Welcome, one and all, to a post that I’m actually finding a little sad to write. You see, growing up, my first home console was the Atari 2600. I spent hours on the machine, playing and replaying multiple titles over and over again. Today, I still do play a lot of them when I get the chance. Why? Because they’re great games. For a long time, Atari were the undisputed kings of gaming. And then the Jaguar happened, and things fell apart for the company in terms of console development.
Even with that final misstep though, I was excited when the Atari Box was announced. Knowing that Atari were going to try getting back into the home console market with a current gen console was something that made me smile. I wasn’t expecting them to instantly climb to the heights that Sony and Microsoft (and most recently, Nintendo again) have done, but I figured that they could at least put something together that had a little more success than the ill-fated Jaguar.
And things were looking good. The specs announced for the now renamed Atari VCS were far from powerhouse levels, but they seemed functional. And on top of that, within one day of the Indiegogo campaign going live, they’d raised over $2M from only 10,000 backers. With the target goal being only $100,000, that was fantastic news! Unfortunately, controversy soon reared its head.
Part of the marketing that Atari had done to promote the campaign was to show video of Tempest 4000 in action. Tempest 4000, created by Llamasoft, is the sequel to Tempest 2000, one of the few hits for the Atari Jaguar. The game was a remake of an 80’s arcade classic, and originally released exclusively for the Jaguar, before eventually being ported to PC, Saturn, Mac and PlayStation. Now, this made sense. Atari are acting as publisher for the game and knowing that it’s a sequel to something that did well for them previously, even on a failed console, meant that it was a logical match. The problem is, it turns out that it isn’t a match yet.
When the contract for Tempest 4000 was signed, there wasn’t an Atari Box on the horizon. As such, the game creator took to Reddit to confirm that he isn’t actually aware of a VCS port of the game. In fact, it’s not built to run on Linux – the OS the VCS is allegedly set to use – and there have not been any solid plans to make it do so. So, what happened here? Was this simply something that the creator wasn’t aware was happening, and the game is in actually being worked on? Well … no. The official response came as follows:
That’s a problem. While it may indeed say that the footage was for “illustration purposes only”, it also says “Tempest 4000 will be there, along with other all-new, modern Atari games currently in development for VCS!” What it did not explicitly state was that the footage shown was not from the Atari VCS. Given that it was being used to advertise the console, it was only natural for people to assume that it was actual gameplay from the VCS that was on display. It’s all rather misleading.
And then it gets worse. Atari also showed footage of the Atari VCS running a remake of the Atari 2600 classic Yar’s Revenge. The validity of said video has now also been called into question, with many people crying fake. The reason? The gameplay has likely been superimposed over the TV screen shown in the background. Now, that in itself isn’t an uncommon way to make an advert. Nintendo even did it with the Switch. But coming off the back of the Tempest 4000 mess, people are understandably getting suspicious. Nintendo haven’t done anything to make people think that superimposed footage is due to a machine not actually running the game, after all.
All that being said, after one week, the console is now closing in on the $3M mark for funding. My hope is that Atari can weather this, and that we’ll get some really great news coming before we know it. They are really going to have to work hard to win over some people now though, not to mention reverse the bad press that this ahs garnered. But what do you all think? Is this a sign that the Atari VCS will crash and burn, or is it a temporary blip? Let me know in the comments below.