The retro gaming king Atari has taken everyone by surprise with the news they are engineering a new generation of their iconic wood-grain consoles, titled Ataribox. The announcement was made by Atari CEO Fred Chesnais during an interview with VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi at #E3. With one sentence, “we’re back in the hardware business”, Fred Chesnais has ’80s fanatics cautiously optimistic about a familiar friend making a comeback.
It feels like I am plugged into Ernest Cline’s Oasis from Ready Player One. Could this really be happening!? There are so many ways Atari could go with this given their plethora of original titles that people would want to see rehashed into a modern day device.
In the interview Fred Chesnais would only reveal that the new console would be based on PC technology. That is a fairly open ended statement, but given the Atari Flashback 6 Classic Game System is already on the market, it is easy to assume they could be working on a merging their old-school style with modern console power. Whether they focus more on adaptability, like Nintendo’s Switch, or aim to compete with the bigger powerhouses.
Atari was on top of the console market through the late ’70s to early ’80s, with Nintendo & Sega lurking in the shadows. In many respects, the Atari 2600 had the world in an 8-bit gaming frenzy. Kids were glued to their TVs for hours, overtaking their parents scheduled episodes of Mash or Charlie’s Angels.
Unfortunately, due to over confidence Atari started to over saturate the market with poor quality titles that brought about its eventual downfall. The most famous nail in their wood-grained coffin has to be the infamous E.T. game.
The demand to release the game to coincide with the E.T. movie premiere placed an unrealistic time-frame on its developer and the game was rushed. As a result of the negative backlash, sales dropped to well below expectations. On this occasion, E.T. never phoned home.
With the negative press destroying Atari’s reputation, they famously decided to destroy the majority of the remaining copies. Originally, the claim that Atari secretly buried approximately 700,000 copies of the game in New Mexico was unsubstantiated. Inspired by this event, documentary filmmaker Zak Penn investigated the story and amazingly found it to be true. I encourage you to watch Atari: Gamer Over to understand the impact E.T. had on the Atari, and the gaming industry in general.
With hoped for a modern console that pays homage to its much loved retro roots, lifelong gamers are sure to be queued out the door with open wallets for the #Ataribox. If Atari do manage to learn their lessons of the past and deliver their own unique take on modern gaming, a new generation of die-hard Atari fans could become hooked for years to come. As with anything, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!
Ataribox could bring back so many great franchises. If you had to pick your top-five Atari games, what would they be? Here’s mine:
Frogger, and last but not least