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Atari’s New Games Console Runs Linux

Say hello to the Ataribox, a new games machine from Atari built around standard PC technology — and running Linux.

Atari says using Linux lets them be ‘more open’

The Ataribox is powered by a ‘customised’ AMD processor and uses Radeon graphics. On the software side the machine runs a ‘customised’ version of Linux that has an “easy-to-use user interface”.

But as you’d expect of any modern gaming machine that wants a place in your living room the Ataribox also lets you watch streaming media, run apps, play music, and more.

Atari: “Linux Lets Us Be More Open”

What’s especially encouraging to me, as a fan of open-source software, is Atari’s reason for choosing Linux: they say it lets them be more open.

“Most TV devices have closed systems and content stores. Linux lets us be more open; you can access & customise the OS, & you can access games you’ve bought from other content platforms (if compatible with the OS and HW),” they say in a press release.

ataribox front view

The design of the Ataribox draws heavily from the Atari 2600. It features a corrugated top and rear hump similar to that machine, as well as a wooden front panel.

‘The Ataribox will run classic Atari games and current titles’

A glass-fronted black and red model is also going to be available for those of you who’d prefer a console that looked a little less 70s, and a little more bad-ass.

Games

Naturally the machine will come pre-loaded with “tons of classic Atari retro games” — but probably not ET.

A slate of “current titles” will also be available, details of which Ataris says it will reveal soon, and the machine will (compatibility allowing) let you install and play games downloaded from other services, like Steam, Flathub, Itch.io, etc.

‘The Ataribox is based on traditional PC technology’

Specs

While there are no firm specs revealed (as of writing) beyond the use of a ‘customised’ AMD CPU and Radeon graphics, we do know that the machine will be sold in a range of ‘memory configurations’.

As the Ataribox is based on traditional PC technology it should be somewhat easy to mod the device to run a regular desktop Linux OS like Ubuntu (assuming Atari don’t roll with that themselves). The machine has 4 USB ports too, allowing you to hook up a mouse, keyboard, and other USB peripherals.

Does it have a chance?

ataribox up close

Atari is owned by Infogames, a French company. They fully acquired the Atari brand and related IP from, and also merged with, Atari Inc in 2008.

Steam machines never truly got going, and despite tangental developments with Linux-based Android machines like the Ouya, there hasn’t been a true Linux games machine pitched at the masses for quite a while.

Can Atari do what other companies have failed to do and bring Linux gaming to the masses?

As a curio for nostalgia geeks the Ataribox will no doubt do well, but in focusing on current gen gaming opportunities as much as a retro revival, this machine has a lot of potential.

Launches on IndieGoGo ‘Soon’

As is traditional for any hardware product with a whiff of nostalgia (that doesn’t come from Nintendo at least) the Ataribox will launch on IndieGoGo in the coming weeks. Their goal is as-yet unspecified.

Why choose crowdfunding? Atari says its because they want the Atari community ‘to be to be part of the story.’

The Ataribox will retail from $249 when it begins shipping in late spring 2018 — but is likely to be cheaper during its crowdfunding phase.

When it’s time to throw money at the screen we’ll let you know, but in the mean time do feel free to share your thoughts, hopes and arcade wishes for the Ataribox in the comments gap below.

Atari SA, via Gaming on Linux