OPINION: What’s Wrong and Right with Atari VCS

By Todd Russell Jun8,2024

Let me start by saying it pains me to think of 2024 Atari. I have so many fond memories of the old Atari that the current version of Atari, the company, has shades of the past mixed with some bizarre current incarnation. One need only look at the official Atari website to see just how many different marketing directions they’re spinning.

Are they pushing Atari merch and swag? Selling controllers or games? They seem to focus last on games, instead of first, even from their website. Compare to Playstation and Xbox websites, when we visit both those websites we’re instantly hit with games. Not merch, not controllers, but games!

Games, games, games.

That’s what Atari should be most prominently pushing in 2024. Their games. When they focus on games, and making them as good as they can be (and no, they don’t always succeed here), they win. When they focus on Atari-branded whatever: hotels, crypto, merch/swag, and pretty much everything that’s not involving playing their games, they lose.

Atari isn’t Zazzle or Nike, but seems somewhat like they’re trying to be by prominently pushing Atari shoes. I want to play their games, not wear their shoes.

Co-host on the PGM Saturday Score Chasing Recap show, Bradygoat (also a contributing PGM author and member) and I both own the Atari VCS. Neither of us even have it hooked up as of this writing, which says something about how good it is. I won’t speak for his reasons why this is, but my own reasons are covered in this article.

Not saying Atari the company shouldn’t sell merch. Sure, they should. But it should be a link far down their website, it should not be so prominently advertised and promoted.

Co-host on the PGM Saturday Score Chasing Recap show, Bradygoat (also a contributing PGM author and member) and I both own the Atari VCS. Neither of us even have it hooked up as of this writing, which says something about how good it is. I won’t speak for his reasons why this is, but my own reasons are covered in this article.

It’s like a company that can’t decide what is most important to them, spinning wildly different directions and branding Atari on every. Single. One.

The company is currently undergoing something of a revival thanks to the efforts of chairman and CEO Wade Rosen, who came on board in 2021 – the same year that Atari relaunched its VCS system as a Linux-based “computer in a box” complete with streaming services and compatibility with games developed for Windows.

Atari Wouldn’t Have Launched Its 2021 VCS In 2024 | Time Extension

So, is Wade Rosen the one to blame for all these different company directions? It sure seems that’s the case.

I wrestled with the purchase of the Atari VCS. Did not care for the higher price tag, but have long had affinity for the brand. My first real home videogame system was the Atari 2600. And dug it! Here’s me talking about the Atari VCS when asked what I thought about it.

Not too long after publishing this video, I bought the Atari VCS. My main use of the console was playing the streaming service Antstream Arcade. The VCS is, or at least was, a great way to experience that retrogaming streaming service. When Antstream failed to renew the Warner Bros./Midway gaming license, that’s when I mostly stopped playing my VCS (see: Breaking: Antstream Arcade Losing Warner Bros. / Midway License)

Recently, Atari bought into Intellivision. My reaction to that is: let’s wait and see what happens. My fondest memory of Intellivision involves those controllers with the overlays and how they interacted with games like baseball. I think those controllers are an important part of the history of bringing back Intellivision. Will Atari tap into that as well or will it just be updates with modern controllers? Again, we need to wait and see. Atari, the modern company, doesn’t have a good record of consistency with what they are doing these days.

Now, let’s cover what’s wrong and right with the Atari VCS:

Wrong:

  • design included no cartridge slot for backwards physical cart compatibility,
  • system specs at VCS release were not good for the price, still too pricey
  • inferior modern joystick design
  • most games in store are overpriced
  • releasing mini-consoles that don’t plug into the VCS (Atari 2600+, Atari 400 mini)
  • they didn’t read the room on who Atari was in 2021, but seem in 2024 to have a better plan
  • when buying physical game cart, should include free digital license for VCS, since no way to play it (see topmost concern)

Right:

  • continue to release games for VCS and see it as way of measuring their most passionate fans
  • actively publishing games in physical cartridge format — and they look really cool — only no way to play these physical carts on the VCS, so have to buy digital format version from store instead

How do you feel about the Atari VCS in 2024? Do you have any interest in buying it? If you already own it, like Bradygoat and I, are you actively playing it? Is it even hooked up? How often are you playing your Atari VCS?

Spread the love

Related Post

2 thoughts on “OPINION: What’s Wrong and Right with Atari VCS”
  1. Hi Todd!
    The only thing Atari has done right so far is some of the Recharged games, and I hope Intellivsion gets the same treatment.

  2. hi Todd!

    Atari’s failing with everything except the Recharged games, and I hope we get an Intellivsion 50th anniversary collection as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *