Atari CEO Fred Chesnais spoke to me about the latest design in an interview. The new machine will be a Linux-based console with a Ryzen processor from Advance Micro Devices, and it will play both old Atari games as well as new titles created in recent years.
While the original console was first targeted for release in 2017, Chesnais said that (as announced in March) the latest target date for the VCS is late 2019 for crowdfunding purchasers and March 2020 for new customers.
He said the machine would cost $250 for a 4-gigabyte version and $390 for an 8-gigabyte version. The company said the system is available for preorder today on GameStop.com, Walmart.com, and AtariVCS.com, for deliveries starting in March 2020.
Pricing starts at $250 for the Atari VCS 400 Onyx (4GB RAM) Base model and tops off at $390 for one of three Atari VCS 800 (8GB RAM) All-In system bundles that include an Atari VCS Classic Joystick and Atari VCS Modern Controller. Classic Joysticks priced at $50 and Modern Controllers at $60, created in partnership with PowerA, are also available now for retail pre- order. Additional international presale dates and retailers will be announced soon.
Chesnais said the company is showing off the graphical user interface this week as well.
“It’s very interesting to put your hands on the machine and your eyes on it,” he said. “We naturally went back to basics.”
Atari will still have options for a modern controller and a classic joystick, with designs that have been modified from the original ones shown off in the past couple of years. The machine can also use a keyboard.
As for delaying from the summer to late 2019, Chesnais said the reason was to get access to better AMD chips.
“When we saw the reaction come in from the community, it became a no-brainer for us,” he said. “We announced the upgrade to the new generation of AMD chips. We will do the end of the year for the Indiegogo units, and then March 2020 for mainstream.”
Chesnais estimated 30 games would be available. As for competition with Intellivision, he noted it would be a closed system, whereas the Atari system would be open, with the ability to add to the system and go out on the internet.
“It’s going to be plug and play, more than a toy, with a sandbox mode,” Chesnai said. “My dream is to have thousands of apps on the device for people to download and use on their living room TVs.”
The industrial design was inspired by the Atari 2600 from 1977. The Linux-based design will enable players to operate in sandbox mode, which lets them install a second PC operating system like Windows or Chrome.
Original Atari VCS backers will receive their hardware starting in December 2019, completing a drive that began on May 30, 2018. Total gross sales have since topped $4 million with more than 12,000 individual contributors.