It’s interesting to sit here on the eve of the birthday of one of the most iconic video game systems of all times, and realize that I have literally grown up with the Atari 2600. I was born in July of 1977, and just a little under two months after I was born, Atari released the 2600 to the world. From the time I was old enough to walk and talk, I remember having an Atari 2600 joystick in my hand. Despite the crash of the video game market, and the rebirth with the Nintendo Entertainment System on July 15th 1983, I continued gaming on the Atari 2600 through the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s. When my sisters and I received the NES for Christmas in 1989, that was not the end of the 2600, and in fact, I continued to play the system along side the NES until the fall of 1992 when I purchased the Turbografx-16. Shortly after, I sold the Atari 2600 systems and games that I had to purchase more Turbografx-16 games. When the Atari Jaguar was released in 1993, I remember wanting the system extremely bad, but the $249.99 list price was a bit too steep for me at that age, so I kept gaming on my TG-16 console for many years to come.
Over the years, I have bought and sold many PC-Engine and TG-16 systems, but my love for Atari had never wavered. Since the first Atari Flashback console was released in 2004, I wanted to love the system, but there were always so many negative reviews of the console, that I never felt the system was ready for my purchase. If I was going to buy an Atari console, I wanted to make sure it was a solid system to play.
Around Christmas of last year, I finally found the system that would once again get me playing Atari 2600 games again. That system was the 2016 Atari Flashback Portable. With 60 built in games, and an SD card slot, I thought, this thing looks amazing, so I made the purchase. I have been playing the system ever since, and have been traveling down memory lane with games like Pac-Man, Dodge-em, Megamania, etc.
This month marks another milestone in the lifelong connection that I have had with the Atari 2600, as I patiently wait for the release of the Atari Flashback 8 Gold console on September 22. I have the game on reserve at Gamestop, which ironically is the first video game console I have purchased at Gamestop since I bought the TurboGrafx-16 from Electronics Boutique in 1992. The Atari Flashback 8 Gold is finally the console that I have been waiting for, and what perfect timing. After all these years, it’s amazing that the Atari brand is still around, and that I am about to purchase the console that I grew up with over those 40 years.
Atari has recently launched two more campaigns that are exciting for Atari fans, and I am sure many fans are at the edge of their seats waiting for more announcements to come. The Ataribox is a brand new modern console that Atari has been teasing, and I am expecting the console to be far more than a retro flashback type system. To the many people that have been comparing it to the NES Mini, I have some news for you. Atari released their Flashback consoles from 2004 to 2011, and since 2011, through licensing with atgames, has been putting out additional retro Flashback units, with their latest console, the Flashback 8, about to release in 12 days.
The second campaign that has been launched within the past few months is the Atari Life campaign, which takes the Atari brand beyond video games, and takes it the route of culture. The most recent product information released has been for the Atari Speakerhats, the sleek designed Atari hat with built in speakers. Fans have been raving about the new hats, and wondering when they will be released. With a recent live launch party in NY City with legendary hip hop station Hot97, the hype is sure to have reached beyond the gaming scene. To make the excitement build even further, the release of the new movie Blade Runner 2049 will move Atari and the Atari Life branding onto the big screen.
As the Atari 2600 turns 40, it is an amazing, as well as, exciting time to be an Atari fan, and for me personally, it is such an interesting time, as I have grown up with the iconic brand. With so many great memories, I can only hope that I can continue to build on those memories for years to come.