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jaybird3rd

The Case for the Flashback 3 (and for Legacy Engineering)

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This is going to be a long post, so anyone who gets antsy after reading two or three paragraphs should consider themselves duly warned. :)

 

Starting in August 2005, Curt Vendel, who spearheaded Atari's entry into the dedicated games market and was the lead engineer for the Atari Flashback and the Atari Flashback 2, began dropping hints of a new console from Atari, one that would build on the Flashback 2's success and would break new ground in the dedicated games market in the process. I speculated that Curt was working on a product based on the hardware from the Atari 400/800 series of personal computers, and in a series of posts (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I laid out my ideas about what the Flashback 3 should be and why the Atari 400/800 hardware would be the perfect choice for it. As it turns out, Curt himself posted a series of tentative specifications that came very close to (and in many ways exceeded) these early predictions:

  • An Atari 800 computer, packaged in an Atari 5200 case.
  • Function keys/buttons under the silver strip (on the console) for pause, select, keypad, etc.
  • A pair of Flashback 2 joysticks.
  • An SD card slot in the front of the console, acting as D1:
  • Internal footprints for mounting optional connectors (legacy Atari 800 cartridge port, SIO port, PS/2 keyboard, and VGA output).
  • Built-in SIO2PC connector for uploading/downloading software to and from the console.
  • Built-in composite video and audio outputs.
  • A library of packed-in games, installed on an SD card.

I still believe that there is a chance that the Flashback 3 can become a reality, so I'd like to take this opportunity to once again make the case for the Flashback 3 concept that Curt has developed. My goal in doing so is to update and expand upon my earlier posts on the subject, with the hope that it will be seen by someone at Atari and that it might spark some interest in restarting the Flashback 3 project.

 

Okay, on to the specifics. Why should the Flashback 3 be based on the Atari 400/800 computer, of all things? I'd like to propose the following five reasons:

  1. The Atari 800 computer series continues to be recognized today for its historic importance and nostalgic significance. The Atari 800 computer recently ranked 14th in PC World's list of the Top 25 Personal Computers of All Time; its chief rival, the Commodore 64 (which has already been used by Mammoth Games as a successful dedicated game platform), was not even mentioned on this list. It was a computer platform that was sold and supported by Atari for thirteen years, and in that time, it introduced millions of people--including individuals as prominent as Sid Meier--to the world of computers. The prominence that the Atari 800 continues to enjoy will enhance the recognizability and brand awareness of the Flashback 3, just as the ongoing popularity of the Atari 2600 added to the recognizability (and thus the commercial success) of the Flashback 2.
  2. The Atari 800 hardware, originally designed as a next-generation gaming system, is a powerful and cost-effective platform that is capable of delivering a wide variety of game concepts. The library of entertainment software released for the Atari 800 series during its lifetime consists of tens of thousands of quality titles, designed to appeal to a diverse audience of users. It includes definitive home ports of classic arcade games that continue to have significant name recognition today, as well as engrossing home computer titles (such as M.U.L.E., Lode Runner, and Archon) that are among the most popular computer games ever made. Some of the best games in its library (such as Star Raiders) are Atari exclusives, and because the Atari 5200 SuperSystem was built on the same hardware base, the complete library of Atari 5200 games can also be played on the Atari 800 with minimal modification. By choosing the Atari 800 hardware as the basis of the Flashback 3, Atari can leverage this massive built-in software library and can assemble an attractive collection of built-in games for the Flashback 3 that will appeal to every target demographic.
  3. As a home computer, the Atari 800 was designed to be easy to use and expandable, and Atari can exploit this inherent expandability to open up new earnings opportunities for the Flashback 3. The specifications outlined by Curt Vendel include a memory card slot that is seen by the Flashback 3 as an ordinary disk drive, which opens up the possibility of creating additional game cards containing disk-based Atari 800 games. As mentioned above, the Atari 800 library includes a large number of titles that can be affordably licensed and inexpensively distributed on memory cards, thus giving Flashback 3 owners the ability to easily add new games to their consoles. Atari successfully used a similar strategy in 1987, when it used the Atari 800 hardware as the basis of the Atari XE Game System (XEGS) and distributed disk-based Atari 800 games for the XEGS in cartridge format. This is a benefit that will give the Flashback 3 a significant advantage over competitive products from Radica and Jakks Pacific, as none of those products presently allow this level of expandability. It will also give Atari the opportunity to tap the significant library of educational and programming software for the Atari 800, thus opening new markets for the Flashback 3 above and beyond casual game players.
  4. The Atari 800 computer continues to enjoy a large and active community of users, made up of individuals from around the world who continue to break new ground and develop new software for the system. Recent releases such as Beef Drop and Castle Crisis, and the soon-to-be-released Adventure II, are representative of the enthusiasm of these users and of the significant skills they possess. In addition to being a built-in market for the Flashback 3, this community can become a resource for Atari for the development of new software titles.
  5. One of the most well-received aspects of the Flashback 2 was its packed-in joysticks. These joysticks were modern updates to Atari's classic CX-40 joystick, and they were designed to preserve the instant recognizability of the CX-40 while rectifying many of the CX-40's most common points of failure. Atari has already invested in the design of these joysticks, and because the Atari 800 used the exact same joysticks, Atari can leverage this investment (and thus save money) in bundling these same joysticks with the Flashback 3.

