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Atari's New Console
Quote:As the week comes to a close, we are getting word that Atari CEO Fred Chesnais has confirmed that his company is working on a new console. It was only last week that the video above surfaced, showing off what would be a teaser trailer for the Ataribox. While it was unknown at the time whether this was a hoax, Chesnais did confirm that the new console would offer the iconic wood-grain siding which was found on its older consoles.

At this point, we don't know whether or not this will be some kind of retro console like the NES Classic or something completely new and unique. Atari did announce plans in 2014 to bring new hardware to market, maybe this upcoming device is the result of that effort. Naturally, we will just have to wait and see.
It sure looks good on the outside.
[Image: aHR0cDovL21lZGlhLmJlc3RvZm1pY3JvLmNvbS82...dvb2QuanBn]
Quote:Speaking to VentureBeat, the Ataribox creator and general manager Feargal Mac says an Indiegogo funding campaign will launch this year, and that the final product will ship in spring of 2018. When it does, it'll cost between $250—$300 and will boast an AMD custom processor with Radeon graphics.
The best summary I've seen of Atari's new console yet:
Quote:There are a few things to note before slapping down money on this platform. First, the microconsole business, which pundits once thought would drag on the PS4 and Xbox One’s sales, crashed and burned. Devices like the Ouya completely failed to catch on, while other handhelds and small consoles, like the Nvidia Shield and Nvidia TV, have been used more for video and game streaming than as an independent game platform. The PlayStation TV from Sony was canceled several years after it launched.

Then there’s the price. At $250 to $300, the Ataribox isn’t priced like a microconsole; it’s priced to compete with actual consoles. There are Xbox One S bundles from Microsoft available for as low as $250. While the Xbox One isn’t as powerful as the PS4, and neither are as powerful as a PC, does anybody seriously think Atari is going to build a custom gaming solution that can compete with even the older Xbox One for the same amount of money? The Atari of today isn’t the company that kicked off the gaming revolution 40 years ago. The engineers that drove the first arcade and home gaming era have retired or long since quit the company. Today, Atari is a licensing and trademark program, not a hardware-builder.

That’s the central problem of the Ataribox. At $50 to $70, some users might like to pick one up for the nostalgia factor. At $250 to $300, there are going to be better solutions. Atari could conceivably bring some indie games to its platform, but it’s not going to have much traction in the market at that price point.
Another preview, pre-orders begin in April, expected to be between $250 and $300:
Pre-sale begins May 30:
Preorders have begun:
Quote:Atari launched the crowdfunding campaign for its retro console yesterday and immediately slaughtered its fundraising goals, temporarily crashing IndieGoGo’s site in the process. As of this writing, the campaign has raised $2 million dollars, 1,981 percent of its original $100,000 goals. It has raised this amount of money despite the overwhelming red flags, because nostalgia is apparently such a powerful force that it drives otherwise sentient individuals to fork over far more money than this crowdfunding campaign deserves.
Now, the logical response to this is that the Atari VCS is, after all, intended for Atari games, which can practically be emulated by a modern manhole cover. But if Atari games are all you want, you can buy them already. The Atari Vault, available for $9.99 on Steam, includes 100 classic titles with leaderboards, online, and local multiplayer. Given this, the only possible way for the Atari VCS to distinguish itself is with non-Atari products. And I’m genuinely sorry to have to say this, but we’ve literally seen everything Atari is bringing to the table already.

A microconsole with a minimally powerful CPU that plays games and indie titles at a lower price point than mainstream hardware? Sounds familiar. Consoles based on Linux? Say hello to SteamOS or even the Nvidia Shield. The developers on Atari’s partner board are mostly mobile studios or game studios with a handful of relatively small products. There are no major indie developers onboard yet, much less anything from a company that builds AAA. Meanwhile, a new PS4 can be had for $299, as can an Xbox One S or Nintendo Switch. The hardware in all of these is, on balance, vastly more capable than a last-generation AMD Carrizo APU with 4GB of undoubtedly low-clocked DDR4 in an APU we already know is fundamentally limited by bandwidth, with even this modest horsepower chained to a CPU core that couldn’t be classed as “high performance” even by the standards of 2008. I’ll be the first person to shake the hands of the AMD CPU architects who took Bulldozer in 2011 and squeezed it into a 35W TDP in 2016, but with the advent of Ryzen, even AMD has been willing to acknowledge that its previous architecture’s performance was nothing short of disastrous.

If this was just a question of price, or hardware, or games, that’d be one thing. But it isn’t. It’s a platform from a company with no experience building platforms, at a price point and value proposition where we’ve seen others fail, with no clear gaming value-add, no unique (or uniquely valuable) library, based on an outdated hardware platform, built on an OS platform that is not known for being game-friendly, and which one prominent company with billions of dollars of revenue ultimately failed (for whatever reasons) to launch as a gaming competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Quote:The company's attitude during the interview was quite disappointing, but rather than taking the blame and apologizing, the official Facebook Atari VCS page recently responded to the article accusing the reporter of writing things differently from how they happened and even going as far as calling him an "irresponsible troll".

Unfortunately for the company, the interview had been recorded, and in response to the accusations, The Register has decided to go ahead and release the full recording of the interview, exposing the executive's rather vague answers and lack of knowledge on the specifics of the console. In one of the segments, Michael Arzt tries to compare the console's development to the launch of a NASA rocket when attempting to justify the sudden delay in the pre-order plans. In other questions, the COO redirects the matter to other members of the company.

