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January 2018 Retro Gaming Article


January 27, 2018 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Atari's release strategy for RollerCoaster Tycoon, on Switch, hints at scarcity of Ataribox info

Ataribox
Another bizarre funding effort makes us wonder how Atari managed to finance new unproven hardware - the Ataribox.
I've never played RollerCoaster Tycoon, although I've heard good things about past iterations of it on various consoles. I knew it's an Atari IP and a recent GameSpot article about a possible release on Nintendo's Switch caught my eye. Everyone wants to get their software onto Nintendo's successful foray into combining home and handheld gaming.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Last year Atari came out of nowhere with an announcement of re-entering the video game hardware market with a new game console called the Ataribox. People were excited. I was excited. But the Atari we all loved is long gone, but the idea of a new Atari console was too much for me to ignore... and I got excited about it.

I should have known better. Very little info was released, crowd funding was canceled, and we began to wonder if Atari ever had a solid plan for coming to market with hardware. At best, they are terrible communicators. On top of that, they've had questionable results from several of their recent projects from game-centric wrist watches to gambling efforts.

Atari Uses Equity Crowd Funding For Software Release

Atari Game Partners In order to bring RollerCoaster Tycoon to the Switch, Atari has bypassed the traditional Kickstarter model and gone with Start Engine, an equity crowd funding platform where you don't "back" a project - you invest in it. Sounds like a simple shift in terminology, but your minimum investment is $250 - and that won't even get you a copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon if it ever comes to Switch! This is an investment vehicle offering profit sharing.

I'm a gamer, not an investor. When I look at Atari's Equity Crowd funding page, I have to wonder if Atari expects results from this. Obviously this strategy is for investment purposes, not obtaining a copy of their game, but the loopholes I see from a casual read, make me wonder who would consider this a good idea. I've never heard of a game developer soliciting funding in such a public forum. Usually deals are struck with investors through more private channels - not on a website.

Back To The Ataribox

This equity funding scenario looks pretty risky from what I've read. It makes me think Atari wants to minimize their risks of bring products to market by using other people's money. They claim to be using this investment option to gauge it's value to other IPs they want to bring to market, but it makes me wonder how they have financed the Ataribox!

Hardware is far more costly to develop and Ataribox is an complete unknown. Remember that "Atari" is only a holding company with the brand name. It's not the same company that brought several game consoles to market in the 80s. At least RollerCoaster Tycoon has a history as a known entity, but Ataribox? Who knows?

Want an Ataribox? Wait until Best Buy is selling it.
Atari has produced no evidence that the Ataribox is anything but an idea. No working prototype has been demonstrated. The pictures are all renders of what it could look like. If they are soliciting online investment for RollerCoaster Tycoon, how will they ever finance the massive expense of a brand new game console? I hope Atari can pull it off and successfully bring the Ataribox to gamers - but they need to provide specs and timelines!

Atari has been very frustrating and my advice to anyone who wants to buy an Ataribox... don't invest until you see a working prototype. Then if you're still impressed and want to buy one. Wait until GameStop or Best Buy has it on their shelves.

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