8bitrocket.com's Project: Save Atari #7: A Modest Proposal: The VGS-8200
Note :This week we are exploring some ideas that we believe could help Atari -Infogrames pull itself out of their current difficulties, while at the time time treating Atari's illustrious past with the reverence befitting befits the world's first video game company. We are calling this effort: 8bitrocket.com's Project: Save Atari
We have been writing articles all week about the properties that Atari-Infogrames (most likely) owns from their old Atari Inc/Atari. Corp. holdings, or could license from 3rd parties, that we believe they could develop into products in the 21st Century. We talked about Atari 2600 games that should have been franchises, coin-op games that could be casual games, later console games that could be remade in the 21st century , and identified a multitude of 8 and 16 bit games for Atari computers that we feel would make amazing remakes or downloadable games. All of this has been fun and interesting, but what does it lead to? Why do we think Atari-Infogrames should do any of this? Do we have any kind of final recommendation that would sum all of this up and give some sort of path to the future? Why of course we do and here it is:
We believe Atari-Infogrames should create a new gaming console. (pause for Spit-Take)
Well, actually, two consoles. (pause for chair falling over)
Now before you click-away in disgust believing we might be totally insane, please hear-us-out. Then you will at least know we are insane. Here is a quick diagram of what we think would be really cool and serve to fulfill all of our Atari dreams:
The basic idea is that you have two new consoles based on solid yet commodity priced CPU processor designed (most likely one designed for wireless with built-in USB support. One "console" would be a wireless handheld (the VGS-8200p) and the other would be a set-top box (the VGS-8200). Each console would have a Linux kernel with a custom GUI built-on top of it. Internally, each console would have support for emulation of the following consoles: Atari 2600/5200/7800/8-bit/ST/Lynx/Jaguar plus MAME for old coin-ops and Flash 10 for web based games. You might also want to add Vectrex, Intellivison, Apple II, TI-994A,Colecovision, C-64, Amiga, Spectrum, Fairchild, Astrocade, Odyssey, TG-16, SMS and/or Genesis support if the licenses could be worked out. Anyway, the idea would be to make as many of the original games for these platforms (either owned by Atari or licensed from 3rd parties) available for download. Custom "new" generation games based on existing franchises (all the remakes we suggested previously) could be built specifically for the native processor that the hardware was based-upon..
Some games could be purchased at retail through SD Cards, but most games would be purchased wirelessly over the internet from a central store. Licensing would be userid based, which means that as long as one particular user is attached to a console, they could play a game. One userid could be attached to multiple consoles, but each console could only have 1 userid. That way, a game could be transferred from the wireless console to the set-top box by a user, and it could still be played. As well, a user could always transfer their game collection to another console. They could also transfer their license to another userid, and give-up their right to play the game. In effect, the games are ALWAYS theirs unless they want to sell it to someone else. Games would vary in cost from $1 (Atari 2600) to $5 (Jaguar) and even $10 (modern games). However, pricing would be kept down because there would be no manufacturing, shipping, or middle-man expenses. tacked-on to the price. All games would be stored on internal memory or saved to SD cards. A special "friend license" would granted to a game on an SD card so it could be played on another user's console. All that would be required would be the owner to authenticate the game on the second person's console. The second user would be able to play game as long the owner had not logged into their own console to play it.
The set-top box console would come with a universal 6-button, gyroscopic controller. Other USB controllers that replicate old console controllers, arcade machines, mice, keyboards, waggle-motes, etc. could also be added through the multitude of on-board USB ports. The online component would include the download store, user profile (with options to add family members beyond the main userid), email, blogs, chat, message boards, high score tables, earnable badges, and an online currency that could be used in a retro-game inspired MMOW. An option for homebrew classic console programmers to sell their wares online could also be added.
After talking at length with someone in the industry that has significant experience in this area, we were surprised to find out that most everything we described above is available right now and could be built into both handheld and set-top-box units for far far less than the cost of any current gaming console (set-top box or hand-held). As well, the online components are mostly commodities too and the cost to build them would be relatively cheap compared to high profile MMOGs especially if you developed the interface and world as Flash applications and used something like Electroserver 4 from Electrotank as your multiplayer/multi-user platform.
OK, did you get all that. Yes, we are nuts. We want Atari-Infogrames to get into the hardware business again and do it the way we always felt Atari should. Sure, this idea is far-fetched, and impossible, but is it really that hard to imagine? In the end, we here at 8bitrocket.com are Atari fans through and through and we just want to see Atari rise again. Even though Atari-Infogrames is not the "original Atari", so what? They are what we have now and they themselves have a long history in the game industry going back to the early 80's. We have shown this week that they are sitting on some intellectual property that we think has massive potential and we have described a reasonable way for them to maximize that potential. There's really nothing more we can add.
Thanks for taking the ride this week on our Project:Save Atari. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed dreaming it.