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The Atari VCS Controversy Thread

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

Of course, it's whatever floats your boat.   I find the Pi's to be lacking for this purpose and would prefer to have something PC-based.   It has more options and less work.   Yes you can build a PC for possibly less,  but that also assumes your time isn't worth anything.   A lot of people would rather buy complete hardware

Agreed.  But for anything resembling a PC, the VCS is *not* complete hardware.

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32 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

 

If it costs as much as the Switch, it's in competition with the Switch.  

 

Not to mention, this is from Atari's website TODAY, not when it was first announced, TODAY:

 

"Atari® returns to the living room with the Atari VCS™ — a completely modern gaming and video computer system, blending the best of consoles and PCs to delight a whole new generation of gamers and creators."

 

So how is it not in competition with the Switch, PS, Xbox, etc., if it's not a "complely modern video gaming... system" and "blending the best of consoles and PCs"?  What part of this does NOT invite comparisons between the VCS and other relevant gaming devices?

 

 

It's not going to post the kinds of numbers that Switch/PS5/XBox will post.   Everybody knows that.    It's not in competition with the switch simply because there's nobody out there trying to decide whether to buy a Switch or a VCS.   The VCS won't play the Nintendo exclusives,  the Switch isn't an open PC type device.    They serve different purposes.

 

It's more in competition with something like the nVidia Sheild or all the other micro-consoles that have been announced.

 

35 minutes ago, mr_me said:

As a PC the atari vcs is far from complete, unless you're okay with chrome apps.  You can get a complete PC with linux preinstalled for less but not much less.  Besides raspberry pi, you can also get a complete arm based PC or set top box with linux or other os pre-installed and ready to go.

 

Is it possible to side load and run debian linux programs in the atari os?

You can install Ubuntu or other Linux variant on it and run whatever you want.  Keep in mind if you are using it as a console, you are probably not going to want apps that depend on mouse and keyboard to operate.

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6 minutes ago, zzip said:

It's not going to post the kinds of numbers that Switch/PS5/XBox will post.   Everybody knows that.    It's not in competition with the switch simply because there's nobody out there trying to decide whether to buy a Switch or a VCS.   The VCS won't play the Nintendo exclusives,  the Switch isn't an open PC type device.    They serve different purposes.

 

 

The primary purpose of both is to play video games.  To say they're not in competition with each other is wishful thinking.

 

The fact that the competition is one-sided and completely unfair doesn't change that.

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Sure you can but you should probably buy additional storage to install ubuntu or windows, better if you take apart the vcs and add storage internally.  If your time is worth anything you might want to get something complete and ready to go.  If they made the debian linux part of the atari os accessible you might not have to bother with that.

Edited by mr_me

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They should have advertised it as a mini pc from the start, with a proper Linux installed, and the ability to install windows on the M2 drive instead of having to add a drive hanging at the back, vs selling it first as a console with sandbox/"pc mode" as a bonus ... and backpedaling to "but sandbox" when lack of games becomes apparent.

It appears that many of the backers have very little PC experience as well, it's a bit sad to see many buying kits of 32G of RAM, and 1Tb M2 drives (which can only be used to store games from the Atari store, since you can't boot from it) as if it'd be of any use ...

As it is it's a poor console, and it requires too much fiddling around to use it as a mini pc.

Edited by Zor
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27 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

The primary purpose of both is to play video games.  To say they're not in competition with each other is wishful thinking.

 

The fact that the competition is one-sided and completely unfair doesn't change that.

A lot of the negativity towards Atari and the VCS seems to come from the fact that they are no longer one of the Big 3, and people wish that if they are going to do hardware, they would make something that puts them back in competition with the Big 3.

 

This is simply not going to happen, that opportunity was squandered in the 80s and 90s when they focused more on computers than videogame consoles.

 

When you look at the fact that the old Atari demographic is primarily gen-Xers that are now in their peak earning years with disposable income, it makes more sense.   What do you get the Gen-X tech-head dad who already has a PC, Switch, PS5,  big screen TV, etc?   VCS would be great if they were an old Atari fan.   A lot of the arguments around here that people buy a Switch OR PC OR VCS OR PS5 are not realistic in the first place.  Many households now own multiple devices.

