After several delays, the Atari VCS is now in the “deep stages of pre-production,” according to a recent Q&A post on Medium with Chief Operating Officer Michael Arzt. The Atari VCS is a mini console similar to other offerings from Nintendo, Konami, and Sega that will let gamers relive or experience for the first time the retro games from the ’80s, but it’s also promising new modern features that ultimately make it more like a lower-grade gaming PC.
The new console from Atari was originally announced in 2017 with the name “Ataribox,” and since then has experienced several setbacks. The original Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was delayed until 2018 and the console was rebranded with its current design.
After raising over $2 million with their Indiegogo campaign, Atari VCS received a release window of March 2019, which was later changed to the current release date of March 2020 (the fund now sits at $3,058,186, with nearly 12,000 backers). The delay is reportedly due to changes with Atari VCS’s internal hardware, which now will include a 14nm AMD processor, “high-performance Radeon Vega graphics architecture and two ‘Zen’ CPU cores.”
Other issues have arisen for the Atari VCS project, with architect Rob Wyatt resigning in October and alleging to The Register that Atari owes him and his company Tin Giant “over six months” of unpaid invoices. In a statement given to US Gamer, Atari says the VCS console is “proceeding according to its previously announced schedule.”
The Atari VCS is meant to be much more than a classic Atari-era game emulator and is being built to allow for streaming, developing content, and boasts 4K 60FPS HDR capability, which explains the need for upgraded contemporary hardware. In the Q&A, COO Michael Arzt explains that along with hardware improvements, the Atari VCS delay is also due to the team’s improvements to the console’s lifespan and performance, making it cooler, the fan quieter, and also improving the joystick and gamepad functionality.
“Atari will always prioritize delivering a high-quality product over a self-imposed deadline,” Arzt said during the Q&A. “That was true at the project’s start, it was true in March 2019, and it is true today.”
Atari has been secretive about Atari VCS and hasn’t shared many details on brand partnerships or specific features. Arzt states that the company is working with several major brands and are working on bringing game and application developers to the team.