The Ataribox is an under-powered Linux PC priced to compete with the PS4 and Xbox One
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Earlier this week, Atari revealed some more information about its upcoming Ataribox, which marks the former video game juggernaut’s return to the console market. While few details were actually given, we now know that the Ataribox will be an “open console” running Linux and is expected to ship next Spring for USD$250-300. And it may be a huge misstep for the company.
In an email to newsletter subscribers, Atari unveiled a few general details about the new console. The Ataribox will apparently be a Linux-based machine that offers “a full PC experience for the TV.” Atari’s aim is to make the user interface “easy to use” while still allowing people to “access and customize the underlying OS.” In addition to playing games, the Ataribox is designed to be used for social media, video streaming, and internet browsing. But what about the games?
According to the newsletter, there will be “tons of classic Atari retro games pre-loaded, & current titles from a range of studios” [sic]. There were no details on what titles may be coming, only a promise that the company will “start talking titles very soon.” Powering the console will be a customized AMD processor with “Radeon Graphics technology.” This likely means that it’ll be a customized AMD APU, similar to those found in Sony and Microsoft’s latest gen consoles, the PlayStation 4 and XBox One S, respectively.
Speaking of competitor’s consoles, the Ataribox is priced similarly to the offerings from Sony and Microsoft. Atari plans on “shipping late Spring 2018” and expects the MSRP to fall somewhere in the USD $250-300 price range. That puts it squarely in PS4/Xbox One S territory, which is an odd choice by Atari. According to a recent interview, the creator of the Ataribox expects it to have power similar to a mid-range PC but won’t be powerful enough for modern Triple-A games. With the price tag, consumers may gravitate to the much more powerful consoles offered by competitors, considering that they already run blockbuster titles.
All said, this week’s announcement is pretty disappointing. While it’s nice that the Ataribox will include classic Atari titles, there are multiple ways to play these retro games at a much lower price tag. On top of that, there is still no word on what modern titles will actually be coming to the machine. Without any exclusives to speak of, the Ataribox will have a hard time standing out among its competition. It’s doubtful that many gamers will be willing to pay $300 to play old Atari games and a few indie titles that can be purchased through other distribution channels. On top of that, the use of Linux and open architecture of the console will undoubtedly lead to rampant piracy on the console. If any aspect of the underlying OS can be changed, what’s to stop hackers from circumventing security measures intended to lockout copies of games obtained through illicit means?
Unless Atari can secure a few killer apps that are exclusive to the platform, the Ataribox may be headed the way of the Ouya. But hey, at least it’s made out of real wood.