Written by Leo Faria.
Atari has shocked the world by announcing a brand new console, dubbed the “Atari Box,” last June. While it’s always good to have more competitors in the gaming industry, nobody was expecting Atari, of all people, to re-join the hardware business. Atari has nearly gone bankrupt over the past years, sold most of its famous IPs, and reverted back to a small French company with less than a dozen employees. Yet, they are still going to invest in this new console, as it seems.
By focusing on a few crucial aspects, the Atari Box can be a moderate success, with strong emphasis on the word “moderate.” The company will never be able to threaten Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft in terms of sales, but if they focus their efforts on delivering a smaller but competent niche console, they might make a few bucks out of it. Here are some ways the Atari Box could avoid being yet another Jaguar for the company:
Take advantage of its “AAA” titles
It might sound weird for some, but Atari still owns a few IPs which can be considered AAA by some, even if they haven’t seen a great new version over the past few years. Alone in the Dark and Rollercoaster Tycoon have faced hard times over the past years, with horrible titles such as Alone in the Dark: Illumination and Rollercoaster Tycoon World, but they’re still noteworthy franchises and could become main staples for the Atari Box, if treated correctly. The Test Drive franchise, while not under Atari’s control anymore, could become the console’s main racing series by means of a partnership with BigBen Interactive.
Focus on nostalgia, not just performance: be a niche console
This is by far the most important aspect Atari should focus on. The company is nowhere near as big as it once was, and it won’t be able to deliver a console with a trillion FLOPs like the Xbox One X. While the Atari Box needs to be at least competent in terms of its specifications, that’s not what Atari should focus on. Its name oozes nostalgia, and that’s where the company should invest.
Atari should make a console that appeals to the kids of the 70s and 80s, not only to us “millennials.” Having some sort of Virtual Console with games from the 2600, 5200, 7800, ST, Lynx, and (why not?) the Jaguar, all with a slightly revamped resolution, would be a somewhat appealing differential for the console. Another very interesting differential is what I’m going to discuss next.
Bring back its smaller but famous IPs with help from small devs
Atari games have never been known for being long or complicated. In fact, Atari games have always been synonymous with small, fast, easy-to-learn, arcade-like experiences. Atari once tried to reboot one of its older franchises, Asteroids, as a AAA-ish game of sorts, which deviated too far from the game’s roots. If you’re going to make a new Yar’s Revenge, a new Klax, a new Gates of Zendocon (one of the most underrated games I have ever played), and so on, don’t try to be too ambitious: bring those franchises to the 21st century, but don’t forget their roots.
The best way to bring those franchises back to life would be by estabilishing partnerships with independent and smaller-scale developers. One great example lies in a game Atari published in 2011 for the Wii and the 3DS, called Centipede: Infestation, developed by the always reliable WayForward. This underrated game brilliant managed to simultaneously update Centipede‘s presentation and gameplay to a modern setting, while maintaining the franchise’s classic core aspects.
Once again, this console should focus on nostalgia, therefore those games should feel nostalgic, above all.
Partnerships with old-time developers
When you think Atari 2600, you think Pong, Breakout, E.T. (ugh), but you also think of super iconic games either created by third parties or ported from the arcades, such as Pitfall, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Galaxian, and Frogger. Nostalgia is vitally important, and what better way to capitalize on that than by trying to bring an exclusive download-only Pac-Man or maybe a new Uncharted-esque Pitfall?
Don’t ignore Japan
Differently from Microsoft’s Xbox, Atari has actually managed to be a bit successful in Japan once. It would be quite tough for the company to enter such a difficult market, but its previous history with the Japanese market could ease things up a bit, if Atari focuses on making the Box a niche competitor, just like Nintendo is doing with the Switch. Namco, Konami, SNK, Irem, etc. Those companies could become essential in making the Atari Box a moderate hit in eastern lands. Yes, even Konami.
Any other suggestions? Leave your thoughts on the comment section below!
Feed your nostalgia while the Atari Box isn’t here yet by buying Atari Flashback Classics for the PS4 from Amazon here!