According to Redditor L064N, he was shopping at a thrift store in Oceanside, California last week when he came across a very strange Atari console. Some quick Googling told him it was a rare prototype for the Atari 2700, an un-produced wireless follow-up to the 2600. He bought it for $30.
And then he sold it on eBay for $3,000.
Planned for release in 1981, the Atari 2700 was a new iteration of the popular early video game console. Compatible with all Atari 2600 games and accessories, the core difference between the 2700 and its predecessor was a pair of wireless controllers that combined a joystick with a paddle.
The Atari 2700 got as far as marketing planning, as evidenced by the 1981 magazine ad above. It was a sleek unit, with built-in storage for the controllers in the console housing.
We spoke to National Video Game Museum director John Hardie about why the system never made it to market.
“Those controllers were really the main reason the system was never released. They were radio controlled and the range of the controllers was said to be about 1,000 ft. which means you could easily affect your neighbors system with your joysticks,” said Hardie. “Imagine living in an apartment building where that 1,000 foot range could potentially affect 3 or 4 other systems. Since the controllers were only unique to left & right players and not to the system itself, it also meant that a large family that might want to purchase 2 units would have the same issues.”
L064N’s Atari 2700, apparently discovered at the Disabled Army Veterans thrift store in Oceanside, California, was missing the controllers, though it does have ports for standard Atari 2600 controllers. While he could not hook it to a modern television, it did power up when he plugged it in.
Controllers or no, it’s still a very rare console. It’s said that only around a dozen prototypes were created, though John Hardie suspects the number might be higher.
“Personally I think there are more. There have been several that have popped up over the years. In fact, in addition to the 3 that we have, we can probably account for another 5-6 out there. So, given the propensity of companies (especially Atari) to destroy/throw out products that were scrapped, it seems highly unlikely that 8-9 of the original 12 survived. In fact those would be amazing odds. But I suppose anything is possible.”
Like finding an incredibly rare Atari 2700 prototype at a thrift store, for instance.