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3 minutes ago, zzip said:

A lot of the negativity towards Atari and the VCS seems to come from the fact that they are no longer one of the Big 3, and people wish that if they are going to do hardware, they would make something that puts them back in competition with the Big 3.

 

This is simply not going to happen, that opportunity was squandered in the 80s and 90s when they focused more on computers than videogame consoles.

 

When you look at the fact that the old Atari demographic is primarily gen-Xers that are now in their peak earning years with disposable income, it makes more sense.   What do you get the Gen-X tech-head dad who already has a PC, Switch, PS5,  big screen TV, etc?   VCS would be great if they were an old Atari fan.   A lot of the arguments around here that people buy a Switch OR PC OR VCS OR PS5 are not realistic in the first place.  Many households now own multiple devices.

I don't think it's as much those who feel negative towards the VCS comparing it to mass market products as the supporters and even Atari themselves, at least for a time. The point from those with negative feelings towards the VCS use everything else on the market to explain why the VCS just doesn't make any sense. And to me, it doesn't even make sense as a third or fourth (or fifth, etc.) option AFTER you get those. If you already have at least a PS/Xbox and a Switch, as well as one of the major set top boxes like an Apple TV, how exactly does the VCS add anything to the equation? I suspect most people have at least modest PCs that work out of the box and do everything the VCS can do, and certainly for the average consumer they don't even need much beyond what their iOS or Android devices can do in spades. What can the VCS do exactly that an owner of those other products aren't already doing?

I also struggle to see how this is an interesting gift for an Atari fan. Can you explain that one? The logo? The shape? The name? The classic joystick? It's all vaguely classic Atari I guess, but what beyond that gives the nostalgic warm and fuzzies? I'm a sucker for nostalgia, obviously, but I don't get any of those warm fuzzies from the VCS, so it's a legit question from me to try and understand that aspect of it (both this question and the question above about what it's useful for are my two primary questions).

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18 minutes ago, zzip said:

Many households now own multiple devices.

Sure, but what kind of device ?
I bought the PS3 back in the days, because my then computer wasn't powerful enough for proper gaming.
Now I have a powerful pc and thus have skipped last and new generations of consoles. If really I wasn't satisfied with what I can play on PC, I'd buy a switch for the different gaming experience, or the PS5 for teh exclusives.  The VCS would add nothing.

If I still had a weak pc, and wanted more gaming, I'd complement it with one of the big three consoles. Again adding the VCS would just mean having another weak pc with no added value besides "cute box".

If I had no pc at all, I would be better of buying a fully featured cheap laptop. Someone in working age with no pc and thinking of buying a VCS as an all in one machine would need some serious home economics education ... (I expect that the number of active people with disposable income and no PC in their home is pretty low)


 

Edited by Zor
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29 minutes ago, zzip said:

A lot of the negativity towards Atari and the VCS seems to come from the fact that they are no longer one of the Big 3, and people wish that if they are going to do hardware, they would make something that puts them back in competition with the Big 3.

If Atari is going to sell a video game console (which is what they themselves brand it) then it should be compared to the devices made from other video game companies.  I don't think it's unreasonable to want a console to be competitive with other consoles.  If Atari did not want the comparison made, they shouldn't have announced this project.

 

  

29 minutes ago, zzip said:

When you look at the fact that the old Atari demographic is primarily gen-Xers that are now in their peak earning years with disposable income, it makes more sense.   What do you get the Gen-X tech-head dad who already has a PC, Switch, PS5,  big screen TV, etc?   VCS would be great if they were an old Atari fan.   A lot of the arguments around here that people buy a Switch OR PC OR VCS OR PS5 are not realistic in the first place.  Many households now own multiple devices.

 

Why does it make more sense?  It still comes back to "What can the VCS do that other devices do not?"  Chances are, if someone has a major console, they already have a gaming experience superior to what the VCS will allow.  And if they have a console and a PC, there's literally nothing the VCS can offer them.

