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The Atari VCS Controversies Thread

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1 hour ago, MrBeefy said:

True. I was just really thinking of old IPs altogether.

 

I like old games but not many of them have translated well into modern gaming. A game like Adventure could be like a Zelda or JRPG, but with it being neglected it wouldn't be recognizable as Adventure. Might as well start a fresh IP.

That's the problem with a lot of Atari's old IPs, though. Because of the technology, they were just generic games built around a concept, or simple arcade games. You were literally a square wandering a basic map in Adventure. Any modern action RPG could be considered a follow-up to Adventure. Are people interested in a modern Food Fight?

 

Something like Yars' Revenge is a better bet, and the comic even fleshed out a back story. Major Havoc? Bentley Bear was an identifiable character, but again...they just withered on the vine. Beating the dead horse, that's what separates Nintendo from Atari. Nintendo has carefully nourished and developed their properties so that people look forward to new entries. Atari may still technically own a library of IPs, but it's simply not comparable when a good deal of them are things like "Football" or "Casino" or "Haunted House." Atari has been trying to reimagine a lot of these since the Hasbro days and the greater buying public just doesn't care. Night Driver? Centipede: Infestation? Haunted House: Cryptic Graves? Asteroid Outpost? Even with something as popular here as T4K I'd be interested in seeing the actual, cross-platform sales figures.

 

Their best path forward at this point is to stress the indie gaming aspect of the console. I just think even that's an uphill battle when there are thriving indie markets already in the likes of Steam and Switch's eShop.

Edited by racerx
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Making games takes money.  You either  pay someone to develop a game in-house, or you buy someone else's game and slap your name on it.  Either way, it doesn't appear out of nowhere, you pay for it.  L'Atari made it clear they wanted to spend an absolute minimal amount of money to release the VCS.  Their own reports indicated their lack of desire to spend, which is why they made so many decisions that are otherwise puzzling.  
 

Nearly everything the company did makes complete sense when you realize their top priority was avoiding anything resembling a financial risk-- even if that meant doing the unthinkable and releasing a game console that had no games.

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1 hour ago, jamm said:

If that’s the easy path, I’d hate to see what the hard one entails.

I would imagine the hard path would be a huge marketing drive, substantial R&D costs and agreements with chip manufacturers, multiple platform exclusive games, hundreds of thousands of units at launch, and a big campaign to show everyone Atari was back. Like a Super Bowl ad, media tie-ins, etc. In this way, considering that could cost hundreds of millions, a small understated kind of campaign worked fine here (honestly it was their only path). But for me, the lack of ANY platform exclusive games that were designed with the console in mind, and a measly collection of IP games (not a single Lynx or Jaguar title, really? And not even the Yar's Revenge reboot from 2011?) is kind of laughable. 

 

Atari will probably never have the funds to do a well-funded launch for hardware again, but they could have amplified the capabilities to spur interest among more of the gaming community, or the niche market they seemed to aim for among Gen-Xers looking for a capable streaming platform that plays games, both classic and new. 

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I wonder how many potential indie devs they missed put on by having a bogus email?

 

If they had a bunch of indie games ready to go in their store/OS, I think (will still being a stretch) would be easier to see some value in it. The fact I have to install my own OS and Steam really makes it pointless to me as a console.

 

I may have given devs a bigger cut of the sales in hope of marketing it as the indie console, and push more hardware sales. Without hardware sales they won't have much return on the software sale anyways.

 

Yes Xbox and PS are basically PCs. But they don't require me to do additional installations of OS's and other storefronts to play games.

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I HATE the "this console is really a computer!" argument, like that somehow invalidates it or it's some form of cheating. It's purely semantics. Many consoles, including from Atari, have been consoles running so-called "computer" hardware, and many consoles could be turned into full computers. So what? It's not the hardware that makes a console worthwhile, it's the easy accessibility and game selection. And certainly the "console" designation has become abstracted to a degree anyway since we have so many set top boxes that also function exactly like consoles, although that's typically not their primary functions. 

 

Call the VCS what you will, but dinging it for being more computer than console is not really a path I'd personally go down. I'd challenge it more on how well it can function like a console or computer, or even a typical set top box for that matter. From the early reviews, it seems like it has a long way to go serving any of those functions. At this point it feels more like a variation of a single board computer concept (Pi, Odroid, etc.) than something meant as a mass market product.

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2 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

I HATE the "this console is really a computer!" argument, like that somehow invalidates it or it's some form of cheating. It's purely semantics. Many consoles, including from Atari, have been consoles running so-called "computer" hardware, and many consoles could be turned into full computers. So what? It's not the hardware that makes a console worthwhile, it's the easy accessibility and game selection. And certainly the "console" designation has become abstracted to a degree anyway since we have so many set top boxes that also function exactly like consoles, although that's typically not their primary functions. 

