May 31, 2018 // 10:08 a.m.
Atari, or the company currently wearing that name, has officially opened its crowdfunding campaign for the Atari VCS, nee Ataribox - and has already smashed through its funding goal.
Teased back in July 2017, then formally announced in September that year, the Atari VCS - named for the company's most popular home console, the Atari Video Computer System, which would later be better known as the Atari 2600 - is, surprisingly, not another 'me-too' 'mini' console running emulated games on a cheap Arm-based single-board computer (SBC). Rather, Atari has taken the risky move to launch something which is closer to a fully-fledged brand-new console - though one capable of playing games from the company's impressive back catalogue, of course - using AMD hardware and the Linux operating system.
The console's launch hasn't been without its difficulties, though. An originally-planned spring 2018 launch was brought forward then pushed back again due to a still-unspecified issue with one of the key elements of the console, and while by March the device would be wearing its official branding Atari would still not have set a revised launch date nor released specifications. An update earlier this month promised that a crowdfunding campaign to produce the device would launch on May 30th, and sure enough late yesterday an Indiegogo campaign opened its doors - to, perhaps surprisingly, considerable interest.
In less than a day, the Atari VCS campaign has raised over $2 million, more than 2,000 percent of its modest $100,000 funding goal, with the console priced at $199 for early bird backers and mailing list subscribers or $249 for everyone else. A $299 Collector's Edition has also been confirmed, which includes a wood-grain front plate and a bundled 'Classic Joystick' controller - the standard, or Onyx, console coming sans control options unless backers spend extra cash on the joystick or custom joypad.
Inside the 2600-inspired housing is an AMD A10 'Bristol Ridge' accelerated processing unit (APU) - based on the company's outmoded Excavator architecture, rather than its considerably more powerful Zen architecture - linked to 4GB of DDR4 memory and 32GB of eMMC storage pre-loaded with an Ubuntu Linux-based operating system. The APU includes Radeon R7 graphics with an HDMI output, while the machine also includes 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth 5.0, gigabit Ethernet, and four USB 3.0 ports. Interestingly, the console also hides a four-microphone array which can be used both for voice chat and an optional voice control system built into the custom user interface.
The campaign will see, Atari claims, the first consoles shipping some time in Q1 of 2019, and launching at retail in mid-2019 - though it warns that, as is always the case with crowdfunding, 'dates and schedules are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances.'
More information is available on the Indiegogo campaign page, which runs for the next month.