Start rummaging: Atari's new 2600+ console supports vintage cartridges

Play your originals for less than what last year's nonfunctional Lego replica cost

Hotly anticipated video games like Starfield not your cup of tea? Crave something a bit more retro? You're in luck: Atari has just teased a "faithful recreation" of the 2600 console model launched in 1980.

Atari, or rather what remains of it today, yesterday described the 2600+ as having been built to mimic everything you miss, from the original's quartet of toggle buttons and wood paneling to the movement of the joystick itself. The console is said to be USB powered, and we're promised it'll do HDMI output and have support for multiple screen resolutions, which means it'll probably work with modern AV kit.

Along with those hardware updates, and a few other features, the 2600+ also ships with a 10-in-1 game cartridge that includes favorites like Missile Command and Adventure, and also accepts vintage Atari 2600 and 7800 titles in its cartridge slot. 

"Preserving classic games is a priority for Atari, and the release of the Atari 2600+ will make the hundreds of Atari 2600 and 7800 games that have been released over the last 50 years universally accessible," said Wade Rosen, Atari chairman and CEO.

Atari released an extensive list [PDF] of games said to be supported by the new system, with only a few were unable to run on the newer hardware. Luckily for aficionados of all things horrible, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, said to be the worst video game of all time ... by anyone who hasn't played Superman 64, is supported on the new system.

There are some noteworthy upgrades. For instance, instead of a 1.19 MHz 8-bit MOS 6507 microprocessor, the system is driven by a quad-core Arm Cortex-A7MP-based Rockchip 3128 system-on-chip - a mild step up, we would say. The Atari 2600's 128 bytes of built-in RAM has been upgraded to 256MB, and 256MB of eMMC internal storage has been added, presumably to house the emulation software. 

The Atari 2600+ is available for pre-order now, and could begin shipping to the US and internationally in November. It's priced at $129.99, or £99.99 in the UK, less than the cost of Lego's $239.99 non-functional replica Atari VCS kit released last year.

This recreated console is said to have been produced with PLAION, which owns a bunch of games development houses and publishers.

What about that other retro Atari project?

You may be forgiven for withholding your excitement over these promises of another retro-gaming flashback given the history in this space and if you're a regular Reg reader.

The 2600 was also known as the Video Computer System, a crowdfunded microconsole version of which Atari announced in 2017, but which early on appeared to be a big box of nothing.

The new VCS finally came out in 2021, and unlike the 2600+, which is designed to be an updated recreation of the original, the VCS microconsole was preloaded with games and allowed users to install additional titles downloaded from the internet with no support for cartridges. 

The VCS almost failed to materialize after system architect Rob Wyatt quit the project in 2019, alleging Atari failed to pay over six months worth of invoices amounting to $261,720.

Wyatt, who was the chief architect of Microsoft's original Xbox console, sued Atari in 2020 over the unpaid invoices, and issues pertaining to the appropriate venue for his lawsuit - Wyatt filed his claim in Colorado, but his contract with Atari necessitated complaints be filed in New York - ultimately led a judge to dismiss [PDF] the case in early 2022 with leave to file a new claim in New York. 

It's unclear if Wyatt has filed a follow-up case in New York, or if he and Atari have otherwise settled. Questions to Atari and Wyatt's lawyers went unanswered. ®

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