Who would have thought, after 24 years, Atari is getting back into the home console game with the brand new AtariBox. From what I’ve read on Atari Age, this isn’t going to be another plug-and-play 2600, but a real dedicated piece of hardware. Now it’s time for my favorite part of an announcement: Needless speculation! Here are just a few features I’d love to see in the AtariBox.
Support for All Atari consoles
So much love has been shown for the 2600 throughout the years. We are now on the 7th iteration of the Atari Flashback, yet all their other consoles have been all but forgotten. The AtariBox could become the one-stop shop for all retro Atari software. Imagine being able to buy 5200, 7800, Lyxn, and yes, even Jaguar games in one convenient location. But why stop there? Throw in support for the 400/800 and ST, and we’d have an amazing library of games to pick from.
A Digital Storefront
The days of collecting dusty old Atari cartridges is over. In this increasingly digital era, a digital storefront with a nice selection of Atari software is essential. But the success of the AtariBox would hinge on the price of the software. With how simple the majority of Atari’s library is, gamers are not going to want to pay top dollar to move blocks around.
For example, with the 2600, I say throw in a handful of the best Atari games to whet your appetite. Individual games would need to be affordable because I’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to pay more than a dollar for a digital copy of Asteroids or Pitfall. Having bundles available would be great for the less informed gamer who might not know their way around the 2600 library.
Offer the chance for homebrew authors to put their games up for sale on the store. There are still plenty of Atari enthusiast out there making great new games. A centralized store would be amazing in supporting the devs who continue to keep the Atari name alive.
Older Controller Support
The system will most likely ship with a wireless controller resembling an Xbox/PS4 pad. But this might be an issue given the various styles of controls Atari used throughout the years. If they could find some way to incorporate a numeric pad or a paddle joystick, it would go a long way in making this the quintessential Atari experience. But trying to cover all these bases might lead to some monstrosity of a controller. God knows we’ve had enough of that Atari (5200).
It might be best to keep the controller simple and recognizable to modern gamers while giving us the option of using our old controllers through USB converters. From the teaser, I saw what I believe to be USB ports, so this should be feasible. It wouldn’t be the same without our favorite janky, dial phone controllers.
Achievements, Leaderboards, and Online Multiplayer
If there were any type of games that would benefit significantly with these inclusions, it would have to be Atari games. With the amount of score-based games, adding in achievements and Leaderboards should be a no-brainer. It could give longevity to games you’d otherwise play five minutes of and move on.
But having all these online elements is no fun if you can’t fight it out with your friends online. With such great multiplayer games like Warlords, Combat, Frogs and Flies, and Armored Ambush, it’d be a shame to see them skip out on this feature. If emulator authors can figure out netplay, surely so can Atari.
If they AtariBox amounts to nothing more than a fancier Flashback, it would be crushing. There is a real opportunity here to augment the Atari experience, to connect fans with one another, and create fun and healthy competition. Day after day, Atari nostalgia is dying. If they want to continue to stay relevant, they’re going to go beyond what the Flashback has ever offered us fans. Expanding beyond 2600 is a given, but unless it does something more, something that elevates the experience, I just can’t see how this will be all that successful.