Backers and fans who follow Atari’s social channels have seen the exciting first look photos and videos of the Atari VCS in action at CES. Many of you have asked questions about exactly what was shared in meetings with partners, press, and retailers.
For those of you who don’t follow Atari social channels, or would simply like to deep dive into a full recap the Atari VCS CES experience, this update is for you!
Gaming + PC + 4K Multimedia Streaming
One of the team’s goals at CES 2020 was to reinforce the core functionality that the Atari VCS delivers: Gaming, PC power & flexibility in the living room, and 4K multimedia streaming.
Naturally, there is overlap because there are so many ways to use and customize the Atari VCS. When you boot up your new Atari VCS for the first time, you’ll have access to a variety of different entertainment opportunities, some of which were showcased at CES this year with live demos by Atari. Other features, like upgradable storage and memory were represented in partners’ displays.
The Atari Dashboard
The first station in the Atari VCS press suite at CES gave audiences hands-on access to the actual device hardware and working system interface: the Atari-branded environment that most resembles a typical game console. In the Atari VCS startup sequence, the system BIOS fires up and briefly flashes a Fuji logo on the screen, quickly joined and then destroyed by the well-known boulders and wedge-shaped starship from Asteroids.
First-time users are prompted to identify their controller and then are guided through the system setup process and account creation. A wash of colors transports the user to the Atari VCS Home screen, loaded with favorite games and apps. From the couch in the Atari suite’s main “living room” area, our guests were able navigate around the dashboard to explore the Home, Games, Apps, Store and Settings screens and menus.
The first app on the Home screen in our CES demo was the legendary Atari Vault. This playable Games app, featuring a collection of 100 Atari arcade and 2600 classics, is a free download included with every VCS. We are in the process of creating an updated version of the Vault, optimized for the Atari VCS. It will have full joystick and modern controller support, including the new rumble effects on both Atari controllers, plus the additional “paddle action” and LED effects on the Classic Joystick. CES guests had fun playing Atari Vault favorites using the Atari controller, including Asteroids, Centipede, Crystal Castles, and several others.
Next up in our CES demo was opening Antstream Arcade, which gave users a preview of the Arcade UI and a rich collection of retro games. The free 30-day trial with access to more than 2,000 classic retro games resonated strongly with our guests, even though poor hotel internet prevented actual play.
In addition, the version of Antstream that will ultimately be featured on the VCS will be an exclusive version designed only for Atari VCS owners, which includes additional Atari game content.
PC Sandbox: The Atari VCS is a computer system!
The next demo station featured the Atari VCS’s unique PC Sandbox, running in Windows and Linux via bootable USB thumb sticks. Our PC setup included a wireless keyboard, mouse, and third-party controller, demonstrating the Atari VCS’ universal compatibility with existing PC peripherals.
Guests played games from our downloaded Steam, Epic and GOG libraries, including Fortnite, Borderlands 2, Basketball Classics, and others.
Our third demo station featured an Atari VCS configured as a desktop PC with a connected monitor, wireless mouse and keyboard. This machine could be booted directly into a standard Windows or Ubuntu OS and desktop. Users could surf the web, utilize an office suite, and pretty much accomplish anything you’d want from a compact PC. The Atari VCS is a fully capable multimedia personal computer that is smaller, sleeker, and more powerful than other mini PCs costing more than twice the price.
During the earlier dashboard demo, visitors were able to see that a variety of PC operating systems could be quickly accessed in the VCS store for downloading to a USB storage drive. The VCS interface makes it super-easy for users to download, install, and setup an OS with just a few on-screen prompts to let users create a bootable Sandbox PC drive. Downloadable OS examples (both free and paid) in the store included Windows, Ubuntu, and Debian, with additional platforms to be announced. You can even install office and other utility programs if you wish.
The incredible value and practicality of the Atari VCS as a powerful and attractive mini-PC was immediately appreciated by our guests.
4K Multimedia Streaming
The final capability we demonstrated in the Atari suite was 4K UHD streaming. Visitors could watch a variety of 4K content on the VCS via various popular streaming platforms, including Netflix, Prime Video, and others. Interactive streaming via Antstream Arcade and other services such as Stadia and xCloud will be possible in 4K as well (where available). In addition, there will be music streaming and other app options. As previously reported, some apps will be native at launch and some accessible by link to browser, with more added over time.
In addition to the Atari suite, the team made fully-playable Atari VCS units available to partners for their own activations. With the help of our good friends at GAEMS, makers of premier portable game systems, there was an Atari VCS unit in the PowerA hospitality suite, and another showcased at a large CES PR event.
Meanwhile, there were two VCS units placed in the Kingston suite. The first, featuring the Atari VCS dashboard and Atari Vault gameplay, was connected to a living room TV setup. The second unit was our epic “Crystal Ghost” hot-rod console, which had been upgraded by the VCS engineering team with a 256GB Kingston internal M.2 solid state drive and 32GB of SODIMM RAM memory. Kingston used it in their embedded products display to show how the Atari VCS could be easily upgraded. (This unit was also Atari’s CES 2020 “Easter egg,” which many people did find and post to social media.)
Overall, CES was a great success for the Atari VCS team. Away from the actual show floor, Atari (like many companies) elected to take advantage of the very popular CES Venetian Tower Hospitality Suites. While the number of press meetings were limited in Atari’s suite this time around, there was no limitation on who was seeing and interacting with the fully-operational Atari VCS pre-production units placed in our partners’ suites and the feedback was consistently positive from our contacts.
While the VCS team continues to finalize manufacturing details at the factory, our confidence and enthusiasm coming out of CES was meaningful and significant, thanks to the positive feedback from everyone who demoed the Atari VCS there. We look forward to the day backers and customers will finally have units in their hands.
Updated factory news coming soon…
Until next time!
— The Atari VCS Team