In what is certain to be one of the least promising moves in console gaming in 2020, Atari has partnered with a company called Ultra Gaming to offer blockchain-based game streaming to its forthcoming VCS console.
The fabled Atari VCS has long been a bit of fun vaporware that is currently suffering from shipping issues after promising delivery in March 2020. This new partnership – one of many that the company has announced over the past few months – aims to add Ultra’s digital downloads to the console.
Unlike other game delivery services, Ultra is promising digital ownership through cryptographic signing. This means, in theory, you could resell a game you’ve stopped playing and pay for games in Ultra or Atari’s own digital currency. In other words, if you change consoles – or lose your data – your games are lost.
Blockchain companies love partnerships like this one and they love partners who will announce anything for a buck. This partnership goosed the Ultra token price – the price of its private cryptocurrency – from 13 cents ($0.18) to 17 cents ($0.24).
The games, to be clear, look either fake, awful, or both.
This is not to disparage the entire idea of blockchain-based gaming. In theory, the idea could have legs. Imagine, for example, a virtual world in which you can give or sell a virtual cartridge or DVD to someone who can then “insert” it into their own virtual console – which they also “own,” virtually. It’s far-fetched but feasible, but I doubt Atari and this Ultra crew are the folks to pull it off.