With Sega and Nintendo battling neck and neck with their 16-bit platforms, Atari seized the opportunity to return to the console market after 7 years. A small company calling themselves 'Flare 1' were on the verge of developing a multiprocessor console. Needing the funding to develop it further, they approached Atari Corp. Atari was trying to develop their own console code named ?Panther?at the time. They jumped on the offer, and development for the ?Flare 2? continued alongside the ?Panther?. Eventually plans for the 32-bit Panther were scrapped for the renamed 64-bit Jaguar.
The Atari Jaguar was released in the United States on December of 1993. The console was manufactured by IBM. Atari boasted the system as being the first 64-bit console. They also boasted about a host of developers and a hundreds of games being created for the system. The system had amazing technical specs for it?s time. The console contained 5 processors mounted on 3 chips. One was a traditional Motorola 68000, and the other two were nicknamed ?Tom? and ?Jerry?.
The use of the Motorola 68000 was a reason that the Jaguar?s validity as a 64-bit was put to question. You see... the Motorola 68000 is a 16-bit processor, and 2 others were 32-bit. Only 2 processors were actually 64-bit, but all the registers and buses were in fact 64-bit. Regardless the machine had a ton of potential.
So what exactly happened? Even with so many developers announced (158 developers) many of the game titles never saw the light of day. Many never got further than the planning stage. It was not just game titles that failed to arrive, neither did some of the consoles peripherals (An overly hyped Virtual Reality headset for example). The Jaguar?s cartridge game media had limited storage space, and failed to tap the abilities of the Jaguar. Out of 55 total carts made for Jaguar only 22 were created by outside developers. Developers were simply not ready to handle a console with multiple processors. This became obvious with many of the game released. Some games were simply ports of 16-bit titles with improved color. Others were enhanced ports of older Atari classics (though this was not a bad thing with some of them (Tempest 2000 was a best seller for the system). Others still seemed to be rushed afterthoughts in an effort to cash in. 3rd Party developer support was pretty much nonexistent.
In 1995 Atari finally wised up and created a CD-ROM add on to tap the 700+ megabit CD format. The Jaguar CD retailed for $150, and came equipped with a double speed CD-ROM capable of running Jaguar games, Audio CD?s, and CD+G?s. Games could run full motion video at 24 frames per second. The Jaguar CD also featured a built in Virtual Light Machine (color and visual effects that react to the music and sounds). The add-on connected to the Jaguar through the cartridge slot, but had it?s own pass through slot so Jaguar carts could still be played. The package also included the Tempest 2000 soundtrack audio disc, a sampler for the CD game "MYST", and two CD-ROM games: "Vid Grid" and "Blue Lightning".
The Jaguar CD was a an impressive deal, but it came too late. Interest was growing with the 32-bit CD based Sony and Sega consoles. The Jaguar CD saw only 9 additional CD titles. Atari seeing a need to regain interest due to failing sales began spreading news of a Jaguar II. In 1996 however Atari Corp entered a reverse merger with a company called JTS. All Jaguar products became liquidated, and Jaguar became a fond memory.
Jaguar could have been an amazing console if software took better advantage of it?s 5 processor capability. One game however appeared toward the end of Jaguars life cycle, and showed what the console could do. The graphics in 'Aliens VS Predator' were amazing for their time, and could have possibly inspired a Jaguar purchase. If only it arrived sooner.
FACT: Atari's main advertisement campaign was under the slogan "Do the Math!" Their point being 'Why would I buy a 32-bit system for 300 dollars when I can get a 64-bit Jaguar system for 149?'
The Atari Jaguar featured many ports. Among them was a COM I/O port capable of networking up to 26 Jaguar consoles for multiplayer play, or linking to the Atari Lynx as a specialized controller. Both features were never utilized, but eventually would be features found in future videogame consoles.
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