Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Rob Wyatt, perhaps best known as the system architect on Microsoft’s original Xbox, has filed a lawsuit against Atari Gamebox LLC. The suit, filed in a federal court in Colorado, alleges that the company failed to pay Wyatt and his company Tin Giant nearly $262,000 billed for work on the long-delayed Atari VCS micro-console.

The project now known as the Atari VCS was first announced as Ataribox in 2017 and was originally targeted for a spring 2018 launch. But despite a $3 million IndieGogo campaign in 2018, Atari’s hybrid PC/ microconsole has since stumbled through production stoppages and delays over the months. The company recently wrote that supply chain issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic could delay a planned March 2020 rollout to initial backers and pre-orderers.

Wyatt says in his lawsuit that he and Tin Giant have been falsely vilified as “scapegoats” for these development problems to the press. “The fact that Atari’s Console Project was or is being delayed has nothing to do with the quality of Tin Giant’s work, but is the fault of Atari’s own mismanagement of the Console Project,” Wyatt claims in his lawsuit. “The architecture used by Atari in the Console Project is exactly what the plaintiffs designed under the agreement.”

The long and winding road

Wyatt was on hand when Ars glimpsed VCS hardware models and interface mockups during an E3 2019 demo, which went a long way in convincing us that the project might not end up as total vaporware. During that demo, Wyatt was enthusiastic about the Linux-based project, telling Ars that Atari planned to “make a box where you can develop an app for the living room… We want to be the Raspberry Pi of the living room.”

By October, however, Wyatt had left the company in bitterness. In an interview with The Register at the time, he claimed those same unpaid bills forced him to “pursue other opportunities” such as Kickstarter. Wyatt also claimed at the time that the poorly managed Atari VCS project might never see the light of day.

“The Atari Group had little to no experience developing advanced hardware for decades,” Wyatt wrote in his lawsuit. “For example, the Atari Group hadn’t developed or marketed a game console for over 20 years.”

The company currently known as Atari has little relationship with the company responsible for the range of game consoles and computers from the 1970s to the 1990s. Its current incarnation’s messy business line can be traced back to French game publisher Infogrames, which acquired the rights to the name through a series of acquisitions in the late 1990s.

Wyatt’s complaint matches that of Feargal Mac Conuladh, who was the first General Manager of the “Atari Gamebox” project. In 2018, Mac Conuladh left Atari and sued the company for breach of contract over unpaid crowdfunding bonuses. The case was later settled out of court.

Atari representatives were not immediately available to comment on Wyatt’s suit. But the company has been posting photos of prototype boards and photos of factory production in recent months in an effort to prove that production is finally going ahead.

But there are still questions about what kind of content will be available for the Atari VCS if and when it finally ships to early adopters. In September, Atari announced an exclusive partnership with retro-focused streaming company AntStream to bring hundreds of classic games to the platform via the cloud. And in December, the company said developers would receive 80 to 88 percent royalties on all software sold in Atari VCS’ digital storefront, depending on exclusivity.

In November, Atari COO Michael Arzt promised that the hardware would fully support the Unity Engine, saying that “several studios are queuing up for the VCS launch window.” But he also said that the first OS and software for IndieGogo backers would be in “early access” on day one and still “need early feedback from a highly engaged and invested community of passionate users ahead of our official launch.” “

At this point, we’ll be somewhat impressed if and when the new Atari VCS even reaches that day.

By akfire1

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