 

If the people buying the VCS are, as you say "gen-Xers that are now in their peak earning years with disposable income", then what I'm hearing is that it's a great device for people willing to buy a widget that adds no real value to their lives and provides no advantage over competing products.  I'm not suggesting such people don't exist (they obviously do) but I don't think they exist in sufficient numbers to build a viable gaming platform.

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

A lot of the negativity towards Atari and the VCS seems to come from the fact that they are no longer one of the Big 3, and people wish that if they are going to do hardware, they would make something that puts them back in competition with the Big 3.

I don't know anyone who expects Atari in any current incarnation to compete with the Big 3 or even thinks they should try.  If there's any confusion about that it's been due to Atari's own mis/communication.

 

All the negativity I'm aware of comes down to two simple issues: 1.) Whether there's a place for VCS2020 that makes sense beyond nostalgia given its feature set and price. 2.) How Atari has mismanaged the project on nearly every front.

 

Edited by jamm
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1 hour ago, Bill Loguidice said:

I don't think it's as much those who feel negative towards the VCS comparing it to mass market products as the supporters and even Atari themselves, at least for a time. The point from those with negative feelings towards the VCS use everything else on the market to explain why the VCS just doesn't make any sense. And to me, it doesn't even make sense as a third or fourth (or fifth, etc.) option AFTER you get those. If you already have at least a PS/Xbox and a Switch, as well as one of the major set top boxes like an Apple TV, how exactly does the VCS add anything to the equation? I suspect most people have at least modest PCs that work out of the box and do everything the VCS can do, and certainly for the average consumer they don't even need much beyond what their iOS or Android devices can do in spades. What can the VCS do exactly that an owner of those other products aren't already doing?

I also struggle to see how this is an interesting gift for an Atari fan. Can you explain that one? The logo? The shape? The name? The classic joystick? It's all vaguely classic Atari I guess, but what beyond that gives the nostalgic warm and fuzzies? I'm a sucker for nostalgia, obviously, but I don't get any of those warm fuzzies from the VCS, so it's a legit question from me to try and understand that aspect of it (both this question and the question above about what it's useful for are my two primary questions).

While most people have a PC in the home not that many have a comparable set top box on their TV; and hooking up your laptop to your TV is not the same.  Also most people don't have an xbox/ps/switch either.  Sure they play the same indie games but that's not how they are marketed and the way they are marketed works against them for a large segment of the population.  That's not to say that xbox/ps/switch aren't great and successful machines but they cater to a certain market.

 

There is a market for streaming set top boxes, and a subset of that adds playing indie games.  Why not an atari vcs for the thousands of atari fans.  It's a niche market that's already been established by a successful crowdfunding campaign

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10 minutes ago, jamm said:

I don't know anyone who expects Atari in any current incarnation to compete with the Big 3 or even thinks they should try.  If there's any confusion about that it's been due to Atari's own mis/communication.

 

All the negativity I'm aware of comes down to two simple issues: 1.) Whether there's a place for VCS2020 that makes sense beyond nostalgia given its feature set and price. 2.) How Atari has mismanaged the project on nearly every front.

 

An Atari Flashback does not compete with the Big 3 in any meaningful sense, but it's very clear to see what it offers, why, and what the value proposition is.  Same with the Retron 77.  Same with a $20 joystick plug-and-play or a $4000 gaming PC.

 

It's not that people expect the VCS to jump in and compete with the Big 3.  It's that people expect it to do SOMETHING besides extract money from their wallets and take up space on a shelf.

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22 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

I don't think it's as much those who feel negative towards the VCS comparing it to mass market products as the supporters and even Atari themselves, at least for a time. The point from those with negative feelings towards the VCS use everything else on the market to explain why the VCS just doesn't make any sense

One thing I've observed about human nature is that when a company creates a truly pointless product, it is met with a collective yawn.  Not much discussion happens because most people feel it's not worth their time talking about.

 

The fact that every thread about this thing has generated dozens of posts every day consistently over the past several years, shows it struck a nerve.  There's a bunch of people annoyed or even angry that it exists at all, and they spent a lot of energy trying to convince people not to buy it and buy something else instead.  This is an interesting phenomenon, and it wouldn't happen if there was truly no interest in such a product.

