Special address The artist of Atari’s much-delayed awakening console, the Atari VCS, has abdicate the project, claiming he hasn’t been paid in six months. The abandonment could put the absolute activity in doubt.
Games industry veteran, one of the founding aggregation associates abaft the Xbox, and Atari arrangement architect, Rob Wyatt told The Register: “As of Friday, October 4th, I accept acutely accommodated as the artist of the Atari VCS.”
The artist claimed “Atari haven’t paid invoices activity aback over six months” to his architecture consultancy, Tin Giant, which was alive on the VCS, adding: “As a baby company, we accept been advantageous to survive this long.”
It is cryptic whether Atari will be able to complete its abandoned activity afterwards Wyatt. It alone accustomed a ancestor motherboard aftermost month, and Wyatt and his aggregation were in the boilerplate of debugging it afore arch to draw stumps and quit. The assignment of finalizing the accouterments will acceptable abatement to SurfaceInk, accession aggregation that Atari has apprenticed to complete the console. SurfaceInk has not responded to assorted requests for comment.
“I was acquisitive to see the activity through to the end and that it wouldn’t appear to this, but I accept little best added than to accompany added opportunities,” Wyatt told El Reg in a statement.
He denied the accommodation to airing had annihilation to do with him basal accession company, The Aftermost Gameboard, to advance a table-top video amateur system. “The contempo advertisement by me actuality a co-founder and CTO of The Aftermost Gameboard (TLG) has annihilation to do with this decision. TLG has been about aback above-mentioned to my assurance with Atari, silently accomplishing R&D,” he said.
The affirmation of abridgement of acquittal echoes accession altercation involving Atari. In July 2018, the afflicted biz was sued by the man who aboriginal proposed the Atari VCS as a avant-garde adaptation of the archetypal 2600 console, Feargal Mac Conuladh. Conuladh claimed Atari had reneged on a accord to accord him a four-per-cent cut of crowdfunding revenues over $200,000, additional 25 per cent of the bound aggregation set up to barrage the animate (Atari VCS LLC), and shares in the Atari company.
Atari aloft over $3m (£2.4m) to crowdfund development of the animate but Conuladh never accustomed the $112,000 he was owed, according to his accusation [PDF] paperwork. The case was acclimatized out of cloister in New York in May this year with Atari afterwards acquainted in its 2019 banking account that Conuladh was paid €75,000 ($82,400).
It is cryptic why Atari has not paid invoices from Wyatt’s Tin Giant, which was the capital developer of the VCS console. Meanwhile, the barrage of the retro-toy is listed as one of three operational goals for Atari in 2019/2020 alongside accretion its amateur portfolio, and “development in the continued run of applications at the circle of ball and agenda technology (particularly blockchain and online casinos).”
We accept asked Atari if Wyatt’s affirmation to accept not been paid for six months is true, and what the acumen for non-payment is. We accept additionally asked SurfaceInk if it has any outstanding and contributed invoices. We accept yet to apprehend aback from either operation.
The affair of affairs has overshadowed the Atari VCS activity anytime aback it was appear beneath the name “Ataribox” aback in July 2017. It bound became bright that the aggregation wasn’t announcement the availability of the animate but was alone gluttonous to barometer absorption in whether to advance it by allurement bodies to accommodate their email to apprentice more.
It afresh emailed the bags of netizens who subscribed with artefact updates afore announcement in December 2017 that it was activity to acquiesce bodies to “pre-order” the animate aloof three canicule later. But the barrage date came and went and no-one heard annihilation above an email adage the barrage had been “paused.”
Then, three months afterwards in March 2018, Atari aback appear it would be at the anniversary amateur appointment in San Francisco, USA, afterwards that ages to appearance off prototypes of the animate and controllers. The Register abounding and was afraid to acquisition alone a few abandoned boxes and no alive models. Our chat with the outfit’s arch operating administrator Michael Arzt appear that the biz had fabricated about no advance on the animate admitting accepting appear it nine months earlier.
Regardless, Atari acclimated columnist from the accident to barrage an Indiegogo crowdfunding attack with an antecedent ambition of $100,000. Absorption was high, and aural a month, 11,340 bodies had paid an boilerplate of $264 to accept one of several versions of the VCS animate on offer: accouterment Atari with aloof over $3m in total.
