The original Atari has been gone for decades, but the current owner of the name and brand released a new home console recently, called the Atari VCS 800. After a relatively short life, it’s now on its way out.
The modern Atari VCS, also known as the Ataribox, is a console that was revealed all the way back in 2017. It received over $3 million on the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform in June 2018, but like many crowdfunded projects, it slipped far past its original shipment date — backers didn’t actually get theirs until December 2020. Following several hardware and software revisions, the final product looked like the original Atari 2600, but ran a customized version of Debian Linux with an AMD Raven Ridge APU.
The new VCS received mixed responses from buyers and reviewers. The Amazon and Best Buy listings are both at 3.9/5 stars, and outlets like Tom’s Hardware and IGN cited the high price and convoluted PC mode as significant drawbacks. Packages like Atari 50: The Anniversary Collection or ROM emulation are less-pricey ways to enjoy most classic Atari games (if you already own a console/PC), and other compact or budget PCs would be better options for inexpensive PC gaming.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, only two years after Atari VCS 800 units started shipping to original backers, the console seems to be dead. Amazon and Best Buy are both out of (new) stock in the United States, leaving only Atari’s website as the sole supplier — the hardware bundle is on sale for $239.99 instead of $299.99.
Atari said in its latest financial results that it has started “the suspension of direct hardware manufacturing relationships, notably with regards to the Atari VCS, for which a new commercial strategy has been implemented as of the end of calendar year 2022.” That might mean Atari is looking for a new manufacturing partner for the VCS, but the more likely scenario is that it’s not coming back — we’ve reached out to Atari for more details, and we’ll update this article if we hear back.
The same financial report indicated Atari’s hardware sales, which is mostly just the VCS and a limited run of Atari 2600 cartridges, decreased from €2.3 million to €0.2M over a year. The company’s new focus is, perhaps unsurprisingly, “Web3” projects’ including NFTs. Atari is selling artwork inspired by old Atari games as NFTs, in case you were looking to burn some money.