Unless you live under a rock you would know that Atari announced their return to the console game last year with a deliciously retro inspired console that came to be known as the Atari VCS. The announcement was met with a mix of equal parts keen interest and intense doubt as to whether they would pull it off in the end. After all, this is a company that had its heyday in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They almost killed video games as an industry and have gone bankrupt multiple times. Their last gasp was the Atari Jaguar back in the 90’s which was touted as 64bit (when bits were a thing) yet really wasn’t.
Despite all of the criticism, the company proceeded with their plans and Atari then launched an indiegogo page for pre-sales of the VCS, which is pseudo for crowd funding. I thought I would check out how things are panning out. There is loads of information about the console on the indiegogo page including specs and you can check it all out here . The timeline is interesting, the pre-order campaign started prior to a second prototype. According to their timeline, they are planning on doing design validation testing, production testing and final testing within four months with ‘pre-orders’ due to ship early 2019.
Whether the console actually exists yet in a working form is a moot point. But one benefit of allowing ‘pre-orders’ via indiegogo is that it’s relatively easy to see how they are going. As of June (the latest figures stated) $3,001,792 USD has been raised. It does sound like a lot of money, right? But the basic console is $239 USD and controllers aren’t included. Assuming everyone bought the base console and two controllers at $329, that means around 10,000 consoles are pre-sold. In video game land, there is a thing known as critical installed base. To give some more perspective, before Sega exited the console game they had a target to sell 13 million Dreamcasts by Christmas 2000, they reached 9.1m and pulled the plug.
A quick look at the stats shows the Tribute Edition of the Atari VCS was snapped up at a premium, and only 42 people purchased the Onyx pack with controllers. The stats get worse. A grand total of 10 people have purchased the Onyx Console by itself for some reason, and sales of the Atari Joystick and Controller at $59 USD sit at 194, which is bizarre. We need to be honest with ourselves. In this day and age it takes millions of dollars to design, build and market a console. Today’s gamers expect AAA titles, from top tier developers. Those games cost millions and they need to recoup their costs. The PS4 has an 80 million+ installed base. Even the Nintendo Switch has sold 13 million consoles at last count. My honest opinion is that this console has no chance and I hope Atari do the decent thing and actually deliver the console to the people that purchased it and leave it at that. We don’t want to see another Atari E.T. type of disaster.
A bit of basic searching on the internet will show that the parent company of the latest entity to own the Atari name has approx 7 million Euro per year as an income, their last bankruptcy was in 2013. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they have the money to support and to properly release a new console. I hope that those that have purchased theirs receive the consoles they paid for.
But ultimately I hope that Atari as a brand is finally able to leave the past in the past and ride off into the sunset.