The upcoming Ataribox is not only going to be an Atari 2600 emulator, but also – for some goddamn unknown reason – a TV entertainment computer. I might have bought a decent Atari retro console, but I already have a TV entertainment computer, and I suspect that most of the market for an Atari retro console are similarly the kind of people who’d already have a TV entertainment computer. On the other hand, if they’re trying to court people who are on the fence about getting a TV entertainment computer in the first place, I feel like that market is likely to be tipped onto the opposite side of the fence than Atari hopes by a built-in Atari retro console taking pride of place as a central selling point. If you want to mutually alienate two target audiences, there’s how you do it.
All of this wouldn’t be so bad if the combination of the two wasn’t driving up the price point to a ridiculous degree – the NES Classic and SNES Classic both retailed for US$80, which is fair for consoles with two of the most beloved game libraries of all time. At its current lowest estimate, the Ataribox is going to retail for over three times that much; heck, its less conservative estimate of US$300 is almost twice as much as the SNES Classic is being scalped for on average on eBay right now. Now, I’ll never argue against the importance of the Atari 2600 – there was once a time when the word “Atari” was genuinely synonymous with “videogames” – but the system’s library of games does not exactly have the same legendary status and popcultural sticking power as its later Nintendo competitors (with, naturally, one exception). It doesn’t help that the games are so short and simple, too; there’s nothing wrong with short and simple, and many of the Atari 2600′s games are still fun today. But asking “wanna play Combat?” doesn’t elicit the same response from the majority of consumers as “wanna play Mario 3?”, and adding “for three hundred dollars with an additional product that you probably already own” doesn’t exactly sweeten the pot for either.