Today Atari announced a new console product, the Atari 2600+.
The $130 system looks like a miniature Atari 2600 4-switch “woody” model from the early 1980s.
It features HDMI output, a cartridge slot, and compatibility with Atari 2600 and 7800 systems. One CX-40 type joysticks are included, along with a 10-in-1 cartridge that includes the following titles: Adventure, Combat, Dodge Em, Haunted House, Maze Craze, Missile Command, RealSports Volleyball, Surround, Video Pinball, Yars’ Revenge.
A second CX-40 controller costs $25. CX-30 paddles can be purchased for $40, which includes a 4-in-1 game cartridge. This brings the total to build a “complete” system as they were originally sold back in the day to $195.
Significantly, I do not see any solution given for playing 7800 games requiring 2-button controls, which is most of the 7800 system’s library. This is a real drawback if, as it appears, there is no modern 7800 controller available or planned.
Inside the console is an Rockchip 3128 SOC (system on a chip), and since it’s a SOC-based system, this means that there will be compatibility problems with certain cartridges; a compatibility list, which does mention that some original titles do not work on it, as is typical of SOC systems, due to minor differences between the original hardware.
As of this writing, the compatibility list only notes 4 games that failed testing, along with another 113 games that they were unable to test. 515 titles passed testing. Weirdly, Atari were unable to test the console with Pitfall II, one of the most popular and easy to find Atari 2600 games.
For gamers who are running original hardware, but would like to hook up to a modern HDTV, and not have to worry about the eventual death of their 40+ year old consoles, this looks like a possible solution, assuming it supports the games you want to play on it. Of course, the original cartridges that you’ll be plugging into the slot are going to be 40+ years old too, unless you’re using a Harmony cart.
At first glimpse, I was excited about this product, but after looking more carefully, I’m going to have to give it the same C rating that I gave to the Retron 77.
- Looks like an Atari 2600
- Real cartridge slot
- Real joystick port
- HDMI output
- Plays most 2600 and 7800 games
- SOC implementation doesn’t support all games
- 4-switch model, not a 6-switch model
- Only 1 CX-40 joystick included; a second controller costs $. (Many Atari 2600 games have 2-player modes or require PvP play.)
- No paddle controller included (CX30+ sold separately $40)
- No 2-button controller option for 7800 games, other than vintage joysticks from the ’80s.
- “Only” a 10-in-1 multi-game cartridge is included.
If you can look past the shortcomings and focus on the positives, I think this can be a good buy that provides decent value. If you have a bunch of old cartridges laying around, but your console isn’t working reliably any more, go for it. But if you already have the means to play your Atari games, I’d recommend holding off for something `better. This system seems about as good as Hyperkin’s Retron 77 console, maybe a little better due to the build quality of the CX-40 joysticks and the inclusion of the 10-in-1 cartridge.
Hey, Atari: Make it better, do it right
If Atari had consulted with me before producing this, I would have given them the following advice to earn an A-rating and recommendation:
- Implement the hardware with FPGA technology for the highest possible fidelity to the original hardware spec.
- Use a 6-switch console shell, with real working switches. (Certain games, such as Space Shuttle, used the console switches as well as the joystick for controls, and the tiny, hidden difficulty switches of the 4-switch models just aren’t as good of a solution.)
- Include 2 CX40 joysticks and 1 CX30 paddles.
- Provide a 2-button joystick option for 7800 support.
- Rather than a 10-in-1 cartridge, bundle the entire multi-volume Flashback Classics collection series, in cartridge format. Also, include a collection of 7800 titles in the box. There’s no reason not to do this. The entire Atari 2600 library was small enough to fit on a 3.5″ Floppy Disk (1.44 MB).
- Sell as a bundle for $200.
If Atari can do all that, they would have a real winner that I would be excited to buy.
As it is, this product as it is isn’t bad, just not as good as it deserves to be, and a bit of a disappointment for someone looking for a premium modern system that can keep the original games running on modern TVs.