Atari Announces Retro Games Streaming Service For Delayed VCS Console

Is this new partnership with Antstream a fresh promise for the turbulent crowdfunded project?

The long-anticipated Atari VCS has a new feature among its many. The classic gaming company announced a streaming partnership with Antstream to bring Antstream’s full retro game collection to the VCS, plus fifty exclusive retro games to the yet-to-be-released console.

While “virtual consoles” or other companies’ “classic” editions have brought the games alone, Atari and Antstream are claiming a new retro experience. For instance, there will be “social challenges” that Atari claims will “engage and incentivize fans to experience their favorite retro games in new ways.” Some games will have new multiplayer modes, and there will be “‘pure,’ unmodified” versions of older games. There will also be rumble and LED glow on the console’s controllers.

The service will be exclusively available to Atari VCS users, on top of the VCS’s pre-loaded retro games. It’ll also apparently be a subscription service, available for $9.99 per month, or $95.88 per year. It’s already available on PC for similar prices, but there’s no word on whether the accounts are cross-compatible.

This new partnership can be a small spark of hope, as the Atari VCS’s had a rocky track record so far. The  pre-orders were initially promised in December 2017, but pushed them back to mid-2018. The IndieGoGo pre-orders (you read that right) launched May 2018, with an expected shipping date of the “second quarter” of 2019. It appears backers’ pre-orders have been locked in, as Atari claims to be in pre-production, but they have been claiming such for several months.  We still don’t have a formal, confirmed release date.

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Regardless, the team behind the VCS promises a fascinating set of features. The VCS has modern hardware implements and promises pre-loaded Atari retro games. (Conuladh promises there’ll be some games from other retro consoles, too.) It also promises “modern” games, so given it runs on Linux, devs can likely port their games easily. The console’s software seems to have space for partnered streaming services like YouTube, Netflix or Hulu. It has a “Sandbox” mode, which lets you run any OS you want: Linux, Windows or even Mac OS. And if you’re into hardware, it’s got an AMD Raven Ridge 2 APU and a Ryzen GPU.

Except it comes at prices you’d expect from mainline consoles: $249.99 for the Gamestop VCS 400 system, from the also-troubled Gamestop. For only $30 more you can get the 4k edition, which makes us wonder why they’re trying to sell two to begin with. But it’s easy to miss these versions, as they’re pushing the “VCS 800 All-In System Bundle,” with two unique controllers, at $389.99. It’s the same price as buying the controllers separately, by the way, at $49.99 and $59.99.

And while they give a March 2020 date, the official site only says “Early 2020.” Chances are it’s a placeholder, but Atari fans can only hope March is the real date.