 

Call the VCS what you will, but dinging it for being more computer than console is not really a path I'd personally go down. I'd challenge it more on how well it can function like a console or computer, or even a typical set top box for that matter. From the early reviews, it seems like it has a long way to go serving any of those functions. At this point it feels more like a variation of a single board computer concept (Pi, Odroid, etc.) than something meant as a mass market product.

The sole reason I'd even bring up the "computer" aspect of it is to contrast it with l'Atari's own messaging.  The Box was sold as being able to play and stream "like never before", but what they've delivered is *exactly* what has come before.  You call this thing a "computer" and it cements the idea that it's not meaningfully different than the PC you likely already have.

 

I agree, today's consoles are (to varying degrees) computer variants... but all the systems I can think of bring to the table an experience that you couldn't easily replicate with a consumer PC.  L'Atari, on the other hand, has not only delivered something like you'd order from Newegg, but you'd need to add additional purchases to even achieve that level of functionality.

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7 hours ago, godslabrat said:

The Box was sold as being able to play and stream "like never before"

To be fair, never before have you been able to play and steam on Atari branded hardware. But that's the armchair lawyer using weasel words in me talking. 

 

Edited by The Historian
Accidentally a word
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7 hours ago, Bill Loguidice said:

Call the VCS what you will, but dinging it for being more computer than console is not really a path I'd personally go down. I'd challenge it more on how well it can function like a console or computer, or even a typical set top box for that matter. From the early reviews, it seems like it has a long way to go serving any of those functions. At this point it feels more like a variation of a single board computer concept (Pi, Odroid, etc.) than something meant as a mass market product.

That's my problem as a console it seems to have no real software or functioning storefront. As a PC it is subpar. 

 

I don't have to install Steam on my Switch, nor Xbox to buy and play games.

 

VCS is basically saying it's a console and touting sandbox/roll your own. It's a mixed and confusing message. Pick a lane. Unfortunately, it seems to be lacking on both sides.

 

Instead of saying "like never before" I would say, "game and stream in style". Its a slick looking box at least.

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1 hour ago, The Historian said:

To be fair, never before have you been able to play and steam on Atari branded hardware. But that's the armchair lawyer using weasel words in me talking. 

 

I see what you there. Most excellent. :)

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19 hours ago, Atarick said:

The product being premium but effective made them a lasting winner.

I don't have much (if any) marketing experience. But having a premium product at the beginning is key. I recall the Apple II+ was built like a tank, and as young kids we would stand on it without damaging it. Premium materials throughout. Maybe not the fastest or most graphically adept computer of its time. But it had excellent support, a great fanbase, quality construction, useful applications, and other intangible points. Those not aware of such qualities and how they affect a product's introduction and lifespan simply write it off as snobbish fanboi material.

 

All important things for any electric car company. Or console maker.

 

19 hours ago, Atarick said:

My main point was that Atari has neither the buzz nor the momentum to make this like that.

Neither did the real Atari of the 1970's. They helped create the market as they went along.

 

19 hours ago, Albert said:

That's reasonable, and I agree that early on Tesla had more of a cult following (basically "early adopters"), but I feel they have moved well beyond that now.  And I agree that Atari has a tough road ahead of them to be successful with the Atari VCS. ..Al

Today there's no market to create. It's already here for the last 40 years. So new atari is left with having to create a quality product with quality games and apps. I don't see any other inroads to take..?

 

18 hours ago, MrSeven said:

Does it have to be that much of a tough road? A few well made exclusive games to get things going. Perhaps a Swordquest game remade in 3D world like a Tomb Raider type game. Adventure as an open world game. Haunted House as a survival horror type game. The hardware doesn't have to be cutting edge. Breath of the Wild was a wonderful game on less for example.

 

[..]

 

I think the VCS was part of the longer plan though. Licensing the Atari name on merchandise and Flashbacks can only go so far for so long. But who knows? I didn't think there would 10 or more Flashbacks.

Their product and software must be born from love and dedication and all those other gushy descriptors, not of a need to "fit the market". "Fitting" is too ho-hum. IMHO.

 

17 hours ago, x=usr(1536) said:

Here's the thing: none of the older titles or consoles you've mentioned have any cachet with modern gamers - and requiring a $400 hardware buy-in to play a modern version of Adventure (a title that likely means very little to gamers under the age of 40) or similar isn't reasonable.  It's just too tough of a sell.

