Atari was once the king of video games, and at one point was close to working with Nintendo to bring its Famicom system to the west. Those days are a long time ago now, and the company exists only in name – a name which has been passed around from owner to owner, its importance diminishing with each sale.
However, the announcement of the $250 Ataribox – a console which promised a return to the good old days of the VCS / 2600 – gave Atari's long-suffering (and presumably very old) fans something to smile about. Then the horror stories started rolling in – the company having little idea about the tech inside the machine being perhaps the most worrying example.
Fast forward to the present, and the Atari VCS (yes, they're calling it the same name as the iconic original) has missed its (second) proposed launched date of June 2019. A revised release date for the crowdfunded console is March 2020. However, even that date has been thrown into doubt by the announcement that Atari's system architect, Rob Wyatt, has walked away from the whole project after payments were missed.
Speaking to The Register, Wyatt – who has been involved with the system via his consultancy, Tin Giant – said:
As of Friday, October 4th, I have officially resigned as the architect of the Atari VCS. Atari haven't paid invoices going back over six months. As a small company, we have been lucky to survive this long. I was hoping to see the project through to the end and that it wouldn't come to this, but I have little choice other than to pursue other opportunities.
Can Atari complete this system without Wyatt's help? That remains to be seen, but Atari – which raised over $3m (£2.4m) via crowdfunding to start work on the console – is hardly in ideal shape to weather such a storm; it has made a loss of €2.5m ($2.75m) in each of the past two years, based on revenue of €20.6m ($22.6m) and €18m ($19.8m) respectively.
The whole situation is turning into something of a crapshoot, and it's painfully obvious now – if it wasn't at the start – that Atari will not be reclaiming its place in the video game hardware industry any time soon. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft clearly have little to worry about.