By now, you may have heard that Atari is headed back into the console race with the AtariBox system. It marks the first time in 24 years that the company is producing new hardware for the market, following its somewhat doomed Atari Jaguar from the 90’s.
It’s got quite a road ahead of it, but the AtariBox does look promising, particularly with its potential library of classic and new games, as well as its sleek build and easy-to-use set-up. That said, we’ve still got some questions in terms of what it can do – and, more importantly, if it can keep up with the competition.
Sony has quite the stranglehold on the game industry with the PlayStation 4; Microsoft has a pretty major audience with the Xbox One; and Nintendo is slowly but surely playing catch-up with its Nintendo Switch. That said, is there room for the AtariBox to thrive? Let’s see how the hardware compares to the other three systems on the market, and what Atari can do in terms of staying competitive.
First, the PlayStation 4 is a beast. It’s already got 60 million units sold on the market thus far, and it could sell quite a few more this holiday season, based on the strength of first party exclusive titles like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Gran Turismo Sport. Plus, there are even bigger games coming next year, including God of War and Spider-Man.
Can Atari keep up? It really depends on two things. First, its library of games. While Atari does boast a great classic library of titles ranging from Asteroids to Missile Command to Centipede, people aren’t going to give up their PS4 for straight-up arcade ports. Atari needs to find a way to revitalize these franchises – without going overboard like previous attempts – and giving us experiences that will make the AtariBox unique in its own right.
Second, Atari needs to find that ideal price point that makes their system a bigger value than the PS4. This might be a bit tough, considering Sony’s console might see a price drop this holiday season, but if it can stick somewhere around $100 to $150, it might be a magic enough point to convince folks to put it under their Christmas tree. Again, games help too, so Atari needs to make sure it covers all the bases in terms of keeping its audience entertained. It’s going to take a lot of work to overcome the juggernaut that is Sony.
Microsoft isn’t quite as foreboding an opponent as Sony is as far as the AtariBox is concerned, but it’ll have a lot of work cut out for it, considering the company still has some killer first-party exclusives to come, like Crackdown 3 and Cuphead. There’s also its online network to consider, as many feel that Xbox Live is the best gaming network on the market when it comes to consistency, reliance and value.
Can Atari keep up? It really depends on the features that the AtariBox looks to bring to the marketplace. If Atari can somehow introduce an online network that makes it fairly easy to download games and, better still, play them online without the need of an annual membership, that would be an extraordinary value to some players. That might be asking a bit much, but every advantage helps – especially when it comes to toppling Xbox Live, which is asking quite a bit.
For that matter, having a library of games to choose from will again be something that the AtariBox can use to its advantage, between the company’s first-party titles, support from key third parties, and even the indies. If it can get the right combination going, it could have a game collection to be proud of – and might give Xbox owners something to do while they’re waiting for the next Xbox One hit to arrive.
This seems almost like an even battle, as Nintendo is the “underdog” in the current console race, trying to play catch-up to the bigger boys that are Sony and Microsoft. Granted, it’s getting somewhere with the Switch’s architecture, and the first-party games, including ARMS, Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2, look stupendous. Of course, there’s also the ability to take your system on the go, so you don’t have to worry about being stuck playing at home.
Can Atari keep up? Again, this comes back to games. If Atari can find a way to revitalize its first-party game line-up – as Nintendo clearly has on the Switch front – and show people just what kind of value it has to offer for the dollar, then it can probably bring in a pretty good community, just as the Switch did. But the question is, will AtariBox be so high in demand that it won’t be available in stores, like the Switch isn’t?
And while the portable factor is obviously out – unless there’s an Atari Lynx-style add-on coming soon, fingers crossed – the system looks convenient enough to bring to someone’s house, based on its current build. That certainly beats nothing, and Atari could provide players with the kind of local multiplayer titles that would make them addictive enough to share with their friends. It all comes down to software, just as it is for Nintendo’s console.
We’ll see how the AtariBox fares in the months ahead!