It's always a sliding window. And having multiple windows that look upon old gamers and new gamers and gamers in-between is a lot to ask for. Only a few platforms accomplish that.

 

To make matters more dimensional. Titles and game descriptions will mean different things to different age groups.

 

17 hours ago, x=usr(1536) said:

Steam would be a better route for things like this.  It would give wide distribution without the economic barrier to entry.

Steam aims to distro to a huge audience. Cultists (enthusiastic enthusiasts) will always find the best games and applications for a given platform. Question is are they critical mass to tip the platform into wide acceptance by non-enthusiasts?

 

17 hours ago, x=usr(1536) said:

Repeatedly repackaging nostalgia is a losing game - your target demographic is constantly dying off, and even then there's only so many times that they'll pay for the same thing in a different wrapper.  If you're not capable of moving with the age shift, you're basically locked into a no-win situation - and with the death of the Jaguar in 1996, the runway of exploitable properties is getting shorter and shorter for Fauxtari.

Despite being an avid retrogamer. Repackagings and countless iterations of Pac-Man, Galaxian, Missile Command, Centipede, Asteroids.. All of it. Especially the safe staple stuff. All of it is beyond numbing to the point were I don't even give more'n'a passing glance at new products. I mean they have to be really standout in some manner and I'm just not seeing that.

 

This not giving a hoot mentality has more repercussions than just lost sales from me. It means I'm introducing less of this overdrawn material to newcomers. I feel (rightly or wrongly) that what's available now, like MAME, is more than sufficient to cover the classics at home.

 

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13 hours ago, Bill Loguidice said:

I HATE the "this console is really a computer!" argument, like that somehow invalidates it or it's some form of cheating. It's purely semantics. Many consoles, including from Atari, have been consoles running so-called "computer" hardware, and many consoles could be turned into full computers. So what? It's not the hardware that makes a console worthwhile, it's the easy accessibility and game selection. And certainly the "console" designation has become abstracted to a degree anyway since we have so many set top boxes that also function exactly like consoles, although that's typically not their primary functions. 

 

Call the VCS what you will, but dinging it for being more computer than console is not really a path I'd personally go down. I'd challenge it more on how well it can function like a console or computer, or even a typical set top box for that matter. From the early reviews, it seems like it has a long way to go serving any of those functions. At this point it feels more like a variation of a single board computer concept (Pi, Odroid, etc.) than something meant as a mass market product.

 

I think there's more to it. 

 

Of course all consoles are computers, but "it's only a PC" means there's nothing to differentiate this piece of hardware from the ubiquitous hardware that so many people already have at home and/or work.  The effect of that is that it narrows the reasons to buy said console. Since there is nothing unique about the hardware, it means it's solely up to the software to make the console a worthwhile platform.

 

The only way to make the software really compelling is to provide experiences I can't get elsewhere.  But if the hardware is "just a PC", what do I do in software that I can't deliver to a much wider audience on regular PC's?

 

While I think it's theoretically possible to deliver a compelling console experience using nothing more than commodity PC hardware, I think it's telling that (almost) no one has succeed with that formula. (The most successful and closest to "just a PC" was the original Xbox. Microsoft's deep pockets let it get some really good software like "Halo". This was before Steam came along to give PC's a greatly simplified and more console-like game deployment experience, of course.)

 

If you don't differentiate in hardware, then you've reduced (more likely eliminated) your ability to differentiate at all.

 

"...like that somehow invalidates it or it's some form of cheating."

I don't think of it as cheating, but I think it's lazy... it shows that the creator either isn't serious about creating a sustainable platform, or they don't understand why consoles exist. The end result is the same either way.  (Again, this assuming they don't deliver something unique in software, but I've yet to see anyone ever accomplish that without some differentiation in hardware.)

 

Consoles continue to exist because they deliver a different experience from what most of us already have ready access to.  If you're just selling a PC without a keyboard, you're going to have a really difficult time delivering anything unique.

 

 

 

 

Edited by jamm
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On 12/18/2020 at 5:04 PM, Shaggy the Atarian said:

Again, oversimplifying it...Nintendo had aggressively locked developers and even hardware (MCs and the like) through licensing deals, but they were also the ones you wanted to go to for everything since they owned the market with the NES. Even Sega faltered until the Genesis was out long enough to make an impact.

Let's take it back a step further.

 

1984-  Atari is the king of video games.  consoles & arcades.  Their main competition Mattel & Coleco were leaving the market.  They have the option to license the NES and sell it as an Atari system because Nintendo was actually afraid of them.

 

This is the company Jack bought.   Yes the crash had wreaked havoc on the company,  yes it was a popular idea that consoles were dead, and computers were the future.