35 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

If you already have at least a PS/Xbox and a Switch, as well as one of the major set top boxes like an Apple TV, how exactly does the VCS add anything to the equation?

Because VCS is open, the majority of set-top boxes aren't.   Sometimes you can jailbreak them.   I did jailbreak my Wii once and install the Homebrew Channel, but it was a pain.   And these hacks may stop working the next time the manufacturer releases a firmware update.

 

Maybe people have gotten so used to the "walled garden" approach that they don't know or have forgotten the advantages of having an open system?   I don't know,  but to me the VCS isn't an "instead of" Switch/PS5/Apple TV, it's for everything else that those closed platforms won't allow you to do.

 

41 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

I suspect most people have at least modest PCs that work out of the box and do everything the VCS can do, and certainly for the average consumer they don't even need much beyond what their iOS or Android devices can do in spades. What can the VCS do exactly that an owner of those other products aren't already doing?

A typical PC doesn't usually work well in a living room set up.   A lot of us are hitting the point in our lives where our eyes aren't as good as they used to be and the tiny screens on iOS/Android devices don't help that.   I can't game on those devices.   I need a larger screen and real controls, not touch screen controls.

 

Also for many years, the conventional wisdom was that smart phones/tablets killed mobile gaming platforms, and there was no point in creating new mobile consoles.   Then Nintendo came along with the Switch and proved that to not be the case.   People get bored of old tech and want new things.   Christmas/Birthdays happen every year and people get new tech devices they don't necessarily really need but get anyway.

 

51 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

I also struggle to see how this is an interesting gift for an Atari fan. Can you explain that one? The logo? The shape? The name?

If it's not for an Atari fan, then who is it for?  I personally can't see the appeal of the Intellivision Amico or the KFC console, but they have fans who are interested, so appeal of these things is subjective.    I have several uses in mind.  I have an extensive emulation setup on PC, I could simply copy it over to something like this with minimal modification.  My kid plays games on a PC that's weaker than the VCS,  he could play Minecraft Java edition on this (which is different than the Bedrock edition on other consoles), and have his mods and what not.  (mod support in games is limited or non-existant on typical consoles).   Now obviously it's not the only device that can do these things.   But for the subjective part--  if I can play all my old Atari games on an actual Atari console, what's not to like there?

 

It's a niche product- absolutely.  But the openness is key.  If it wasn't open, I'd have no use for it.  

 

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1 hour ago, godslabrat said:

If Atari is going to sell a video game console (which is what they themselves brand it) then it should be compared to the devices made from other video game companies.  I don't think it's unreasonable to want a console to be competitive with other consoles.  If Atari did not want the comparison made, they shouldn't have announced this project.

At the very least, they should have started with a clear vision of exactly who this was being made for.  If they had set out to target a specific (and sustainable) market segment, it would have helped to bracket everyone's expectations and avoid unfavorable comparisons.  Instead, they seem to have tried to be all things to all people, from Netflix-watching moms to mainstream gamers to tinkering hobbyists who can install and tweak Linux.  You're highly unlikely to hit a target that you don't focus on first.

 

As Bill said, I can't think of any need that any of these groups would have that the VCS is ideally suited to fill ... and as someone who has been an Atari owner for over four decades and still has dozens of Atari systems, I get no nostalgic vibes from the VCS at all.

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1 minute ago, jaybird3rd said:

At the very least, they should have started with a clear vision of exactly who this was being made for.  If they had set out to target a specific (and sustainable) market segment, it would have helped to bracket everyone's expectations while avoid unfavorable comparisons.

Don't forget, Atari themselves said in the Register article they didn't know who it was being sold to.  

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4 minutes ago, zzip said:

One thing I've observed about human nature is that when a company creates a truly pointless product, it is met with a collective yawn.  Not much discussion happens because most people feel it's not worth their time talking about.

 

The fact that every thread about this thing has generated dozens of posts every day consistently over the past several years, shows it struck a nerve.  There's a bunch of people annoyed or even angry that it exists at all, and they spent a lot of energy trying to convince people not to buy it and buy something else instead.  This is an interesting phenomenon, and it wouldn't happen if there was truly no interest in such a product.