Having discussed the "why" and "how" of the Flashback 3, I would like to close by talking briefly about "who"; specifically, who should be charged with the task of building the Flashback 3. This individual will need to have the skill and the experience to guide the project through every stage, from design to production. This individual will need to possess significant knowledge of the original Atari 800 hardware, to ensure maximum compatibility with the existing library of software. This individual will need to bring an attention to detail, to ensure that the Flashback 3 is built with the kind of quality and consistency that Atari's customers deserve. This individual will also need ties to the classic gaming community, to help promote the Flashback 3 and to build awareness among the demographic most likely to enthusiastically embrace it.

 

As you may have guessed, there is only one individual who can meet all of these requirements: Curt Vendel. He and his team at Legacy Engineering brought all of these qualities to the Flashback 2, as well as a genuine passion for Atari and its history. This is a contribution that should not be underestimated, because when a product is built without that kind of passion and that kind of love, it can easily become a disastrous failure. A prime example of this is the line of Atari Keychain Games from "Basic Fun." I was an outspoken critic of this series of products, and in an AtariAge discussion thread that I started about them, I did not hesitate to say exactly what I thought of Basic Fun and Atari for allowing the distribution of what I felt was shoddy merchandise. From the publicity that it got on websites such as Armchair Arcade, and from the public and private feedback that I have received, I know that I am not alone in these opinions.

 

The Flashback 2 was a success because it was built by and for people who love Atari, and who are hungry to see classic Atari hardware and software on the market again in its best possible state. The Atari Keychain games were a failure because they were built by people who didn't seem to care. If Atari wants a product that can succeed as the Flashback 2 did, and if it wants this product to be built with the same kind of care that made the Flashback 2 a success, it will seize the opportunity to undertake the Flashback 3 project as soon as possible, and it will enlist the aid of Legacy Engineering to make the Flashback 3 a reality.

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"That's a big 10-4, little buddy!" :D

 

Let me just say that you've put forth an excellent argument for why we want Curt heading the project. :thumbsup:

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Nice. You could have sold me with that pitch :) But I don't need to be sold on the idea cause I know all those points all ready and think they are great idea's for a "super" system for 2007 ;)

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"An Atari 800 computer, packaged in an Atari 5200 case."

 

I have a question. Will there be a snazzy add-on keyboard offered to match the 5200 case? I'd rather not use a plain ol beige or whatever PC keyboard. It might be a good idea for contracting out a job.

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jaybird3rd, I have to ask you.. have you worked in marketing for a company before? That truly is one of the best marketing pitches I've read in a LONG time.

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[*]The Atari 800 computer series continues to be recognized today for its historic importance and nostalgic significance. The Atari 800 computer recently ranked 14th in PC World's list of the Top 25 Personal Computers of All Time; its chief rival, the Commodore 64 (which has already been used by Mammoth Games as a successful dedicated game platform), was not even mentioned on this list.

