Atari—seemingly out of nowhere—made known to the world that not only will it be making a return, but it will be doing so with the Ataribox. Now, if the Ataribox was just another emulator console, this wouldn’t be worth talking about—but—in the latest information release, Atari stated
It also means that while we will be delivering classic gaming content, we will also be delivering current gaming content,
Now that last part is quite interesting. Modern games can mean a lot of things, it could mean the latest AAA title, but it could also mean the latest indy title that was just released. While we don’t know exactly what the Ataribox will be yet, it’s certainly worth discussing.
Ouya or Xbox
At this point in time, what the AtariBox is—is completely up for grabs. Let’s take stock for a moment of what we know about the system:
Not exactly a lot to go off of, but we can infer a few things. The first being that with 4 USB we can assume that there will be several connection options, most likely for controllers, but also opens the possibility for other items such as flash drives. The SD card will most likely be used in the same capacity as the Nintendo Switch, in that it will serve as expandable memory. The intriguing part about having the option to expand the Ataribox’s memory is that it eludes to the ability to expand its offerings. This means that the Ataribox doesn’t look to be the exact same as an NES Classic because it can expand past its initial available titles. Theoretically, the Ataribox could offer every single game that the Atari game that ever existed.
With the ability to expand the offering of titles, this could also be where modern titles come into play, but the question is what modern titles? Perhaps we are looking at an Ouya situation when it comes to answering this question.
That is, a console that plays indie and modern titles with a low overhead. This isn’t to say that this could be the only way to interpret the term, modern titles, there is nothing stopping Atari from creating modern games that are exclusive to the Atarbox. Modern titles is a very broad term, it simply means titles created now rather than before, which could take many shapes. Consider for a moment that Atari opts to make new Atari games, titles designed to look and feel like original Atari games, but brand new. Since the Atari has modern hardware, Atari could take the route of remastering or remaking their existing titles, adding new life into some of these ancient games. The real question is, however, would that work in the current marketplace?
This is where my skepticism takes hold.
Let’s make the assumption that the Ataribox is essentially an Ouya that also plays Atari games. The Ouya was a popular Kickstarter experiment, but when it came to market it fell flat. Simply, the Ouya didn’t offer enough that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Many of the games available on the Ouya were available on PC’s, consoles, and phones. So why would anyone need an additional console to play these games? In terms of the Ataribox, would an Ouya with a vast catalog of Atari games be enough for many to purchase? I don’t think so.
But what if Atari opts to push the Ataribox into a direction that is focused on nostalgia; either by reinvigorating classic titles or creating new Atari-like games? This would have potential. It is already clear from the success of the Classic NES that nostalgia sells. Titles like NES Remix and Mega Man 9 show that consumers are interested in modern games that play like those of days past. Atari would have essentially created a nostalgia box. A console solely focused on that of the past, with titles of the past seeing new light, and new titles being designed much like those of the past. Combined this with the ability to update and add new titles, and you have an interesting proposition that could certainly find a niche.