While other companies have been regularly churning out hardware that lets aging gamers enjoy retro titles, Atari has turned the production of its own throwback console into a drawn-out soap opera, with the latest episode featuring a lawsuit from the console’s designer over unpaid work.
According to a report on VentureBeat yesterday, Rob Wyatt, who’s credited as being one of the co-creators of the original Microsoft Xbox, has filed a lawsuit against Atari in a Colorado federal court, through his company Tin Giant, alleging breach of conduct and defamation. The lawsuit claims that Tin Giant agreed to a contract in June of 2018, and while Wyatt fulfilled his obligations, the invoices he submitted to Atari, totaling $261,720, were never paid. Furthermore, Atari claimed that Tin Giant had not, in fact, completed all the requirements of the agreement, which resulted in one of many delays to the console’s launch, which still hasn’t happened.
The suit comes as a follow-up to accusations Wyatt made in an interview last year after quitting as Atari’s lead architect in October of last year, claiming his company hadn’t been paid for six months of work.
The company started teasing its throwback console as far back as late 2017, when it was called the Ataribox and promised the ability to play a large back catalog of retro titles, but also include modern streaming functionality, thanks to an AMD processor and Radeon graphics powering it. It tempted retro gamers with a design that paid homage to the original Atari consoles, including faux wood grain accents, but the first signs of trouble were a price estimated to fall between $250 and $300.
A crowdfunding campaign was planned for the Fall of 2017, with hardware shipping in early 2018, but that never happened. During the Game Developers Conference in 2018 it was revealed that the Ataribox had been renamed the Atari VCS, and that shipping estimates had been adjusted to sometime in 2019—but that didn’t happen either.
An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign did officially launch for the Atari VCS in mid-2018, but backers, who flocked to pre-order the console in droves, haven’t seen any hardware yet, nor a firm date as to when they might get delivery. This lawsuit doesn’t bode well for their chances, however. Even if Wyatt doesn’t win, it’s another hint that all might not be well within Atari—as if the countless delays for the VCS weren’t already concerning enough.