The Atari Jaguar was a fifth-generation video game console developed by Atari Corporation and released in 1993 in North America under a $500 million manufacturing deal with IBM (International Business Machines). It competed with the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis consoles. It became Atari's last major console to hit the market until the release of their 2021 Atari VCS console as Atari SA.
It used two custom 32-bit processors - Tom and Jerry - (whose names come from the TV show of the same name), though despite that, it was marketed as the first "64-bit" console, emphasizing its 64-bit internal bus.
A CD add-on for the Jaguar, the Jaguar CD, was released in late 1995, however it still didn't perform well and became one of the biggest video game hardware failures of all time.
Why It Flopped
- False advertising: The Jaguar is actually a 32-bit console that used two processors working together to make it "64-bit". By that logic, a modern 64-bit quad-core CPU is "256-bit".
- That being said, however, the Jaguar did actually have a 64-bit internal bus.
- Due to the complicated architecture, very few third-party developers supported the Jaguar. Only 50 licensed games were commercially released in the Jaguar's lifespan.
- Developers struggled to take advantage of the Jaguar's hardware and instead used the Motorola 68000 chip included as a stand-in CPU. As a result, many Jaguar games weren't much different from a typical 16-bit game.
- This is because the 68000 chip was also the CPU for the Sega Genesis, Commodore Amiga, and Atari ST.
- The packed-in game Cybermorph wasn't particularly impressive.
- Atari's financial problems and declining reputation also kept most third-party developers away from making games for the system.
- There weren't many good and exclusive games that would make gamers want to buy the console. There are even really bad ones like Club Drive.
- The controller was bulky, not very ergonomic and had the very uncomfortable "phone pad" button scheme used in older controllers in addition to the A/B/C buttons. It was also recycled from the Power Pad controller, used on Atari's STE series and Falcon computers.
- Some games included overlays that could be attached to the controller to indicate how to use the "phone" buttons, but it only made games more complicated.
- The system did not have a dust cover to protect the cartridge slot from dust. Not even the CD add-on that was released two years later had a dust cover for the cartridge slot, so people could play Jaguar games with their CD add-on connected. It was necessary for the owner to put tape over or otherwise cover up the cartridge slot in order to protect it from dust.
- The cartridges also have pointless handles that aren't even labeled.
- The console got peripherals like the Jaglink (a LAN adapter) and the Team Tap (an adapter for 4 controller ports), however, almost none of the games on the system even utilized them.
- Finally, it was quickly overshadowed by the PlayStation and Sega Saturn which had a more powerful hardware and even better 3D polygon graphics. It didn't help that the price of the Atari Jaguar was eventually reduced from $249.99 to only $149.99 as an attempt to catch up the sales of the PlayStation and Saturn.
- It does have some good games, such as Rayman, Tempest 2000 and Alien vs. Predator.
- Its port of Doom comes the closest of all console ports to the PC original, as John Carmack helped in the port's development (though it does have the massive downside of lacking music except during intermissions).
- The source codes for the system and its CD add-on became available for homebrewers after the system was discontinued along with the CD add-on. It was declared by Hasbro Interactive on May 14, 1999 after they purchased all of Atari's properties. Some of those homebrews have shown that the Jaguar had plenty of potentials that just weren't utilized.
- Since there are only 50 games, it is pretty easy to collect the entire library.
- Although no games on the Jaguar ever utilized that feature, its Team Tap peripheral can actually support up to 8 players if another Team Tap is plugged into it, which is ahead of its time.
Though it is a commercial failure that ended Atari's venture in the home console market with only 250,000 units sold, it developed a small fanbase, especially with its open-source code allowing homebrew games to be released on actual cartridges. Atari essentially ceased to exist after the Jaguar as they had sold themselves to a storage company and ceased all hardware operations.
The modern company called Atari is little more than a simple brand name owned by a holding company Atari SA, formerly Infogrames (company known for making TV show-based video games).
GameFan awarded the Jaguar "Best New System" for 1993.
- The boot sound is an instrumental of the Have You Played Atari Today? jingle.
- When the Jaguar CD add-on is put onto the system, the console looks like a toilet (the Jaguar itself serving as the bowl and the add-on unit serving as the lid).
- Atari sold the Jaguar body molds to some fairly unusual customers, most strangely including a company that cast up white Jaguar body shells as casings for dental cameras. These were still closer to being functional consoles than one of the other things made with a Jaguar body shell, the Coleco Chameleon.
- The Jaguar's chipset was used as the basis for an arcade system board platform that ran some of Atari's arcade games of the time, known as the "COJAG" (short for Coin-Op Jaguar). The COJAG, compared to the original Jaguar, had more meat on the bones, so to speak; It had a Motorola 68020 or MIPS R3000-based CPU (depending on board version), more RAM, a full 64-bit wide ROM bus (compared to the standard Jaguar's 32-bit wide ROM bus), and for some games, a hard disk drive. The most well-known of the COJAG's games were Area 51 and Maximum Force.
- A combination of the Jaguar and Jaguar CD platforms, similar to the Genesis CDX and TurboDuo was proposed, dubbed Atari Jaguar Duo. A prototype of the aforementioned system was unveiled at the 1995 Winter Consumer Electronics Show, but Atari cancelled productions of the Jaguar Duo just after finishing it.