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The Linux-powered Atari VCS sounds like it's coming along

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The team behind the retro-inspired and Linux-powered gaming box, the Atari VCS, have put out an "Early Summer Update" of what's going on with the project.

It goes over a bunch of details they've already talked about, including how it was shown off a little at E3 this year. They said it felt like "mission accomplished" after other members of the press and partners got to see a little more of it.

Interestingly, they say they've created (from scratch) an Atari 2600 emulator that comes baked into the entire system, giving you easy access to retro games. Apparently, you will be able to fire it up and play some classic games while other bigger games are loading, that sounds somewhat interesting I will admit, but not many games take long enough to load to make that worthwhile.

Atari are planning to add in more games and other 3rd-party console emulators available on the Atari VCS post-launch. So, they really are betting big on nostalgia here but that's nothing new, the whole thing is supposed to be a nostalgia trip right down to the design of the box and the "Classic Joystick" that hurts your hands like hell.

What I am more surprised by, is how they really do seem firmly committed to keeping the device open, which is why they don't particularly like it being called a "console".

Part of this, is that they actually showed off the VCS Sandbox Mode, which allows you to run a different operating system on it during E3. Visitors got a look at Borderlands 2 on the VCS, using Ubuntu in full 1080p resolution. According to them, it ran "fantastically" but Ars weren't impressed by the performance. They also showed Rocket League, Broforce and more running on Ubuntu.

Basically, the Atari VCS is a small traditional computer that comes with their own UI pre-loaded that's built on top of Linux and an Atari 2600 emulator, with nothing stopping you loading your own operating system on it. Sounds very much like what Valve's whole Steam Machine idea could have been, if they had done the hardware in-house and made it less confusing.

Will the Atari VCS do well? Possibly. A nice little unit for those who don't have a lot of space, those that like to tinker, those that appreciate retro games and later perhaps some game streaming. There's a lot of possible opportunities for it, as long as they don't screw it up. I'm keen to see more from it, so I will take a look once it's properly out unless (hello Atari) they send a unit over.

As a little joke (sorry Atari), this is how Thunderbird decided to show their email to me—ouch.

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Tags: Hardware
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Corben 24 Jul, 2019
Looking forward to this device as well. Also to the controllers they are shipping with it.
M@GOid 24 Jul, 2019
I still wished they upgraded that APU a bit. I played a lot of indie games on a AMD A8 APU and several run poorly, because they where made expecting that the user have a Core i3 or better as a CPU.

AMD have a embedded Ryzen that is 4c/8t and have a base/boost 2.0/3.6 GHz that would the perfect for this machine, the V1605B. Although I would stick with the V1807B at 3.2/3.8 GHz and a better GPU.

Last edited by M@GOid on 24 July 2019 at 1:52 pm UTC
TheRiddick 24 Jul, 2019
Hmmm, I thought they upgraded to a vega APU?

Anyway in a few short months we should see Navi APU's, I do hope for 8core models but possibly that is hopeful thinking (even tho Intel have 8core apus....)
tonyrh 24 Jul, 2019
I like it
tonyrh 24 Jul, 2019
Quoting: TheRiddickHmmm, I thought they upgraded to a vega APU?
from the linked medium article:
The final two E3 stations were all about the power of the Atari VCS and its AMD Ryzen™ Embedded R1000 SoC with “Zen” CPU and “Vega” GPU architecture.

Last edited by tonyrh on 24 July 2019 at 2:10 pm UTC
const 24 Jul, 2019
Obvious hardware choice for today would be a system resembling Stadia as much as possible. AMD could go crazy producing that chipset.
Dunc 24 Jul, 2019
Quoting: GuestLast I looked, this Atari thing, is a bit pricey for what it is.
My thoughts precisely. At half the price it would be a no-brainer, although probably not feasible. However at somewhere between that and the actual price, it would certainly be more tempting.

I do like those controllers, though. Even if I never buy the console, I might get myself one of each. The stick would be great for retro-gaming, and the console-style controller (can we even call them “joypads” these days, with all those sticks and things?) looks like a prettier XBox controller. And c'mon... even though Atari isn't really Atari any more, that logo is still the coolest in videogaming. :)
Drakker 24 Jul, 2019
Quoting: GuestPerhaps you're right, If Valve had went something like this for the steam box, it'd prob worked out better.

However. This like this Valve's boxes sorta share a common problem, Price. imo

Last I looked, this Atari thing, is a bit pricey for what it is.

Those licenses need to be paid. It's coming with tons of (old) games, and the shareholders want their money. This kind of product is never going to be as cheap as a bare metal box.
Purple Library Guy 24 Jul, 2019
Quoting: constObvious hardware choice for today would be a system resembling Stadia as much as possible. AMD could go crazy producing that chipset.
Not sure I understand. What system would "resemble" Stadia? And why would it matter? Stadia things "run" in a browser, no? Use anywhere on anything is part of the schtick.
const 24 Jul, 2019
It should resembe Stadia server instances in hardware.
I see several reasons to do this:
1 If hardware is produced in real masses, prices may fall. Having google as a huge customer already lowers the gap. (If manufacturer calculated correctly and can keep up with the demand)
2. potentially increased firmware/driver quality
3. and more important: Games that are ported with stadia in mind will not need that much quality control, as long as the software platform is similar enough. I know that input- and output- handling will be quite different, but this should be easily abstractable. In the end, it would make it an easier decision to release a build not only to Stadia but also to the compatible home console.
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