I think you overestimate how much the activity of this forum reflects the behavior of consumers as a whole.  As a whole, the world is indeed meeting the VCS with a collective yawn, as evidenced by the fact that the crowdfunding sold barely over 10,000 units, the units that were sold are readily available still sealed on the secondhand market, and no further runs seem to be planned.

 

It didn't sell well, the people who actually bought them aren't using them, and there are unlikely to be more.  That is not the mark of a product with healthy consumer interest.

 

  

7 minutes ago, zzip said:

A typical PC doesn't usually work well in a living room set up.   A lot of us are hitting the point in our lives where our eyes aren't as good as they used to be and the tiny screens on iOS/Android devices don't help that.   I can't game on those devices.   I need a larger screen and real controls, not touch screen controls

 

You do realize that PCs can have their resolution, font size, and layout altered by the user, right?  All with considerably less effort than messing with a VCS.  You can add literally any control device you want, from a one-button joystick to a VR handset, and everything in between.  What you're doing is arguing in favor of a PC, not against it.

 

10 minutes ago, zzip said:

Also for many years, the conventional wisdom was that smart phones/tablets killed mobile gaming platforms, and there was no point in creating new mobile consoles.   Then Nintendo came along with the Switch and proved that to not be the case.   People get bored of old tech and want new things.   Christmas/Birthdays happen every year and people get new tech devices they don't necessarily really need but get anyway.

The VCS isn't a new thing.  It's a very old thing, in a new case, with all the useful options plucked out and sold as upgrades.

 

 

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1 hour ago, godslabrat said:

but I don't think they exist in sufficient numbers to build a viable gaming platform.

They don't need to build a new gaming platform since you can run Steam on it and have access to thousands of games.

 

9 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

An Atari Flashback does not compete with the Big 3 in any meaningful sense, but it's very clear to see what it offers, why, and what the value proposition is.  Same with the Retron 77.  Same with a $20 joystick plug-and-play or a $4000 gaming PC.

 

It's not that people expect the VCS to jump in and compete with the Big 3.  It's that people expect it to do SOMETHING besides extract money from their wallets and take up space on a shelf.

The flashback consoles are very limited in what they offer.   The VCS could play all those games,  plus emulate consoles that will never get a Flashback, like Jaguar.  It can run comfortably in your living room via joystick/pad controls.  It's much cheaper than a $4000 gaming PC.  

 

1 hour ago, Zor said:

Sure, but what kind of device ?
I bought the PS3 back in the days, because my then computer wasn't powerful enough for proper gaming.
Now I have a powerful pc and thus have skipped last and new generations of consoles. If really I wasn't satisfied with what I can play on PC, I'd buy a switch for the different gaming experience, or the PS5 for teh exclusives.  The VCS would add nothing.

I've got a PS4, Switch, 2 PCs, a couple of Pi's in the house, and I can still find a use for a VCS.

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1 minute ago, zzip said:

They don't need to build a new gaming platform since you can run Steam on it and have access to thousands of games.

 

You don't need a VCS to run Steam.  Steam's been around a long time.  Nothing new here.

1 minute ago, zzip said:

The flashback consoles are very limited in what they offer.   The VCS could play all those games,  plus emulate consoles that will never get a Flashback, like Jaguar.  It can run comfortably in your living room via joystick/pad controls.  It's much cheaper than a $4000 gaming PC.  

 

Either you're not getting my point, or if you are, you're ignoring it.  Flashbacks are more limited in what they can do, but they have a considerably lower price to compensate.  High-end gaming rigs are far more expensive, but can do more than the VCS can to compensate.

 

In short, the VCS is way too expensive for what it can't do.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, zzip said:

I've got a PS4, Switch, 2 PCs, a couple of Pi's in the house, and I can still find a use for a VCS.

Sure, and you're probably not the only one, I doubt that's even a niche market for any kind of ecosystem to grow though.
Again, for it to be a complete system, you need to add storage via USB and install your own OS. On average, people who think existing mini pcs are not plug and play enough will do that ?