 

But the company was still in a good position to give Nintendo a hard time and maybe even keep them out of the console biz in the west.  But Jack decided not to buy the arcade division (where many of the Atari IPs came from),  and spent most of their effort on the ST and gaming took a back  seat.   This allowed Nintendo to come in and create those aggressive policies everyone hated.

 

Jack was always a computer salesman, and I don't things could have turned out differently under his tenure.  But had a different buyer acquired it or Warner never sold it, things would have been much different.  Perhaps future Atari consoles would be a success, maybe Atari would be one of the big-3 today.

 

On 12/18/2020 at 5:04 PM, Shaggy the Atarian said:

For any gaming product to be really successful, it has to have a lot of positives going for it: price, features, & games. Mess up anyone of those and you're screwed.  But you guys are stuck on thinking that brand name is all you need, because it works for you. 

And you need a strong marketing organization that has sufficient money to spend.

 

On 12/18/2020 at 5:04 PM, Shaggy the Atarian said:

Funny you call Atari the oldies act, since the Tramiels called the company the equivalent of an old rock band from the 70s when they were touting the Jaguar. I guess we can just use that analogy forever, despite the fact that you still have a bunch of other "oldie acts" around who have been around for as long as Atari has or longer, and still have found a way to stay relevant, being much more of a household name now than Atari ever was - Nintendo, Sega, Capcom, Konami come to mind.

There are old artists still putting out new music today, and some of it is even good!   And others who haven't put out anything new in years and just tour based on their name and play the same old stuff,  Atari is the latter.   Maybe for the Jaguar they were trying to be the former.

 

On 12/18/2020 at 5:04 PM, Shaggy the Atarian said:

The difference is that they competent at how they handle their history, they all have developers on-staff (some of which have been around for decades, like Shigeru Miyamoto) and if you really think that the only way for Atari to move forward is by being stuck in the past, then why don't they just re-release the Atari Mega Vault from here on out? Why even bother with a game console or anything else?

That ship has sailed.   When Infrogrames first became Atari, they did have some newer, popular IPs that were now on the Atari label-  Rollercoaster Tycoon, Neverwinter Nights.   For awhile it did look like the second coming of the Atari brand name, but something went wrong and now they are just a shadow of that.   I would love to see an Atari comeback too.   But they just don't have the resources to make it happen.   They've figured out their name is their most valuable asset and they are trading on that and licensing it.    You can't keep releasing Mega Vault without diminishing returns.

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11 minutes ago, zzip said:

Let's take it back a step further.

 

1984-  Atari is the king of video games.  consoles & arcades.  Their main competition Mattel & Coleco were leaving the market.  They have the option to license the NES and sell it as an Atari system because Nintendo was actually afraid of them.

Atari was losing titanic amounts of money by 1984, which is why Warner was desperate to get out from under it.

 

Nintendo was only looking to partner with Atari for the brand recognition and Atari's distribution channels in the North American market. Atari considered it because at that point they had little left in the tank...the deal was set up to be ridiculously in Nintendo's favor.

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On an unrelated note, does the AA forum software not have any kind of flood control?

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28 minutes ago, racerx said:

On an unrelated note, does the AA forum software not have any kind of flood control?

And why would you ask that?

 

 ..Al

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1 hour ago, racerx said:

Atari was losing titanic amounts of money by 1984, which is why Warner was desperate to get out from under it.

 

Nintendo was only looking to partner with Atari for the brand recognition and Atari's distribution channels in the North American market. Atari considered it because at that point they had little left in the tank...the deal was set up to be ridiculously in Nintendo's favor.

I acknowledged that the crash wreaked havoc on Atari in my post, but my point was that the assumption at the time that consoles were dead and computers were the way forward turned out to be wrong.  Way wrong.

 

Atari could have pushed to negotiate terms of the contract, but they were also deciding between signing onto the NES or going forward with the 7800 as the way forward.  Also there was the Donkey Kong issue..    Atari had computer rights,  Coleco had console rights,  Coleco was showing DK on Adam which pissed Atari off, and supposedly that caused them to walk away from the Nintendo contract.

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8 hours ago, jamm said:

 

I think there's more to it. 

 

Of course all consoles are computers, but "it's only a PC" means there's nothing to differentiate this piece of hardware from the ubiquitous hardware that so many people already have at home and/or work.  The effect of that is that it narrows the reasons to buy said console. Since there is nothing unique about the hardware, it means it's solely up to the software to make the console a worthwhile platform.

