Atari Starts Another Run of Not-So-Limited VCS Consoles

Atari opened pre-orders for a wood-clad Tribute Edition of its Video Computer System (VCS) this morning.

The company originally released the VCS through crowdfunder Indiegogo a little under a month ago. At the time, it said a wood-paneled Collector’s Edition of the console would only be available in limited quantities. Well, with today’s announcement, it now seems the wood paneling will be more prevalent on the Atari VCS than it was in 1950s living rooms.

The Atari VCS started life as the Ataribox in July 2017. It was little more than a render and a promise to bring new Atari hardware into the world decades after the company stopped making consoles. Then, at GDC 2018 the company told us the console would get a new name, support Atari-designed controllers and ship with several classic games. Atari also said the Atari VCS would support any Linux-compatible games.

Things were quiet until Atari opened Indiegogo pre-orders in May. The company offered a variety of packages – you could buy the Atari-designed controllers by themselves, stick with just the Atari VCS, or buy various bundles of the console and its peripherals. Two versions were made available: the Onyx Edition boasted a black chassis, while the Collector’s Edition featured the same wood paneling as Atari’s previous consoles.

The Collector’s Edition bundle was supposed to be made in limited quantities. That changed when Atari revealed the Tribute Edition this morning. Now it seems the only benefit of pre-ordering the Collector’s Edition was to save a little money – the new Tribute Edition “all-in” bundle costs $379, compared to the Collector’s Edition’s $339 price tag – and to receive an “individually number and certified” version of the wood-paneled console.

True collectors are probably content with saving money and getting a certified product. However, anyone else who bought the Collector’s Edition right after pre-orders started might be a little perturbed to know that Atari’s making the wood-paneled console more broadly available than anticipated. It’s not quite a bait-and-switch, but it’s still frustrating to buy a product under one pretense only to learn something new later on.

Maybe the new Tribute Edition merely indicates disinterest in the Onyx Edition console. Atari raised more than $2 million less than 24 hours after the Atari VCS debuted on Indiegogo. In the weeks since, the campaign has yet to cross the $3 million threshold. Atari only has 10 more days to raise money via this campaign. Drumming up more attention by giving people all the wood paneling they want could just be a cash grab.

No matter the reason, the Tribute Edition console is here and available to pre-order. Atari expects to ship the Atari VCS in July 2019.