A key member of the Atari VCS project has quit the team, claiming Atari has not paid him for his work in six months. And by key member, we are talking about Rob Wyatt, the lead architect of the Atari VCS. From the outside looking in, Wyatt's departure is seemingly a big blow to a project that has seen multiple delays.
Wyatt is an industry veteran who also helped design and launch the original Xbox console. He joined the Atari VCS team in June 2018, with Atari at the time promoting his expertise and resume in GPU hardware and 3D graphics.
"While at Microsoft, Wyatt held roles on the development teams on DirectX and the Windows kernel before becoming the system architect of the original Xbox game console. Wyatt later contributed to the graphics systems of the PlayStation 3 before moving on to become the graphics architect at Magic Leap, an augmented reality startup. Along the way, he has also lent his expertise to many AAA video games and high-end movie special effects," Atari stated in a press release announcing its hiring of Wyatt.
Now two years later, he has departed the Atari VCS team, and it remains to be seen what effect it will have on Atari's ability to launch the retro-inspired console. What's perhaps most troubling, however, is Wyatt's claim that six months of invoices have gone unpaid to his design agency, Tin Giant.
"Atari haven't paid invoices going back over six months. As a small company, we have been lucky to survive this long," Wyatt told The Register. "I was hoping to see the project through to the end and that it wouldn't come to this, but I have little choice other than to pursue other opportunities."
The Atari VCS raised million dollars through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, and has also collected money through preorders on its website, Walmart, and GameStop. Earlier this week, Atari showed off a pre-production motherboard with a Ryzen APU installed, and prior to that, it announced a partnership with Antstream Arcade to bring thousands of retro games to the Atari VCS through a subscription model.
According to Atari, the retro console is still on track to release next year, despite the departure of Wyatt.
"It is Atari’s policy not to comment on an isolated matter under dispute, only to say that the Atari VCS project has always been a team effort and its success has never been and will never be dependent on any single individual or partner.," Atari said in a statement to Gamasutra.
"We remain confident in the Atari VCS as the entire team works diligently to bring forth its vision according to plan, and we will continue to communicate accordingly over the coming weeks and months, including hands-on presentations to key media and partners planned for later this fall," Atari added.
A scathing report (hit the link in the Via field below) calls into question if everything is still hunky-dory, though, or ever was. The report covers everything from Atari's financial shape to various design decisions. It also goes over a previous dispute with Feargal Mac Conuladh, who alleged in a 2018 lawsuit (PDF) that he was owed substantial money (the case was settled out of court).
As things currently stand, the Atari VCS is scheduled to ship in March 2020.