Today, in the Year of our Lord 2023, you can pre-order an Atari 2600 replica that Atari calls the Atari 2600+. Slightly smaller than Atari’s original 1977 console, and using modern connections like HDMI and USB-C, the Atari 2600+ will accept many original and recently released cartridges. And yes, it sports the same faux wood panels and red-button/joystick combo of the original machine.
The company currently named Atari—which after decades of mergers, buyouts, and shenanigans is a completely different corporate entity from the original—has sort of been in a messy situation in recent years. Its AMD-powered 2021 Atari VCS microconsole failed to achieve anything of note, and the company has been facing ongoing financial struggles. Its 2021 issuing of new 2600 cartridges was neat, though you would, of course, still need to have an actual Atari 2600 lying around in working order. That might be a bit easier now, as starting in November, you’ll be able to plug one of those carts (or some actual vintage ones for the original Atari 2600 or Atari 7800 consoles) into the Atari 2600+ for $130.
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Atari has released a PDF documenting the 2600+’s compatibility with classic cartridges; it looks fairly compatible, though we counted three “fails” and quite a few more games that were “untested.” The new 2600+ will ship with a “10-in-1 game cartridge” containing well-known classics like Adventure and Missile Command, among others. The company is also starting to sell brand-new cartridge games, starting with a a new platformer called Mr. Run and Jump and an “enhanced” edition of the classic maze shooter Berzerk, both of which will run on the classic 2600 console or the upcoming 2600+.
Purists may note that the 2600+ runs on a typical smart TV CPU, so the new device is clearly just using software emulation instead of more sophisticated (and expensive) field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology that could potentially reproduce the 1970s machines to a more exacting degree. Software emulation runs the risk of introducing input lag, but then again, so do HDMI displays, which the 2600+ also requires. If you want more authenticity you’re probably already spending more for a MiSTer.
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So yeah, the Atari 2600 is back once again, plays those ancient carts you’ve got somewhere in the attic, and certainly looks the part. Shame it can’t play “Long” Pong though.