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The Historian

Prologue - Games Band us Together

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The following is a personal account of my time as a volunteer working with Gameband and Atari Box, all statements are my personal opinions and to the best of my memory accurate descriptions of events. I have, unfortunately, lost a lot of my notes and screen captures on all this... but I'll do my best. If I find them I'll update where I can. 

 

Gameband… this isn't about that saga but it was my way into the VCS. I still really want that watch. I reached out the Fergal Mac to offer my help with the Game Band watches and started working to build a community around those products. I'd imagine if things had gone differently we would have seen "Fortnite" watches out there too. Not long after I signed an NDA for Gameband, the Atari Box was first mentioned.

 

A modern VCS with a library of classics and remakes of classic games, this could be pretty cool right? Of course I was onboard to help, sure I'll sign another NDA. We're calling it Atari Box... Okay... but let's hope that's not final.

 

Fergal begins to pull in resources for the "Box". Hardware developers and Design teams to start building renders and images… pulling his time and efforts (and possibly money) away from Gameband for Atari Box. This will ultimately kill Gameband, though there were working prototypes. There legitimately was a design issue with the USB port being to large for the original design specs. I think it was a structural support issue where the port would fail after repeated plugging and unplugging and adding additional support would make the watch uncomfortably thick. Regardless, Gameband is not a thing today and I'm out $100. 

Notes: Please ask questions, they will help me remember things and there might be things that I don't think are interesting or important that you might want to hear about... 

Mods: One thread or a post for each "Chapter"?

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4 minutes ago, The Historian said:

Mods: One thread or a post for each "Chapter"?

I'd prefer if this is ultimately one continuing story for you to use a single thread.

 

Thanks,

 

 ..Al

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8 minutes ago, Albert said:

I'd prefer if this is ultimately one continuing story for you to use a single thread.

 

Thanks,

 

 ..Al

Will do.

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It would be cool if you could get permission to add to the first post so we don't have to scroll through comments for your updates.

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I’m glad you can talk about this now. Since the device is finally finished, it would be interesting to know what changed from the original vision up to what was released to consumers. These machines are on shelves at my local Micro Center and I don’t think they’ve sold a single one yet. 
 

I remember Alexa-like “Atari On” voice commands and remakes of things like Yars’ Revenge from the sizzle reel. I don’t think they ever happened. Did you see any of that, or was it just conceptual? 
 

No Tempest 4000, either, even though they showed the PC version as if it were running on VCS. Were there concrete plans for a native port?

 

Also, what do you think was the motivation for such a doomed hardware project? Do you think there was anything to the notion they were fattening up the Atari portfolio for an acquisition?

 

And one last question, do you think there are lessons from this project that could be learned by other attempts to resurrect dormant brands? 

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Thanks for following up with this.

 

Background on the joystick controller would be nice, since it seemed to be the only thing Atari had working before their crowdfunding campaign.

 

Also any thoughts on the ribbed console  design since there's not much out there.

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Indie-No-Go

 

The design goal was to capture the design aesthetics of the old Atari 2600, but to modernize with sleek lines. Initially the case was being developed as individual fins to help with cooling, but that would have been cost prohibitive and they went with the current shell. Honestly I think they did an amazing job, it's a very nice looking case that clearly evokes the old within the new.   As much as people want to say the prototype of the classic controller in the demos was fake, it really did work. Obviously the Box hardware wasn't legit but that controller was. It didn’t have the spin paddle feature, but it was work as a generic Bluetooth controller. 

 

Dec 2017, just prior to opening for pre-orders for the VCS, Atari announced that they needed to address "issues with the hardware", and decided to postpone the pre-orders.

That issue... was the modern controller. 

 

As I understand it, the controller design and manufacturing were being handled by a well known gaming hardware company. They wanted to partner with Atari on the controller, but Atari wanted full rights to the controller design which caused the negotiations to break down in the day before the launch. Behind the scenes the Indiegogo was set for launch and that's what happened. But it shouldn't have, the launch was contingent on a "go ahead" by Feargal, but the marketing firm launched it anyway. At this point I don't know what was happening behind the scenes... but we do know Atari pulled the launch and then put the delay in place citing "hardware issues"… 

 

I do remember seeing a proof of concept for a multiplayer Yars' Revenge. The Qotile was in the center middle with 4 Yars around it.  

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Atari getting full rights to the Power A modern xbox style controller design seems questionable, although seems pretty normal that they would get the specific VCS-branded version, right?

