Atari put out a lengthy development update for the Atari VCS console earlier this week, on the same day that The Register reported that the project is experiencing significant difficulties. One source with knowledge of the project reportedly described it as a “shit show,” and the console is reportedly shaping up to be more of a Linux PC than a dedicated games console.
Atari’s post sought to assure backers that the project is proceeding as planned. Amidst numerous photographs of the console’s circuit boards and chassis, the company claimed that the molds for the plastic housing of the console are “largely complete,” that its controllers and joysticks are “just about ready for mass production,” and that it expects to host hands-on preview events for the console later this fall.
The Register’s report, however, paints a very different picture of the console’s development. For starters, the console’s lead architect, Rob Wyatt, has quit the project and claimed that his design consultancy hasn’t been paid in over six months. Wyatt’s Tin Giant consultancy was hired to develop the console’s hardware and software shortly before the console’s $3 million IndieGoGo campaign came to a close in June last year.
The report goes on to say that the so-called “console” will actually function more like a PC in a custom-chassis, and will run on a standard Linux distribution after Atari’s executives refused to approve the development of a custom operating system. It will also reportedly not feature an app store, another common feature of most consoles. Atari’s post appears to partially disagree with this assessment, and mentions what it calls the machine’s “custom Atari operating system.” However, even Atari admits that the machine operates “more like a computer than a fully-functional game system at the moment.”
The console also reportedly suffers from a myriad of other software issues. The Register claims that the console’s controllers might not work consistently across games, as you’d expect a console controller to, and that the promised streaming apps will actually consist of web apps accessed through a modified browser. The report says that the console, which will retail for prices starting at $250 in the US, is effectively just a Steam Machine, a Linux PC designed for gaming.
Unsurprisingly, Atari disagreed with many of the claims made in The Register’s report. ”Atari wishes to inform you that some of your questions indicate that you possess information that is incorrect and/or outdated,” a statement given to The Register from Atari’s PR firm read, “In addition, some aspects of the Atari VCS project clearly have been leaked to you in violation of existing confidentiality agreements, and Atari therefore hereby reserves its rights in that respect.”
We have contacted Atari to ask when the campaign’s backers, as well as customers who have pre-ordered the console from GameStop and Walmart can expect to receive their consoles, and we’ll update this piece with its response. In the meantime it’s well worth reading The Register’s report in its entirety for a full catalog of the issues the console is reportedly facing.