The Atari Group, current holder of the gaming pioneer's branding and back catalogue, has made an announcement which should surprise no-one: The Atari VCS console-cum-PC is delayed, though has at least received an upgrade to its internals.
Originally known as the Ataribox when it was first teased back in July 2017, the Atari VCS - named for the original Atari Video Computer System, later rebranded to Atari 2600 - was formally unveiled in September that year as a miniature PC powered by a semi-custom AMD A10 'Bristol Ridge' processor with Radeon graphics. The launch of its crowdfunding campaign was delayed by an unspecified issue, but when it opened in May 2018 quickly blew past its goal with nearly £2.3 million raised on crowdfunding site Indiegogo by the time the campaign closed.
Initially, the company currently known as Atari planned to ship the first devices some time in the first quarter of this year. As is traditional for crowdfunded projects, even coming from a large company rather than two techies in a garage, that plan has been scratched: In a business update issued at the launch of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2019, the company has admitted that backers won't be receiving anything until at least the end of the year with commercial availability pushed back still further to 2020.
That delay, however, has allowed the company to upgrade the device's specifications: Instead of the long-outdated Excavator architecture originally planned, the Atari VCS will now use an unspecified Ryzen processor using the much more modern Zen architecture. While this will have no impact on the prices paid by current backers, it may mean that the commercial launch comes at a higher-than-planned price point.
'Over the past several months, the engineering team behind the Atari VCS project has worked in close collaboration with the teams of chip manufacturer AMD on the system architecture,' Atari claims in its statement. 'In order to deliver the best possible user experience, the Atari VCS will now be powered by the more powerful AMD Ryzen chip. This new processor from AMD's latest generation will replace the model originally selected in 2017 and will significantly improve the performance of the VCS, notably offering enhanced native 4K video capabilities. The incorporation of the new processor will lead to a delivery at the end of 2019 for pre-orders made through the Indiegogo platform, with a commercial launch in 2020.'
Backers posting to the Indiegogo comments section are, by and large, happy with the upgrade and sanguine about the delay - though some have criticised the company for poor communications following the closure of the campaign and disbursement of backers' monies.
March 25 2020 | 14:00