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Here's a major E3 announcement nobody was expecting: Atari is back in the business of making hardware. In fact, they've got some sort of new console in development, though the particulars of this new "Atari Box" are a complete mystery for the time being.
The folks over at GamesBeat had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Atari CEO Fred Chesnais during E3 2017 last week. You might recall that Chesnais bought the company a few years back after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013. He promised he'd turn Atari around and he's done exactly that. By broadening the company's brand licensing and focusing on some new mobile ventures, Atari is once again profitable. According to Chesnais, Atari plans to ride that positive momentum and will indeed be launching a new games console at some point in the future.
Based on what we've seen and what little Chesnais has said, however, we're not expecting this new machine to try and go toe-to-toe with the PlayStation 4 or even the Nintendo Switch, playing the most demanding upcoming AAA titles like Shadow of War or Red Dead Redemption 2. Atari could always surprise us, of course, but we expect the smart move is to launch a device that charts its own path into the gaming landscape.
The rumors of the new Atari console all started a couple of weeks ago when a trailer for the machine hit Youtube. It boasted a few brief glimpses at the hardware and, yep, it's got wood paneling. The video ends with a promise that something is "coming soon" and that you can be kept in the loop by checking out ataribox.com.
For his part, Chesnais did not offer many additional details other than to confirm that a new "Atari Box" is happening and that it is based on PC technology. He also confirmed the new machine has been several years in the making.
If we were the betting sort, we'd guess this is some type of hybrid system that leverages the success of consoles like the NES Classic Mini, as well as more modern mobile efforts. Imagine a console that could plug into a modern TV, offer all sorts of extra niceties and boasts the entire Atari back catalog of games. Maybe they're built right in and maybe you can buy them for a buck each on a digital marketplace. Now pair that with a sort of Android marketplace where Atari sells its own mobile games, now for consoles, as well as smaller games made by outside developers. Think of it as an Atari-based Ouya, if you like.