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8 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

You do realize that PCs can have their resolution, font size, and layout altered by the user, right?  All with considerably less effort than messing with a VCS.  You can add literally any control device you want, from a one-button joystick to a VR handset, and everything in between.  What you're doing is arguing in favor of a PC, not against it.

I've never had a PC that doesn't force you to use KB/Mouse at times, even when gaming with a gamepad.  Especially if Windows is the OS.   Gaming towers are large, noisy with all the fans and put out a lot of heat.  The ideal living room gaming PC would be something small and compact with something like SteamOS/big picture mode running at all times.   Yes you could get a small itx system and do this,  but it costs around the same so it comes down to personal preference.

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8 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

In short, the VCS is way too expensive for what it can't do.

 

exactly, it's way too expensive to run retro games. And way too underpowered to play any kind of modern games.

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5 minutes ago, zzip said:

I've never had a PC that doesn't force you to use KB/Mouse at times, even when gaming with a gamepad.  Especially if Windows is the OS.   Gaming towers are large, noisy with all the fans and put out a lot of heat.  The ideal living room gaming PC would be something small and compact with something like SteamOS/big picture mode running at all times.   Yes you could get a small itx system and do this,  but it costs around the same so it comes down to personal preference.

So, are you telling me that the VCS allows you to use a gamepad to do all the "sandbox mode" stuff, like run emulators, Steam, etc.?  Because that runs counter to what I've heard.

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It seems like many of those who like the VCS tout its "openness," which is understandable because its default state is nothing much of interest at this point and will likely never be. Fair enough. But even as a set top box PC, or TV PC, or whatever you want to call it, it requires a whole lot of work versus just getting one of the many such devices that are already out there and ready to plug and play.

 

We already established that you can get a smaller "4K" living room PC for much less that already has Windows pre-installed and larger storage space and other features you'd want in such a thing (here are a wide range of examples: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=4k+mini+pc&ref=nb_sb_noss_2 ). The average person is not going to be able to buy the VCS - or want to buy the VCS - for more money and then have to buy external storage and install their own OS to it. You're probably looking at $400 - $500 for a VCS with external drive and Windows installed when you can get a self-contained no-name micro-PC designed for the same type of TV or desktop use for less than $200 (and/or splurge and get a more powerful model). I really don't see the VCS being able to play many more modern games than any other micro-PC can anyway (and depending upon configuration, vice-versa), so it's not like you'd be missing out on anything and will still have an easier out-of-the-box experience. Like the VCS, if you want it for PC gaming, as long as you don't want to play any modern games, then that's fine. I suppose for modern games you can get onto a streaming service easy enough, but again, that's a feature available on just about anything these days.

 

I don't know. Maybe if there was more value with the VCS or something that tugged at my easy-to-access nostalgia strings I'd be onboard, but there's just none of that. Another factor no doubt is that I personally already have my fill of SBC's, mini-PCs, emulation boxes, FPGAs, set top boxes, consoles, etc., so don't see the need for one that's relatively overpriced that I'd have to put additional work into.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, godslabrat said:

You don't need a VCS to run Steam.  Steam's been around a long time.  Nothing new here.

 

Either you're not getting my point, or if you are, you're ignoring it.  Flashbacks are more limited in what they can do, but they have a considerably lower price to compensate.  High-end gaming rigs are far more expensive, but can do more than the VCS can to compensate.

 

In short, the VCS is way too expensive for what it can't do.

So what you are saying is there's no middle ground between $50 flashback device and $4000 PC?

 

I disagree. 

 

10 minutes ago, Zor said:

Sure, and you're probably not the only one, I doubt that's even a niche market for any kind of ecosystem to grow though.
Again, for it to be a complete system, you need to add storage via USB and install your own OS. On average, people who think existing mini pcs are not plug and play enough will do that ?

Yes it's niche, but we live in a world where people snap up Raspberry Pi's which are even more DIY.  If you want to build a DIY retrobox, there are advantages to having an x86 rather than an ARM-based Pi.   1) Some emulators don't open their source and don't provide pi builds,  2) being x86 means you can tap into the vast libraries of classic games from GoG and Steam.  3) it's probably faster.   It wouldn't surprise me if we start seeing Retro-Pi stye distributions for VCS to get casuals up and running faster.

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