It was a tale of two halves.
In early October, an anonymous tipster sent Ars Technic the specs for a brand new arcade controller for $350,000.
That tipster had come across an arcade cabinet at an amusement park in the state of Texas that had been built in a factory for just $50,000 to build a new version of the Atari 2600 console.
That was a steal.
Ars Technics found a similar cabinet on eBay, priced at $125,000 and a little over six months after the tipster’s original tip.
But the two halves of the story had different stories.
After Ars Technicas story, the seller, whose identity Ars Technican couldn’t verify, told Ars Technique that he had purchased the Atari 5200 controller for just over $500,000 back in 2016, and that he’d used it to build his new arcade.
It turns out that the tip had purchased a $500 Atari 2600 cabinet from a seller named Paul who had previously sold the Atari console to a buyer who was using the controller to build an Atari X. And that buyer used the controller for the next decade.
Ars didn’t have enough time to track down Paul in the months since the tip, but it seems like he’s the one who used the Atari cabinet to build the new arcade, not Paul.
So Ars found a video from an article about the Atari X that purported to show the builder’s progress on the new Atari 5100 controller.
The seller’s build looked like it was an exact copy of the build Paul described in his article.
The video, however, included a missing part: the new joystick, which Paul had used to build two arcade cabinets.
Paul told Ars that he sold the new controller in 2019 and that, even though the tip was the one to build, he did so in order to avoid taxes and insurance premiums.
“I was not aware that I had purchased it, and I have never used the joystick,” Paul said.
The part of the controller that Paul sold Ars Technick, however — the joystick — was actually a “freebie,” Paul explained.
“The part I did not buy was the joystick.
They gave me this thing to build this thing.”
Paul told us that he’s not sure whether he sold this joystick to anyone else, or if he sold it to someone else.
We reached out to Paul to get his side of the arcade cabinet story, and we’ll update if we hear back.
Paul’s build also includes two more controllers that he said were used to create a third Atari arcade.
These controllers are different from the one he sold.
Paul said he used the third Atari controller in order, “to build the second one [which] was the Atari 7800.
[The third Atari] is a very simple controller.”
It also uses the same PCB as the one that he used to make the original Atari 5500 controller, and it also has a different case, according to Paul.
Paul explained that, at first, he didn’t know what to make of the difference.
“When you look at the original controller, it’s pretty simple,” he said.
“It’s a basic controller that you use for the first game.
Then, you start building up to more complex games.
It’s a very basic controller.
So, I didn’t think that it was that much different.”
But Paul did tell us that the controller has been sold for $150,000 or so.
“That was the amount that I was thinking about, but I didn.
I was looking at the controller and thinking, ‘Whoa, this controller is a lot more expensive than I thought,'” he said, referring to the original 5500 arcade controller.
Paul has been able to pay off his debt to Atari for more than two decades, but he says that the new version was a “complete surprise” for him.
“If you look back at my Atari 5400s, the Atari controller that I used to design that controller, I knew it was going to be expensive,” he told Ars.
“And so, to be able to sell a controller for a much lower price than I expected, it was a surprise.”
Paul said that he was able to repay his debt because the seller “didn’t think twice about it.”
Paul says that, when he returned to work at Atari, the new controllers were “not a big deal.”
“The Atari controller is one of my favorites,” he explained.
“[The new controllers] are just a lot better than anything I have, because they’re so much more powerful.”