While the COO's poor performance would already have been pretty bad by itself, the company's response to the article and the false accusations are likely to severely tarnish its reputation among the public. As of yet, Atari hasn't made a public apology or an attempt to justify the occurrences. The Indiegogo campaign for the Atari VCS is still underway, though some may have lost interest in the device.
Quote:While Atari says its VCS was originally designed to use Bristol Ridge-based APUs from AMD, the company has opted for Raven Ridge instead. It's pretty obvious why: Bristol Ridge is based on AMD's older Bulldozer architecture which debuted in 2011, and while Bulldozer-based APUs were quite fast graphically when they first launched, they don't hold up well anymore. In contrast, Raven Ridge is AMD's most recent architecture for APUs, andit's featured in Ryzen Mobile, AMD's desktop APUs, and things like the Smach Z.

By moving to Raven Ridge, Atari can push performance and power efficiency higher than if it had stuck with Bristol Ridge. Atari is giving the VCS a dual-core APU, which will probably be based on the same silicon features in the Athlon 200GE series. These APUs are definitely not the fastest in the world, but the graphical performance is significantly faster than what Intel has to offer, which is what matters for a gaming-oriented system. Atari says the VCS will launch towards the end of 2019, and that will make the choice of hardware a little dated, but still modern.
Quote:It's been a long road to Atari's VCS release, kicked off by an Indiegogo campaign that raised $3 million, but the system, which comes powered by an AMD Ryzen processor, is finally up for pre-order starting at $249.

We caught up with Atari at E3 and had a chance to take a deep look at the retro box, but the company's message is clear: The Atari VCS isn't a game console. Even though Atari designed it to be adept at gaming, much like a game console, the VCS fulfills many of the roles of a typical desktop computer and allows for intense customization that the company says makes it "like a Raspberry Pi for the living room."
The VCS is available for pre-order now through Atari's online store, GameStop and Walmart. Each retailer carries the Onyx Base model, plus an exclusive $389.99 all-in packages that vary by retailer. These exclusive models have the same features and come with a paddle and controller, but carry different color schemes.

It's already been a long and winding road to the VCS's release, but we'll have to wait until March 2020 for the systems to ship.
Quote:Reading over recent reports, it’s hard to see how this product actually finds a market. Ars Technica noted that “Atari’s provided example of a ‘modern’ game running on the system was a Linux version of Borderlands 2, a 2012 title that frankly chugged along at a pretty choppy frame rate in our hotel suite demonstration.” That’s not surprising, considering it’s running on a 2C/4T embedded CPU with 192 GPU cores and DDR4-2400 RAM. It might be possible to run a streaming service like Stadia or xCloud on the Atari VCS, but why would you buy one for those services, specifically?

Atari wants to emphasize that the VCS is open to tinkering in ways that other consoles aren’t, and it’s true — you can swap out the RAM and SSD, you can install other operating systems, and you can even develop games on the VCS to submit them to Atari’s own store. These are pretty good ideas, and the idea of being the “Raspberry Pi” of the living room even has some appeal — but didn’t Ouya try to bring something very much like this to market in the first place? According to VCS executives, the problem Ouya ran into was that they were locked into the Android ecosystem and this brought a whole bunch of problems that doomed the console. That’s an interesting take.
I’ve been pretty hard on the Atari VCS over the years. I’ve got to give the company credit for coming up with a vision for a semi-unique product — it’s got elements of the console space, with some additional flexibility. But at the end of the day, the so-called “Raspberry Pi” of the living room has a really critical problem — it’s 10x the price of the original RBP. Between a VCS and a PlayStation Pro, you’re going to almost certainly have a better time with the Sony system. Or a Switch. Or an Xbox.

It’s undoubtedly been genuinely difficult to resurrect a system and a brand like this back from the dead, but it feels like there’s still something badly missing from this bundle. Atari brand nostalgia isn’t going to bring a wave of homebrew coders swarming in to write software for a badly underpowered embedded chip. I’m not going to preemptively say it’s bad, but it’s very difficult to understand who would want this product and why.
Quote:A few years ago, the idea of Atari returning to the hardware market was a joke. But that didn't stop the company from announcing the Ataribox, which it has since renamed the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), or accepting pre-orders for the device via crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo. Today it announced that it's partnered with Anstream Arcade to offer an exclusive version of the company's eponymous retro game streaming platform.
The Atari VCS was initially expected to ship in July 2019. When we caught up with the company at E3, however, it told us the don't-call-it-a-console wouldn't ship until March 2020. The company reiterated that shipping date in today's announcement and said the device is now available for pre-order from GameStop, Walmart and its online store. It's still expected to ship with AMD's Raven Ridge accelerated processing unit (APU) inside.
Quote:Update 10/8/2019 2 p.m. ET:The Register reported today that the Atari VCS' architect, Rob Wyatt, has quit, putting the future of the gaming device in question. Wyatt, who also helped found the Xbox, said he quit because Atari hasn't paid invoices to his design consultancy "going back over six months." We'll keep you updated as the story develops.
That brings us to the Atari VCS of today. We already knew the not-a-console would feature an AMD Ryzen Embedded 1606G processor and have 32GB of eMMC storage from our meeting at E3 2019 about the Atari VCS. Today we learned the device will also offer an open port for a SATA M.2 SSD and that its 8GB of SODIMM DDR4 memory is upgradeable.
The device still appears to be in a relatively early stage. Atari said its pre-production units "operate more like a computer than a fully-functional game system at the moment." Further software development is planned, and Indiegogo backers who receive their units early are asked to share their feedback on that aspect.

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