The Atari VCS will sell for $250 as a modern Linux-based game console that can play a lot of classic retro games. It’s one of the big moves that New York-based Atari is making to revive the Atari brand name for mainstream consumers, and Atari is making sure they will have more than enough content for players, said Michael Arzt, chief operating officer at Atari, in an interview with GamesBeat.
The partnership with Antstream Arcade will enable an enhanced and exclusive “Atari Edition” of Antstream’s game streaming service to the upcoming Atari VCS home gaming and entertainment system.
“We’ve been working on this for a while with a number of different initiatives for content,” said Arzt. “We have made a splash about the capabilities of our sandbox mode, which is leveraging the side of the box that is a multimedia PC. This is the first of several planned announcements, and this is about content that sits inside the walled garden.”
The exclusive Atari VCS edition of Antstream Arcade unlocks an instantly-accessible collection of classic video game titles. In addition to an existing library of 2,000-plus officially licensed games, the exclusive Antstream Arcade Atari VCS app will include the largest collection of Atari games available on demand, in both original and enhanced edition formats, curated from across the brand’s many arcade, home, and handheld platforms.
Accessible from the Atari VCS system dashboard at launch, the Antstream Arcade app for the Atari VCS will offer a 30-day free trial, with subscription options available for $10/month or $8/month (total $95.88) for a yearly subscription.
“We are very excited to put thousands of games onto the box, right from the start,” Arzt said.
“Antstream is thrilled to partner with Atari to deliver the magic of the Antstream Arcade service to Atari VCS users,” said Antstream CEO Steve Cottam. “Our exclusive Atari VCS edition of the Antstream app puts us one step closer to fulfilling our mission of making every classic game all the way back to Pong available for retro gaming fans with a modern twist.”
Antstream Arcade on the Atari VCS will exclusively offer 50 classic Atari titles at launch for new and existing Antstream Arcade users, with additional games added on a steady basis.
Antstream Arcade titles will be compatible with the Atari VCS Classic Joystick and Atari VCS Modern Controller, including rumble and LED lighting effects. Enhanced game editions with new functionality such as multiplayer and “pure” unmodified versions of classic Atari games will be available. In addition, Atari and Antstream Arcade will deliver a constant flow of all-new creative social challenges to engage and incentivize fans to experience their favorite retro games in unique ways.
“If you are an Atari fan, the best way to experience Antstream and Atari on Antstream is through the Antstream app on Atari VCS,” Arzt said. “It’s an exciting collection and it is going to be pretty comprehensive.”
Arzt said that some Atari games are being modified so that they can be used with the modern game controller, which has a “rumble” force feedback feature.
Popular Atari titles appearing via the Atari VCS Edition of Antstream Arcade include standalone retro classics — such as Adventure, Night Driver, Pong, Tempest 2000, and Yars’ Revenge — and full Atari compilations from PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms.
The Atari VCS home gaming and video computer system is aimed at transforming the TV-centric home entertainment experience. Users will enjoy an ever-expanding Atari world of all-new games, classic and remastered favorites, streaming media, and personal apps, or they can easily make their own.
The system has an AMD Ryzen processor featuring Radeon graphics to deliver 4K HDR streaming. The Atari Classic Joystick and Atari Modern Controller make everything easy and fun. Switching to the unique Atari Sandbox Mode unlocks an expandable multimedia PC for freedom and versatility you can’t get with other home game systems — meaning users can also play Windows or Linux games on their Atari VCS.
The system will not have cartridges, as you’ll get your games through an internet connection.
“This device is like a modern-day Mini Cooper, with modern technology under the hood,” Arzt said. “There will be native Atari games. There will be future content announcements that are coming and we will be making first-party Atari games. There’s a lot of things going on.”
Atari will have competition from a variety of other retro consoles, including the Intellivision Amico, coming in 2020 with a focus on couch play with friends. That system will focus on bringing back family-oriented classic gameplay.
“I think what they are doing is interesting,” Arzt said. “They are going for a very family-oriented play, which is great. We’re trying to do something that is uniquely Atari by focusing on what is our heritage, by making a box that is very much hackable, like a hot rod, with the ability to upgrade the RAM and storage and play around with it. We wish them luck.”
Atari is also not trying to go head-to-head with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, Arzt said.
“What’s most exciting for me is when this box gets into people’s hands, into the hands of creative people, you never know what you are going to get,” he said. “It’s interesting to see how people are going to work with the tools we’re giving them.”
The whole lineup of Atari VCS systems, bundles, and peripherals are available for preorder now at GameStop.com, Walmart.com, and AtariVCS.com, for shipments starting in March 2020. Pricing starts at $250 for the Atari VCS 400 (4GB) Onyx Base model and goes up to $390 for one of three Atari VCS 800 (8GB) “all-in” system bundles that include the Atari VCS Classic Joystick (available separately for $50) and Atari VCS Modern Controller ($60), which were created in partnership with PowerA. Atari will announce international presale dates soon.
Arzt said everything is on track for March 2020. The first 10,000 units will go toward the Indiegogo crowdfunding fans, who will get their consoles starting in December. He said fans can look forward to additional product updates and announcements about new games and entertainment content, streaming, software development, distribution, and more in the coming months.
The Antstream Arcade, founded by Cottam in 2013, is a streaming service that allows users to play retro video games, directly from the cloud with no downloads or installs, on modern devices through an affordable monthly subscription.