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@The Historian do you know if Namco licensed those out? We have seen Atari go after all kinds of unlicensed stickers and t-shirts that depict their properties. 
 

There’s probably very little appetite at Atari for a new watch product at this time. I remember when they made some cute animated LCD watches for Fossil. They didn’t play games but they had a certain charm for a $40 watch. 

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@Flojomojo Sorry I don't know. I've got a Pac-Man watch face for my Android smart watch and I would love some of those bands. 

 

I appreciate the questions. It help me remember things, like the medium post I mentioned above. Totally forgot I had the video with Nolan. 

Edited by The Historian
more thoughts
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On 8/11/2021 at 1:03 PM, The Historian said:

I do remember seeing a proof of concept for a multiplayer Yars' Revenge. The Qotile was in the center middle with 4 Yars around it.  

This is the kind of stuff that would have made a person like me interested in the Box - new takes on Atari's classic games (and maybe the classics of others - which is one positive point the Amico has going for it). 

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences, interested to hear more.

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It would be nice if a mod could update his initial post with links to each new post from The Historian. Would make this thread easier to follow if starts getting pretty long.

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Who doesn't love a good port? 

 

We've seen some cool ports come out of this community, but that not the Port I'm talking about. At one point there was discussion of a USB device that you could drop a 2600 cart into and it would allow you to play it on your Atari VCS. 

 

The Temple of Atari

 

Family Extension
Building on the language of the Box, the Port provides
an altar to games that have been kept for 40 years.

 

Cartridge Hero
With a successfully read cartridge, an LED bar
illuminates - highlighting the game art during
play even in darker gaming environments.

 

For the Fans.

Players who have kept their 2600 cartridges
for 40 years are the die-hards and deserve
something unusual.

 

Unique game footage laser etched onto the
wood bottom label offers the die hard fans
something to post about.

 

Atari Box and Atari Port

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51 minutes ago, The Historian said:

Who doesn't love a good port? 

 

We've seen some cool ports come out of this community, but that not the Port I'm talking about. At one point there was discussion of a USB device that you could drop a 2600 cart into and it would allow you to play it on your Atari VCS. 

 

The Temple of Atari

 

Family Extension
Building on the language of the Box, the Port provides
an altar to games that have been kept for 40 years.

 

Cartridge Hero
With a successfully read cartridge, an LED bar
illuminates - highlighting the game art during
play even in darker gaming environments.

 

For the Fans.

Players who have kept their 2600 cartridges
for 40 years are the die-hards and deserve
something unusual.

 

Unique game footage laser etched onto the
wood bottom label offers the die hard fans
something to post about.

 

Atari Box and Atari Port

This sounds really cool, but I can imagine it is a peripheral that would be weird to actually make and distribute. Very early 80's in spirit, though. :)

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So that's it? This is the extent of what the NDA kept you from disclosing? :?

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On 9/7/2021 at 9:28 PM, Shawn said:

So that's it? This is the extent of what the NDA kept you from disclosing? :?

Doesn't seem like much at all

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Remember that The Historian was a volunteer rather than a regular employee (much less someone in a senior management or strategic planning role). He would only have been provided with minimal information, the NDA notwithstanding. 

 

I know very much about my small corner of my organization works; the day-to-day operational issues. I know nothing of the larger strategic plans or projects with which I have no involvement. I may occasionally hear some rumours, but I am not routinely informed of issues that do not affect my ability to do my job. 

 

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2 hours ago, jhd said:

 

Remember that The Historian was a volunteer rather than a regular employee (much less someone in a senior management or strategic planning role). He would only have been provided with minimal information, the NDA notwithstanding. 

 

I know very much about my small corner of my organization works; the day-to-day operational issues. I know nothing of the larger strategic plans or projects with which I have no involvement. I may occasionally hear some rumours, but I am not routinely informed of issues that do not affect my ability to do my job. 

 

I also don't recall you ever coming in and bragging about having amazing information or insider knowledge to share either.  Like pretty much everything with this project, we were over-promised and under delivered.  At least those who actually expected to learn anything, that is.

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I have to agree... I think the scoop here was heavily exaggerated. Looking back, I think a few got a little caught up in the Atari hatred and were hoping it was some kind of scam. Seems like what we knew all along--Atari over promised and didn't have the means to deliver. The reality is backers did eventually get a decent product, which is better than most crowd funding campaigns

Edited by bmadgames
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