How we made the LEGO® Atari® 2600 so realistic

We know that retro gamers love to relive what they’d call the ‘golden era’ of play. So, as legendary gaming pioneer Atari® celebrates its 50th anniversary, we wanted to create a set that would celebrate one of the original game companies.

Say hello to the LEGO® Atari 2600 set. First released in 1977, the Atari 2600 is one of the most popular game consoles in history with a whopping 30 million units sold worldwide. And to bring beloved memories flooding back, we knew that with this set, accuracy was everything.

Rebuilding a classic

For Chris McVeigh, one of the lead designers of the set, the Atari 2600 was an obvious choice and gave him the chance to relive some of his fondest memories of growing up.

“We could have done the original from 1977,” says Chris, “or the later model without the wood paneling which would’ve been easier for us to create. But I felt like we needed to do the classic, the one that sparked most people’s joyful memories of the console.”

Chris fondly remembers “just sitting at the console for hours, engrossed in all these games”. He goes on to say how it opened an entirely new world for him and many others.

“I played a lot of Asteroids™, Adventure and Centipede™, the games that we’ve intentionally included with this set for the full experience. I can recall their visuals so clearly, it just blew me away at the time.”

The original Easter egg

Chris left his Atari in his hometown in Canada, and so to get things started with recreating the design, he had to go back to the drawing board. It took hours of research just to find enough reference imagery and not miss a detail.

“Along with the nostalgia aspect, it’s a fun challenge to build something out of LEGO bricks that, from a distance, people don’t recognize as a LEGO model,” says Chris. “But then, when they get close, there’s that wow-factor. It’s the same feeling as playing the console for the first time.”

Like many of our sets, the Atari 2600 is filled with little Easter eggs that are certain to delight old fans.

But perhaps the most surprising Easter egg of all is that the term Easter Egg actually originated with Atari.

In 1979, Steven Wright, Head of Software Development for Atari, encouraged developers to include little secrets within games, as a way of motivating gamers to go a little further with their exploration and engagement. This first method of ‘surprise and delight’ was included in the Atari game, Adventure, which is one of the cartridges included in this set.

Could that be a clue to finding a real-life Easter egg in this set? If you want to know the answer to that, you’ll have to build the set for yourself.

Ready player one

We knew we could make the LEGO Atari 2600 look the part, but we had to make it feel right too. That means that moving components had to be included – an important way of bringing the set to life.

Starting with the recoiling switches and mechanisms and building up to the cartridges, their shelving and the joystick itself, everything was carefully considered to give the best feel. It’s these little hand-held moments that spark the experience of play.

“The building experience alone is incredibly fun,” says Chris. “You may learn a few new building techniques or simply marvel at how certain design problems were solved. I’m hoping this gives newer customers an insight into the design of the era.”

And even if you were born too late to experience the original Atari 2600, Chris thinks you’ll still love discovering this set.

“There are so many interesting shapes. The console itself is such an enigma. It’s got this long, deep front, almost corrugated. It’s at an angle, which the designers felt was the most natural way to receive a game cartridge. It’s all these interesting design decisions that people are able to revisit and appreciate.”

Relive old memories or make new ones

So, whether you’re look to recapture the wonder of your own childhood or you want to learn about a console that paved the way for the ones that you love now, there’s something for everyone with the LEGO Atari 2600 set. Happy playing!

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