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Atari Jaguar
"Do the math!"

Still lingering in the console race years after losing the gaming public's trust and playing a significant part in The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, Atari decided to chip in with a new effort to get a head start on the next generation in gaming. They hired some outside help to engineer both an experimental 32- and 64-bit console, codenamed "Panther" and "Jaguar" respectively. The 32-bit Panther was scrapped in favor of the Jaguar, and the system was out the door as early as 1993 with a price of $250 and an aggressive marketing campaign against its competitors, the 16-bit SNES and Sega Genesis and the 32-bit 3DO, urging consumers to "do the math" and choose the 64-bit system instead (because having more bits meant the system was obviously superior).

Unfortunately for Atari, many gamers did do the math and noticed that while some of the system's chips could pass 64 bits of data through, no actual 64-bit words were processed or calculated. The Jaguar used a combination of 32-bit and 16-bit words, and most of Atari's games looked hardly any better than those on its competitors, including the 3DO and even the Super Nintendo, especially in terms of 3D graphics. The eventual appearance of the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64 with their sleek 3D visuals and more intuitive controllers condemned the Jaguar to a not-so-early grave, and resulted in the company withdrawing from console manufacturing altogether. The Jaguar still has a cult following, which even caused the Jaguar source code to be released online so fans could make homebrew games.

The Jaguar had a CD add-on, unsurprisingly called the Jaguar CD. It had only 15 games released for it, didn't add any extra hardware capabilities (by comparison, the Sega CD included upgrades to the console's graphics and sound chips), and its abysmal hardware design and worse production quality (on some units, the CDs were jammed in so tightly that they couldn't spin, which could lead to further mechanical problems in the already failure-prone motor) gave it a reputation for being the worst in the history of console add-ons. note 


Specifications:

Processors
  • CPU: Motorola 68000, 13.3 Mhz.
  • GPU: Atari "Tom" 32-bit GPU, 64-bit object processor, and 64-bit blitter, 26.6 Mhz.
  • Sound: Atari "Jerry" DSP.

Memory
  • System: 2 MB, with cartridges having up to 6 MB.
  • CD: Added an extra 8 MB of RAM, with 512 KB of RAM for the disk drive.

Display
  • Up to 720576 resolution.
  • 24-bit color.
  • Up to 10,000 polygons per second. Most of the games released for the system struggled to get even a tenth of this number, though Battlemorph is believed to have come fairly close.

Sound
  • 16-bit stereo. The Jaguar had sound abilities that in theory were fairly close to the SNES, but suffered probably the system's most glaring flaw in that there was no dedicated sound memory. This led to a lot of the system's games (most infamously Doom) only offering sound effects with no music during the actual gameplay.

Games:


Tropes invoked by the hardware:

  • Accidental Innuendo: Combined with the CD add-on, the system ended up looking like a toilet. Considering the console's drawbacks, it wasn't far off.
  • Billions of Buttons: The controller had 17 plus the D-Pad, all front-mounted (supposedly, they were going for an "arcade" feel, but the end result looks more like a calculator instead). Cited by IGN as one of the worst controllers ever.
  • Obvious Beta: It's pretty clear the Jaguar CD wasn't very thoroughly tested (assuming it was tested at all), due to how easily it breaks down.

Atari LynxVideo Game SystemsAtari 8-Bit Computers

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