. The company doesn’t want the platform defined by the classic Atari games it has to offer. For now, the company wants everyone to keep an open mind.
According to a note not included with Atari’s announcement, but instead provided to French investors, the Ataribox will be crowdfunded. Here’s the text of that note, for full context:
“To limit risk taking, this product will initially be launched within the framework of a crowdfunding campaign.”
While it may seem odd at first that Atari didn’t mention that the Ataribox will be crowdfunded in this initial announcement, crowdfunding carries a lot of negative connotations these days. Atari may be hoping that the look of the hardware itself will provide a better foundation of public opinion from which further details, like crowdfunding, can be revealed.
Yet it may be that Atari’s loose wording regarding the Ataribox’s support of modern gaming that sticks out the most in people’s minds. Exactly what kind of platform is Atari trying to create here is leaving many people confused. It could be higher end like a Steam OS PC/console hybrid, or closer an Android device like the doomed OUYA. As interesting as what Atari has shown of the Ataribox may be to retro gaming fans, it may be what’s been left unsaid that resounds the most.
This mystery regarding the Ataribox may be exactly what Atari was hoping to create, however:
“We know you are hungry for more details; on specs, games, features, pricing, timing etc. We’re not teasing you intentionally; we want to get this right, so we’ve opted to share things step by step as we bring Ataribox to life, and to listen closely to Atari community feedback as we do so. There are a lot of milestones, challenges and decision points in front of us in the months ahead. We’ll be giving you lots more information and status updates as we progress, and we are thrilled to have you along for the ride!”
Expect more information regarding the Ataribox console in the months to come.