 

With all due respect to Atari, Commodore 64 really should have been included somewhere among their Top 25, if not at #1, so many people left comments on there about how stupid it was that PC World had such an oversight in excluding The Guinness Book Of World Records Holder for Most Computers Sold, my big three would be a tie between C-64, Amiga 500 and the 800!

Edited by TrekkiELO

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A Flashback system, using the 800XL would be amazing... I still have one of these computers, but next to nothing in respects to software... if this thing got produced, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

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When and if there's ever a new Flashback, the thing to remember is it's MARKETABILITY.

 

Marketability for the Flashback 2 (and 1) was there because almost every kid had a 2600. Now these same kids as adults is what has driven the sales of FB2.

 

Now there is so much talk on here of the FB3 as a consoled Atari 800 computer. Many fewer kids had an Atari 800 computer than ever had an Atari 2600. The reality is those home computers were bought by a much smaller demographic, which would suggest that an FB3 based on the Atari 800 would have LESS marketability than the FB2 based on the Atari 2600 console system.

 

Honestly, rather than wet dreams of retro hardware hacking, I'd rather see perhaps a FB3 similar to the FB2. The same 2600 retro console with more games AND a set of paddles included in the box with the paddle games accessable without the easter egg feature currently embedded in the FB2. I'd like to see Atari outreach to other publishers like they did to Activision. I'd like to see Parker Brother's Frogger in the FB3. Maybe a couple other Activision games like Megamania and Chopper Command. THAT is what the FB3 should be!

 

www.policelimit.com

Edited by policelimit

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For what it's worth, if the FB3 had a set of new paddles, I'd buy it for those alone. Ditto for any remake of an Atari controller except the CX-40 or the ProLine (I don't need the FB1 controls, and I have two FB2 sticks)

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Flashback 3 should be glossy, black and shiny like the 5200 was (so I can lick it from time to time, of course).

 

A 5200/800XL FB3 and SD cards with newly released hardware is like... (insert own anaology here). :-P

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...with more games AND a set of paddles included in the box with the paddle games accessable without the easter egg feature currently embedded in the FB2.

 

 

what?? did i miss something??

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holy shnikies!! you weren't kidding. it took all of five seconds on google to find out what to do and what you get. i'm going to go try this now.

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Yup. Up one. Down nine. Up seven. Down two. 1972, the date of Atari's humble (or not so humble) beginnings. This unlocks the paddle game menu in FB2. Wish I had a set of paddles in the house.

 

www.policelimit.com

Edited by policelimit

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When and if there's ever a new Flashback, the thing to remember is it's MARKETABILITY.

 

Marketability for the Flashback 2 (and 1) was there because almost every kid had a 2600. Now these same kids as adults is what has driven the sales of FB2.

 

Now there is so much talk on here of the FB3 as a consoled Atari 800 computer. Many fewer kids had an Atari 800 computer than ever had an Atari 2600. The reality is those home computers were bought by a much smaller demographic, which would suggest that an FB3 based on the Atari 800 would have LESS marketability than the FB2 based on the Atari 2600 console system.

 

Honestly, rather than wet dreams of retro hardware hacking, I'd rather see perhaps a FB3 similar to the FB2. The same 2600 retro console with more games AND a set of paddles included in the box with the paddle games accessable without the easter egg feature currently embedded in the FB2. I'd like to see Atari outreach to other publishers like they did to Activision. I'd like to see Parker Brother's Frogger in the FB3. Maybe a couple other Activision games like Megamania and Chopper Command. THAT is what the FB3 should be!

 

www.policelimit.com

 

I originally wanted the FB3 to be a laptop type computer or look like a 5200, but I think you are right. Must people recognize the 2600 (even though they don't know it was called a 2600, they just recognize the shape). When you ask people (outside of AtariAge) what video game system they first had, they will say "an Atari". To most people Atari is the VCS or 2600, but they don't know the systems name they just know it was an Atari. A lot of these people don't even know there was a system after the 2600. That got me thinking, I think the new FB3 should still be based on an 800XL but put in a 2600 vader like unit (see pic). You might think this is odd, but think about it for a minute:

 

1) The average consumer would recognize the 2600 shape (more sales!)

