Useful Notes: 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, in spite of the Jaguar's technical advantages, they didn't have the money to throw at high-quality software development, so most of Atari's games looked hardly any better than those of its competitors, including the 3DO (especially in terms of 3D graphics) and even the Super Nintendo. The eventual appearance of the Sony PlayStation
, Sega Saturn
, and Nintendo 64
with their sleek 3D visuals and simpler controllers condemned the Jaguar to an early demise, and resulted in the company withdrawing from console manufacturing altogether. The Jaguar still has a cult following, which even caused the Jaguar encryption codes to be released so fans could make homebrew games.
The Jaguar had a CD add-on, the Jaguar CD. It had only 15 games released for it, didn't add any extra hardware beyond the capability to read CDs (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 poor reputation. note
- 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.
- System: 2 MB, with cartridges having up to 6 MB.
- The Jaguar CD added an extra 8 MB of RAM, with 512 KB of RAM for the disk drive.
- The CDs themselves hold 790MB. While this is larger than conventional CDs (which is usually 650MB or 700MB), it forgoes most error correction coding.
- Up to 720×576 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.
- 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.
Tropes invoked by the hardware:
- Accidental Innuendo: Combined with the CD add-on, the system ended up looking like a toilet.
- 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.
- The system itself is a hardware example. It was released in late 1993, and had a couple major bugs with the hardware, combined with buggy development tools and incomplete documentation, made the system very hard to code for, and caused a lot of games to become Vaporware.