LEGO's Atari 2600 Set Is An Expensive Blast From The Past

Retro gaming is a wildly popular hobby, attracting audiences to events like the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. As such, there's been a major resurgence of classic gaming consoles and emulators, and it's not uncommon to see people bringing out their old CRT TVs on which to play them. Brands like LEGO aren't leaving money on the table either, and you can often see such brands coming up with new products like the LEGO NES Kit that (sort of) emulates the classic console experience that was part of many consumers' youth. It seems like there's no sign of this trend slowing down or stopping any time soon, and LEGO has come up with yet another tribute to the classics in the form of a new LEGO Atari 2600 set.

If you're unfamiliar with the Atari 2600, that's likely because it predates the era when gaming consoles had controllers — that's right, the 2600 is the OG Atari home console released in 1977 that came packed with a joystick for playing games like "Space Invaders" and "Asteroids". It wasn't quite as popular or successful as the Nintendo Entertainment System, but it was lauded by critics as the "original video game machine," a title (via NYT) that speaks to the gargantuan role the 2600 had in setting up the framework for one of the most popular entertainment industries around. It's little surprise that some of the rarer games developed and released for the original Atari 2600 are still in circulation at astounding prices, including this copy of "Air Raid" that sold for $31,000 in 2010.

The LEGO Atari kit is a cool collector's item, not a video game system

Announced on July 19 in a partnership with LEGO brickmaker Chris McVeigh, the upcoming LEGO Atari 2600 set appears to be a replica of the original Atari console that you'll get to piece together, brick by brick, with your own two hands. That said, though it comes with a controller and three games, it looks like more of a toy that you can play with rather than an actual video game console.

The aforementioned LEGO NES Kit featured a fake TV screen with a built-in mechanism to animate certain games like a replica of "Super Mario Bros," and it seems the LEGO Atari 2600 has a similar function. It looks like, once you complete the LEGO console, you can pop in any of the three included game cartridges — "Centipede," "Adventure," and "Asteroids" — and then you can stick one of the physical 3D game renderings into an enclosure at the top of the console. Once the joystick controller is plugged in, it sounds like you can actually control some of the game pieces included in the physical game.

It probably won't satisfy any gamer looking for the latest emulation hardware, but it could absolutely be called a collector's item that may make any game room a bit more fanciful. The LEGO Atari 2600 set will become available from the LEGO website and in LEGO stores on August 1 at an MSRP of $239.99.