 

The only way to make the software really compelling is to provide experiences I can't get elsewhere.  But if the hardware is "just a PC", what do I do in software that I can't deliver to a much wider audience on regular PC's?

 

While I think it's theoretically possible to deliver a compelling console experience using nothing more than commodity PC hardware, I think it's telling that (almost) no one has succeed with that formula. (The most successful and closest to "just a PC" was the original Xbox. Microsoft's deep pockets let it get some really good software like "Halo". This was before Steam came along to give PC's a greatly simplified and more console-like game deployment experience, of course.)

 

If you don't differentiate in hardware, then you've reduced (more likely eliminated) your ability to differentiate at all.

 

"...like that somehow invalidates it or it's some form of cheating."

I don't think of it as cheating, but I think it's lazy... it shows that the creator either isn't serious about creating a sustainable platform, or they don't understand why consoles exist. The end result is the same either way.  (Again, this assuming they don't deliver something unique in software, but I've yet to see anyone ever accomplish that without some differentiation in hardware.)

 

Consoles continue to exist because they deliver a different experience from what most of us already have ready access to.  If you're just selling a PC without a keyboard, you're going to have a really difficult time delivering anything unique.

 

While something like an Xbox or PlayStation might be PC-like, they can still offer enhanced or optimized experiences over similar PC hardware simply because they're standardized. And frankly with the use of standardized game engines today, games are incredibly similar whether you play them on mobile, console, PC, or anything in-between. There's typically minimal variation beyond resolution and frame rate. What you're really paying for is the experience you want in the form factor you want. As good as the PC experience has become, it's still highly unlikely many of us will bother to hook up a beefy gaming PC to our 80 inch living room TVs. That's why consoles are still the way to go for the best living room experience. Everything on a console is optimized for that, while a PC is not, despite being much better at it than it used to be. And in terms of trade-offs, having a lesser experience on a Switch is OK since you're getting the benefit of being able to play on the go. That's why there's such a disconnect with the VCS - you're getting a lesser experience over an Xbox or PlayStation, as well as a PC, so what's the point? There's nothing of interest there for most people.

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59 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

And frankly with the use of standardized game engines today, games are incredibly similar whether you play them on mobile, console, PC, or anything in-between. There's typically minimal variation beyond resolution and frame rate. 

Speaking from experience I'd argue that one of the chief benefits of console gaming is that software for consoles is purpose-built. As a developer you've got the exact same machine as your customer, so your ability to tweak it to your target hardware is much more refined. There's none of the problem you see on PC with performance being suboptimal because you don't have the GPU or clock speed or cores the developer has. This can even be true if you're doing multiple console platforms with a standard engine, but the best titles don't go that route. That's why platform exclusives shine. 
 

Although I agree "it's really just a computer" doesn't mean much these days. There are fridges that run Linux. 

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10 minutes ago, JeffVav said:

Speaking from experience I'd argue that one of the chief benefits of console gaming is that software for consoles is purpose-built. As a developer you've got the exact same machine as your customer, so your ability to tweak it to your target hardware is much more refined. There's none of the problem you see on PC with performance being suboptimal because you don't have the GPU or clock speed or cores the developer has. 

Too bad modern developers still can't release any game for any system without day 0 patches and bugs galore.  That used to be inexcusable.

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21 minutes ago, Stephen said:

Too bad modern developers still can't release any game for any system without day 0 patches and bugs galore.  That used to be inexcusable.

I'll let you in on a secret: that's generally not the developers' choice. That's most likely the publishers. Essentially the publishers insist the game get out the door to meet a marketing deadline, a shareholder report, an ROI window, etc. whether or not it's ready. Almost invariably, if the phrase "we can fix it in a patch" is offered in a meeting, it's coming from publishing/marketing.
 

As to the developer meeting its initial time estimates, it's usually based on a schedule that was intended to start months before the date it actually finally got the green light, but by the time it got through the green light process the publisher locked in the original end date. And/or the developer might be pressured into accepting an earlier end date based on the pressure dates I mentioned above. And then there's the feature creep along the way, which is somehow not expected to take any time. I'm not saying it's all on the publisher, but it's definitely not the developers' preference. 
 

Ultimately, Day 1 patches happen because the approval process for patches is much shorter than the process for the initial product, so that gives the developer some extra time, especially if physical disks were involved since there's manufacturing lead time on disks but not digital patches. 
 

That said, I'm happy that most of our products tend not to have Day 1 patches. (Though one upcoming one does merely because we didn't use the console's official term in one location in the UI.)

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The rest of the software industry seems to have figured out that working sixteen hours a day for weeks on end isn't terribly conducive towards turning out good code.

 

It's just games publishers that are still living in 1982.

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