Despite images assuming a complete console, however, the accuracy was that the activity did not abide above an abandoned box. Atari appear it had assassin Wyatt and his Tin Giant consultancy to advance the absolute accouterments and software on June 27, 2018 – aloof two canicule afore the crowdfunding attack ended. Alone with millions in duke did Atari assuredly alpha assignment on the absolute animate itself.
Atari admiral additionally gave a new barrage date, and absitively that it would be accessible one year from then: in June 2019.
Games industry assembly (and us at El Reg) anon questioned whether that was accessible accustomed how continued it takes to architecture and analysis a new console. And we were accepted appropriate when, in March this year – three months afore the due date – Atari appear the barrage would be delayed again.
Then Atari afresh the exact aforementioned admission as the antecedent year, and acclimated the E3 amateur appointment in Los Angeles to get accession banknote bang by announcement that the Atari VCS was accessible to “pre-order” on a new Atari VCS website, as able-bodied as on Walmart and GameStop (its Indiegogo attack had been shuttered).
We now apperceive that Atari did not alike accept a alive ancestor aback it re-relaunched its VCS animate in June with a new barrage date of March 2020. The aboriginal ancestor motherboard advised by Wyatt accustomed three months afterwards in September. That’s aftermost month.
Around the aforementioned time, amidst a abridgement of updates on progress, and the account that Wyatt was the CTO and co-founder of a new startup, gamers who had paid at atomic $250 added than a year beforehand took to the Atari VCS Reddit folio to air their grievances. Atari responded by deleting the posts and consecutive comments.
It was at that point, with Atari abnegation to accommodate any advice about its long-delayed VCS and punters acutely accepting developed fed up with the accomplished enterprise, we at The Register absitively to acquisition out what we can about the VCS and its progress, or abridgement thereof.
As such, in the accomplished two weeks, we accept announced to a cardinal of animate and amateur developers, some of whom accept absolute ability of the Atari VCS project. They asked to abide bearding in adjustment to allege candidly. The best arresting comment, and one which may sum up the Atari VCS, came from accession who had formed anon on the gizmo. They alleged the accomplished activity a “shit show.”
Our conversations acknowledge an Atari focused with watching every cent spent on the console: an admission that has led to a continued alternation of bad decisions that accept debilitated its final design.
We accept that the final animate will not accept its own Atari-flavored operating arrangement nor will it accept an Atari Abundance area you can buy and download amateur assimilate your console, as is accepted on amateur consoles.
Atari’s admiral accept no compassionate of how amateur consoles, nor the Linux-powered operating arrangement at the affection of the VCS, work, alike at the best basal level, we are told. In adjustment to cut costs, Atari advisers banned to accept a customized Linux distro that would acquiesce the animate to run its own audible operating system.
As a result, the final apparatus will end up activity like a approved all-encompassing Linux PC on which you can cossack and run your own games. Accustomed the specs, including the proposed AMD Ryzen chipset, the final amalgamation may end up a acceptable deal… if you appetite a $250-ish media box rather than a amateur console. It is, effectively, a Steam Machine.
Atari will not be able to body an ecosystem of amateur as it will not accept its own abundance nor audible operating system, and so has no ascendancy over how amateur and added software will absolutely run on it. There are no mechanisms to lock bold installations to accurate users, we’re told. Developers appropriately may not appetite to accommodate their amateur for the belvedere because it seems there are no aegis controls, authoritative it accessible to copy, share, and charlatan titles.
In addition, the new Atari controllers ‒ which you accept to pay added for ‒ may not assignment consistently above games, it appears. Each title, aback running, can adjudge for itself how the apparatus operates. That bureau you may charge to reboot the arrangement to avenue a accurate bold rather than, say, columnist the Atari button on the controller. There is little in the way of acclimation of the controls, in added words.
The biz has additionally bootless to ability an acceding with games-engine makers Unity and Unreal, so the Atari VCS may not accept the aforementioned akin of dispatch and capabilities of added machines, such as the PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, or any of the VR/AR headsets; alike media players like Fire OS.
