While some of Atari’s past announcements have left fans scratching their heads (e.g. the Atari Hotel in Las Vegas that has yet to materialize), the company seems to be gaining a better understanding of its place in history and in the hearts of players. There’s perhaps no better example of this than the with newly announced Atari 2600+.
Released in 1977, the original Atari 2600 (or VCS) is not only credited with popularizing home video game consoles, but also largely blamed for the short-lived industry crash. The Atari name has changed hands a few times over the years, most recently in 1999 when it was purchased by GT Interactive, which was itself acquired by Infogrames and renamed to Atari, Inc. in 2003. However, the original Atari, Inc. and its team members responsible for the classic console and its games have long since moved onto other ventures.
What is the Atari 2600+?
It’s an updated version of the Atari 2600, one that will also play Atari 7800 games. Sporting and HDMI output and widescreen mode, it’s a truly modern way to play Atari. It supports Atari 2600 and 7800 cartridges, so players will have a potentially massive library of old games to go back and play. A plethora of affordable Atari games currently on the second-hand ensures users will have plenty of options for their new systems (it’s unclear whether it will support home brew games).
There are some slight design changes, such as the overall size. It has a smaller than the classic Atari 2600, which is quite large by modern standards. It also features an enlarged cartridge slot designed to make removing games easier than before. A new visual perk is that the Atari logo now illuminates when in use, admittedly a pretty snazzy addition. But overall, the new design is quite faithful to the original.
This new iteration on a classic console is attached to a $129 USD price tag and comes with the following:
- Atari 2600+ console
- CX40+ Joy stick controller
- 10 Games in 1 cartridge (includes Adventure, Combat, Dodge ‘Em, Haunted House, Maze Craze, Missile Command, RealSports Volleyball, Surround, Video Pinball, and Yars’ Revenge)
What else can you get?
Along with the base unit, Atari announced a few extras that are sold separately. And if the console gains commercial traction, one should expect additional titles and accessories in the future. For now, you can get:
- Additional CX40+ joy stick controller
- Mr. Run and Jump game cartridge
- Berzerk game cartridge
- CX30+ paddle controller bundle with 4 Games in 1 cartridge (includes Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Night Driver, and Video Olympics)
What are the drawbacks?
As cool as this new unit sounds, it does have some caveats that we’re not super enthused about. Here’s a few:
- Only 1 joy stick is included, which seems like an oversight considering how many games rely heavily on two players.
- HDMI appears to be the only output option. While this is preferred for most players and a necessity for many, it would be nice to have the option for us old-timers to play on a CRT television.
- No third party games available (at least not yet), namely Activision, who was responsible for many of the console’s most memorable releases (Pitfall, River Raid, Kaboom, etc.). Obviously, players can still seek out old third party cartridges, but new releases have not yet been announced.
- The system uses emulation and may not work with all cartridges (list of compatible cartridges here)
How can I get my hands on one?
Pre-orders are now being accepted through Atari’s web site; the console officially releases on November 17, 2023.