Games: Atari is back

Neil McGreevy

AS of this month, Atari is officially back - but not with a bang. No longer just a logo on the T-shirts of nostalgists, the American company opens its first gaming hotel in Vegas next year - but it's their return to the console scene after nearly three decades that's raised the greying eyebrows of Gen-Xers.

Released in 1977, the legendary Atari 2600 launched an industry. With its teak wooden finish, the only console you could clean with Pledge was an enormous success.

But shoddy quality control and a slew of poor cash-ins (close to a million unsold games ended up in a New Mexico landfill) led to the video game crash of 1983, and Atari's once-mighty empire crumbled when Nintendo and Sega entered the console market.

The company conspired to balls up again in the '90s with the portable Lynx while their hardware swansong, 1993's Jaguar, was a monumental flop.

Riding the wave of retro gaming, Atari's latest console, the VCS, is a crowd-funded homage to the glory days of their 2600. With a ridged design riffing on the iconic original, it's certainly a stylish piece of kit, and comes with a copy of VCS Vault, which curates 100 arcade and Atari 2600 games.

So far, so good - but it comes at a frankly ridiculous price. For the privilege of playing 40-year-old games - most of which wouldn't trouble a mid-noughties mobile phone - Atari are asking for $300 (over £200).

And that doesn't stretch to a controller. Though compatible with PC peripherals, an official joystick adds an additional $60 to the hurt.

Aside from the stupidly affluent, it's unclear who the VCS is aimed at - anyone gasping to play early '80s arcade fodder can do so on pretty much anything with a screen these days, while the most ardent retro gamer can pick up the original 2600 on eBay for half that price.

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug and the Atari name still carries a lot of goodwill, but the company's latest attempt to muscle into the console market is all style and no substance.

Gamers old enough to remember the 2600 may be fairly advanced in years, but they'd still have enough command of their faculties to see what an absurdly priced boondoggle this is.

The name Atari means "to hit a target" in Japanese. If the VCS is anything to go by, they've missed spectacularly.

Tourism Ireland has teamed up with Ubisoft, the creator of the popular video game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, in a new campaign to promote Ireland

Tourism Ireland Taps Games

The Giant's Causeway has been underwhelming kids for generations, but Tourism Ireland hopes to attract a new generation of gawkers to the hexagonal hallmark.

In a first, local tourism is working with the gaming industry to attract the digital generation to our shores.

Cooped up for a year with only their control pads for company, you can imagine the world's yoof are champing at the bit to get to north Antrim - and it's one of the locations in a campaign that highlights Ireland's starring role in Wrath of the Druids, the recent expansion to Ubisoft's blockbuster Assassin's Creed series.

The campaign includes gameplay clips combined with real-life footage of its locales, with the blurb, "Dublin, Benbulben, the Giant's Causeway, the Hill of Tara - have a look at these ancient sites brought to life in the game."

A trip to the real-world hot-spots may not boast the athletic butchery of the game, but will at least offer gaming shut-ins enough cardio and fresh air to stave off an early grave.

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