GDC 2018: Atari VCS Demo: The Future Is Retro

It may have wood paneling and a retro logo, but the latest console from Atari is looking to bring the company into the 21st century. 

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It was late last year when Atari announced it would be making a return to the world of consoles, a market it has been absent from since the Atari Jaguar launched way back in 1993. Initially dubbed the “Atari Box,” not much was really known about Atari's upcoming piece of gaming hardware, but at GDC 2018 the company that helped build the video game industry into the powerhouse it is today was ready to show off a few more details on their latest project.

First of all, it’s not the Atari Box, but rather the “Atari VCS” and, as previously promised, it should feature some very modern internal workings. While Atari wasn’t ready to name any tech specs, like processing power or RAM, I was told that it will have “decent laptop specs” when it launches.

Operating system-wise the VCS UI will be based off a custom Linux interface. Players will be able to access a digital online storefront and anything that isn’t an app will still be accessible via a built-in web browser. I believe this means that while some consoles can’t run certain browser-based content, Atari won’t be blocking sites like Hulu or Netflix if they don’t have an app version for the console.

While the brand new quad-chromatic vector logo and wooden finish on the VCS are extremely retro in their appearance Atari was quick to point out that this is not a retro box like the NES classic or Atari’s own Flashback classic series, but rather a retro “inspired” box. This means that yes, the VCS will be able to play old school fan favorites, it should also be able to run a spectrum of Linux-compatible titles as well.

Atari is hoping to release new versions of their classic IPs along with giving up and coming developers a crack at select titles from their back catalog. To that extent, the company is willing to do deals with potential devs that they claim are above industry average for such a project. In the meantime though, Atari is working on their own reimaginings of some of their classic games.

As for some of the other features of the Atari VCS, the console will feature a built-in mic and players will have an option between an Atari joystick controller based off the original design, but with more modern features and design, or a more modern Bluetooth controller that looked very similar to an Xbox 360’s. Additional peripherals are planned as well, but details were not forthcoming at the time.

The only other pertinent details Atari was ready to announce at GDC were that the reveal for when pre-orders would be available for the Atari VCS would be taking place by the end of April and it will have a library of classic titles available at launch. Atari should also have some new details to announce at this year’s E3.   

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 30, 2018 1:07 PM

    Blake Morse posted a new article, GDC 2018: Atari VCS Demo: The Future Is Retro

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      March 30, 2018 3:17 PM

      They are taking pre-orders in a month but won't talk specs?

      • reply
        April 1, 2018 1:32 AM


        Hasn't Nintendo proove it over and over again that specs don't make the gameplay fun. It's the game mechanics that make the game. As long as they make good software like Nintendo does they might have a chance. The name is well known by millions,billions probably even trillions everywhere.