The new Atari VCS console may look like some kind of retro device, but according to the company's COO it's going to be much more than just a platform for classic games. Atari may be one of the most well known games companies around, and so when news broke that the company was beginning to work on a new device fans of the Atari of old were certainly intrigued.
This eventually morphed from the so-called Ataribox into the reveal of the Atari VCS. At first, Atari remained fairly quiet about exactly what the VCS would be able to do, and whether it would take up a primary position as a retro console akin to the likes of the Super Nintendo Classic or do something a little different. However, recently Atari Connected Devices COO Michael Arzt was able to share some more information, including the prospect of smaller developers being given the chance to reinterpret classic games for the console.
Arzt's comments certainly point towards the Atari VCS not just being a retro rehash, but it goes further than just bringing new games to the console. Instead, the COO has suggested that the VCS is an all-in-one entertainment system, capable of much more than just playing games. Speaking with Eurogamer, Arzt explained that the console will include access to music and video streaming services, so will appeal to those who "watch Netflix, listen to music, all that stuff."
In short, this is an attempt to get hold of a generation beyond those that played the classic Atari consoles of the 1980s. Speaking about that demographic, and core apps such as "Hulu and Netflix, and Spotify and Pandora" as well as social media platforms, Arzt explained that the Atari VCS would answer all those same needs as a PC, phone or tablet. Atari is aiming to give these potential users "a device that will let them do all that stuff they care about on their TV."
The COO also reiterated that the VCS is more than just a retro console. "I go to a Mini Cooper analogy - that car is not retro, it's retro-inspired," said Arzt. "That's how we look at this device. It's a modern device that's retro-inspired." Rather than just taking on the form of one of Atari's classic devices, the VCS will build upon them. "This will do anything the old 2600 or 5200 did, but it also does a lot of modern things very well, if we do it right," said Arzt - a good move given that Atari retro boxes have been available from third parties before.
Although it's good to have questions answered about the Atari VCS, there are still some queries that remain. The biggest is perhaps why users would pick up this device rather than just use a phone or plug a laptop into their television if they wanted a big screen experience, and this isn't the first time that a console has billed itself as a major entertainment device either - Sony's PS3 was the most popular device for Netflix streaming for a while, yet the console was considered mediocre commercially in comparison to its competitors. Instead, the VCS will likely still rely on the quality of its games to make an impact.