The Atari VCS: A $400 Paperweight


Alexander Gray

The Atari VCS is set for release to the public in 2021. (Photo Courtesy, Alexander Gray)

In spring 2018, Atari released a video announcing the production and crowdfunding of a new Atari console, the Atari VCS. Recently, the launch edition of the VCS has been shipped to backers. So now that the console is in the hands of the backers, how is it?

Before I give my take on the consoles, I want to share a quote from Atari COO, Micheal Artz. Artz stated in Atari’s announcement video, “Our mission was to create an iconic and authentic Atari product, one that is beautiful and evokes emotion, not just another box to shove under your TV.” After my four hours of use, I found it is just another box to shove under the TV.

There is nothing special about the VCS whatsoever. The games are severely lacking, the performance isn’t very good, and it’s just overall bland. It’s not worth purchasing, especially with the $400 price tag. 

Now they’re marketing the VCS as a modern console/classic console/pc hybrid with the ability to switch between the VSC’s OS (operating system) and your installed OS of choice for PC Mode. The PC Mode is compatible with Linux, Windows, ChromeOS, and SteamOS, which is good because it offers a lot of choices other than having to be stuck with the standard console OS and the lack of games. 

As for the games, the VCS comes preinstalled with the Atari Vault, a collection of 100 old Atari games to fill in the classic console side of things. Now, I would say there would be some incentive to get the console if you couldn’t get the Atari Vault anywhere else, but you can. 

The Atari Vault is available on steam with support for Windows, macOS, and SteamOS. (Photo Courtesy, Alexander Gray)
(Alexander Gray)

You can go onto Steam right now and pick up the Atari Vault (the same one on the VCS) along with the extra games (also on the VCS) for $15. The much better price point to experience classics.

There’s a fun fact I learned about the VCS during my playtime: there’s a 4K mode along with the standard 1080p mode. Don’t expect to run the console on 4K mode though as it majorly drops the already lacking performance. Games are sometimes downright unplayable while the 4K mode, majorly dropping the framerate in games. Even in the console dashboard, the frames drop when moving or switching menus, which is sad.

The Atari VCS is just another $400 box to throw under the TV. There is absolutely no reason to purchase the console, nor should anyone be looking to purchase it. If you’re looking for something to play games on, there are some good PCs out there for under $400 (an example) that will have more performance and more use than the Atari VCS.