Atari Jaguar

Atari Jaguar

5th Generation Competitors
3DO CD32 Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 21st Nov 1994 1996  190K (total)
North America 23rd Nov 1993 1996
Europe 27th Jun 1994 1996

After the games crash Atari struggled to make ground in the new videogame world with the death of the 2600.  After several attempts they started to concentrate on computers instead.  Until two engineers from a company called Flare approached them with a hardware platform they’d been developing.

Atari were already working on a project called Panther at the time, but decided to ask the Flare team to develop their platform under the codename Jaguar.

Panther wasn’t progressing as well as Atari had hoped, so they cancelled the project and went full steam ahead with the Jaguar.  The machine was released, to fairly underwhelming reviews, in 1994 after a small test release the year before.

Atari billed the Jaguar as being the first 64-bit console.  Their whole advertising strategy, named Do the Math, pushed the idea that the current crop of 16 bit and 32 bit consoles were inferior due to the lower bitness.

But this had a number of flaws, firstly the general public didn’t really understand the argument about bits and secondly it was fairly easy to argue that the Jaguar wasn’t 64 bit at all.

The problem stemmed from the fact that the Jaguar has 3 main processors, a Motorola 68000, which is 16-bit externally, but 32-bit internally and two custom 32 bit RISC processors.

On that evidence you’d say the Jaguar was, at best, 32 bit.  However, the Jaguar transfers data over a 64 bit address line.  This does, technically, make it a 64 bit machine.

Regardless, none of this worked.  The Jaguar turned out to be difficult to develop for and Atari no longer had the might needed to compete against Sony and Sega.  Games weren’t impressive compared to their Playstation and Saturn versions and developers left the platform in droves.

We’re only just now finding out how powerful the Jaguar was.  Modern day developers, with a greater understanding and better toolchains, are able to push the platform with greater results.  It’s a shame that we’re just seeing that it could have competed in the 32 bit era.

To try and keep the console alive Atari promised a number of peripherals including a VR headset and CD Addon.

The CD Addon was the only one to see the light of day (although the VR headset was demonstrated).  The Addon didn’t have many games and had proven unreliable, but the games that were released are fairly impressive.

Now, the controller.  It is not considered one of the best ever.  It is ungainly, mostly due to the keypad that takes up most of the space.  This keypad allows games to have lots of control options and games come with an overlay (like the Intellivision).  It is helpful, but it makes for a really uncomfortable controller.

Specs

Processor Motorola 68000 @ 13.295 MHz Managing Processor
RAM 2 MB
ROM ROM Cartridges (up to 6Mb)
Custom Chips
  • Tom RISC Chip @ 26.59 MHz GPU with 3D Extensions.
  • Jerry RISC Chip @ 26.59 MHz DSP Controller
Video 24-bit colour palette (16.8 million colors)
Up to 16.8m on-screen colours in 24-bit mode
Audio Stereo 16-bit with Wavetable Synthesis
Removable storage CD-ROM Addon, Double Speed Drive

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