2) Atari would save mass amounts money getting it made (re-use the molds, retail box with new art & box inserts!)

3) We the atari fans would have a FB that we could mod into a full atari computer!

4) It would be way cool to have chrome buttons (OK that is a stretch, but still)

 

I think this might work, but then again maybe I'm thinking alittle too much about it. :cool:

 

post-9874-1168830596_thumb.jpg

Edited by pboland

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I think the new FB3 should still be based on an 800XL but put in a 2600 vader like unit (see pic). You might think this is odd, but think about it for a minute:

 

1) The average consumer would recognize the 2600 shape (more sales!)

2) Atari would save mass amounts money getting it made (re-use the molds, retail box with new art & box inserts!)

3) We the atari fans would have a FB that we could mod into a full atari computer!

 

Hmm, i think that are good points. It would get Atari the FB3 having an even better investments/profits ratio.

 

Btw, Curt wrote the FB3 to be Atari 800 based. I hope it will have 128k and be XL/XE based, once it becomes reality.

There are so much new games who depend on XE comp. RAM. I don't believe some extra RAM would make it

more expensive.

 

Regards,

Beetle

Edited by Beetle

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I really think this topic makes good points for why atari needs to come out with the FB3. So I am writing this reply to keep the topic at the for front of the topics lists and hope that it generates more interest. :)

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I dunno, most people when they buy something (not us, thinking people in a store shopping for kids, gifts, etc.) and they see something that looks like a remake of a model before wouldn't they skip it? I have to say that i would go for maybe a modified FB2 case, a little more than your FBVader (which looks really cool, not dinging it at all). Does anyone remember the Commodore B128? It was like a C128 but with rounded off edges and more of a slicker look, imho. I'll see if I can whip up a picture and upload it.

 

I also wanted to post to keep this thread at the top.

 

Nathan

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Does anyone remember the Commodore B128? It was like a C128 but with rounded off edges and more of a slicker look, imho. I'll see if I can whip up a picture and upload it.

 

There was a C128D, but that was a C128 with a side-mounted disk drive. The B128 was a 128K machine which was unlike the C128 was not a follow-on to the VIC-20 and C64 but was, I think, an extension of the PET line. It featured an IEE-488 bus for the disk drive (yay!) but that was about the only thing good about it.

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There was a C128D, but that was a C128 with a side-mounted disk drive. The B128 was a 128K machine which was unlike the C128 was not a follow-on to the VIC-20 and C64 but was, I think, an extension of the PET line. It featured an IEE-488 bus for the disk drive (yay!) but that was about the only thing good about it.

 

I was meaning the look of it, not the inner workings. I liked its looks.

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"An Atari 800 computer, packaged in an Atari 5200 case."

 

I have a question. Will there be a snazzy add-on keyboard offered to match the 5200 case? I'd rather not use a plain ol beige or whatever PC keyboard. It might be a good idea for contracting out a job.

Then buy a BLACK one. :D

 

I'd rather have PC keyboard compatibility for the sheer simplicity of obtaining a quality unit, even maybe a wireless one.

 

Soohhhooooo... The FB3 needs a USB port!!!!!

 

I also second the XL/XE 128K compatibility. Ram is cheap, but if it is that cost sensitive, maybe the thing could have connection points so one could gank an old simm slot off of an old PC motherboard (That we all have plenty of in our garages/basements) and pop in a 128 or 256 K ram simm, or use a flash card for the memory to keep mfg costs down. eh? eh?

Edited by Zonie

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post-9874-1168830596_thumb.jpg

 

Wow, you did a good job with that picture.

I would also like something like this as well.

 

It could come with a set number of built in games, like 40-50.

And every month Atari could release maybe one or two more for download on to your PC, in which it's transfered to the SD card and the card slides into a slot in the system.

Atari could also make original games to be downloaded onto the SD card, too. Games that look and sound the games from back in the 80's, but new, though.

And maybe have online multiplayer as well.

 

Just my two cents.

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