September 27, 2017 // 11:54 a.m.
Atari has officially unveiled some scant details about the upcoming Ataribox retro games console, and the information it has provided may come as a surprise: The company isn't making a console at all but a gaming-centric, miniature Linux PC.
Unveiled back in July in the form of rendered images, the company currently in control of the Atari brand was hesitant to provide firm details about the device bar the promise that it would be built using 'PC technology'. Now, the company has opened the kimono a little further, and the view comes as a shock: The Ataribox is to be a miniature Linux desktop.
'With Ataribox, we wanted to create an open system, a killer product where people can game, stream and browse with as much freedom as possible. Atari games and content will be available as well as games and content from other providers,' explains Fred Chesnais, Atari chief executive officer, in his announcement to press. 'We also wanted to launch Ataribox with our community, and reward our fans with exclusive early access, special editions, and include them as active participants in the product rollout.' The latter, then, goes to explain why the company is choosing to launch the device on crowdfunding service Indiegogo in early 2018.
'People are used to the flexibility of a PC, but most connected TV devices have closed systems and content stores. Ataribox is an open system, and while our user interface will be easy to use, people will also be free to access and customise the underlying OS,' adds Feargal Mac, general manager for the Ataribox project. 'We've chosen to launch Ataribox with Indiegogo given their focus on delivering technology products, and their strong international presence in over 200 countries, allowing us to reach and involve as many Atari fans around the world as possible.'
The aforementioned underlying operating system, Atari has confirmed, will be Linux, running on a customised AMD processor with Radeon graphics. This, coupled with a targeted price range of between $249 and $299 (around £186 and £223 respectively, excluding taxes), suggests a device with performance somewhat closer to an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 - both powered by semi-custom AMD accelerated processing units (APUs) - than the devices to which Atari has lent its name in the past.
As well as offering support for gaming and a selection of titles from the company's back catalogue, Atari has confirmed the Ataribox will function as a general-purpose PC with support for video streaming, social media, web browsing, music playback, and third-party applications - in theory, at least, including the Linux port of Valve's Steam distribution platform and all associated Linux-compatible games listed therein.
Atari is to launch crowdfunding for the Ataribox in Spring 2018, the company has confirmed, with pre-registration for more information available from the official website.