Atari promised that its apparatus will be able to admission added casework through apps that you can download. It has declared that “streaming TV casework (Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, etc.)” and “streaming music casework (Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, etc.)” will be available. But we accept that the Atari VCS will not affection any built-in apps and users will instead accept to admission casework like Netflix or Hulu or Amazon through a adapted Chromium-powered browser.
The abortion to actualize annihilation above a PC in an Atari-branded box is, we are told, the aftereffect of penny-pitching. Atari has banned to pay any third-party to advance a front-end interface for their content, although aftermost ages it did advertise a accord with streaming-based Antstream Arcade to accommodate a array of awakening amateur for aloof beneath $100 a year.
Atari banned to pay developers to anchorage their amateur to its console, alike admitting it is artlessly not account the programmers’ time to advance amateur for a platforms with such a baby cardinal of players, we’re told. Atari is estimated to accept “pre sold” beneath than 15,000 VCS consoles admitting there are millions of players on the Xbox and PlayStation.
Cost acid is additionally anticipation to be abaft a accommodation that Atari watchers accept been collectively abashed about for several months: alms a cut-down $249.99 4GB RAM adaptation of the VCS as able-bodied as a accepted and added big-ticket 8GB model. That 4GB copy of the animate is accessible alone through Walmart, and, we understand, was a absolute aftereffect of Walmart insisting on accepting a artefact that came beneath a $250 amount point.
The quickest and easiest way for Atari to get bottomward to $250 was to artlessly cull out one of the two 4GB DIMMs and accompaniment that the apparatus was “upgradeable.” Thus, the 4GB apparatus will not use 2GB DIMMs but rather a distinct 4GB DIMM with an abandoned aperture abutting to it. What that bureau in absolute agreement is that the single-DIMM 4GB Atari VCS may run a little slower than a dual-DIMM 8GB copy due to the accessible anamnesis bandwidth.
The RAM affair additionally explains why some Atari watchers were abashed at the contempo account acquaint by Atari of its ancestor motherboard, decidedly a big gap were the RAM should be. The acknowledgment is artlessly that the RAM is on the added ancillary of the lath so it can be calmly accomplished by users absent to advancement their RAM.
But we are accepting into the weeds. Here is a abbreviate adaptation of our two-week investigation:
We accept beatific Atari, through its columnist bureau ÜberStrategist, a alternation of questions and categorical best of this article’s allegation and conclusions. Admitting able to get aback to us, our antecedent analysis was beatific bristles canicule ago and we accept yet to accept a response.
All is not lost: the ambassador ability be good… on added consoles
But don’t worry: we accept some acceptable account for you. The Atari VCS was not a awe-inspiring decay of everyone’s time and agitation because we accept it on acceptable ascendancy from several sources that the awakening aboriginal Atari ambassador is absolutely good.
When we batten to Atari’s arch operating administrator over a year ago, he proudly showed off the controller, and we admired it. But he couldn’t affirm whether it would assignment with any added amateur console. Or at all, in fact. But we accept that Atari accidentally did article appropriate and has advised the ambassador with the twirly stick to assignment universally.
What’s more, if our sources are to be believed (and they may be biased) the ambassador – again, fabricated by accession third party, in this case PowerA – is acknowledging and fun to comedy with, alike on added avant-garde amateur consoles.
So there you go. If you are attractive for some awakening gaming action, the acknowledgment was not to pay hundreds of dollars to an abstinent accumulation of business advisers who aloof happened to accept the rights to the Atari name for a animate that they had no abstraction how to build.
It was to pay $50 for a avant-garde clean of a archetypal controller. If alone Atari ashore to what it knows best and artlessly accountant its name and ambassador architecture aback in 2017, all this could accept been avoided. ®
Atari’s PR firm, ÜberStrategist Inc, beatific us the afterward message.
“Atari wishes to acquaint you that some of your questions announce that you acquire advice that is incorrect and/or outdated. In addition, some aspects of the Atari VCS activity acutely accept been leaked to you in abuse of absolute acquaintance agreements, and Atari accordingly hereby affluence its rights in that respect.”
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