In its heyday, Atari was the biggest video game company in the world. Their 2600 console changed the video game industry forever, bringing arcade quality games home in color. Success was not to last forever for Atari though, as the video game crash of 1983 and a new competitor wiped out their market share. The company’s next few consoles, the 5,200 and the 7,800 were both flops, and things were beginning to look dire for the former giant. Not content to go down without swinging, Atari planned a 64-bit console to compete with 32-bit consoles. That system was called the Atari Jaguar, and it’s failure led to the company leaving the home console market.
Today we’re going to take a brief look at the console, explaining its features and why it failed.
A Hail Mary
Stinging from their failures, Atari wanted a console that was technically superior to its competition but still affordable. The group had two consoles in place, a 32-bit system called Panther, and the 64-bit Jaguar. The management opted for the Jaguar, and development continued.
The system was first announced at CES 1993 in Chicago, and was given a $249.99 MSRP. Initially launched in a handful of markets, the system hit the U.S. as a whole in 1994. With its beefier specs, the Jaguar could put out more technically adept games than its competition. Unfortunately, the console only launched with two games: Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy and Cybermorph. Both games were critically panned, and it wasn’t until some time later that better games came out.
Eventually some great games did make their way to Jaguar. The best of these is Alien vs Predator, a FPS that was launched for the system in 1994. The game lets you choose the role of alien, Predator, or a space marine that needs to eliminate the other groups. Other great Jaguar games include Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Rayman, Skyhammer, and Super Burnout.
Up against the Genesis and Super Nintendo, the deck was stacked against the Jaguar. The console was more expensive and game selection was not up to snuff with its competition. By the end of 1994 the Jaguar had only sold about 100,000 systems, and the price was eventually dropped to try to move systems. At this time the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation were gearing up to enter the market though, and the Jaguar just couldn’t get the stars to align in their favor.
Sales continued to dwindle for the Jaguar, and Atari, facing massive revenue losses was forced to layoff much of their staff. The console stopped being supported in 1995 and was officially discontinued in 1996.
The failure of the Jaguar was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Atari. The company decided to leave the home console market, merging with JT Storage later that year.
Since that time, Atari has been a non-factor in the home console market. Licensed hardware with old Atari games can be found at stores, but there’s been nothing of note from the company until recently. In July 2017 the company revealed a new Atari console that resembles the 2600. It will offer both retro and modern gaming, but little else is known at this point. Let’s hope that they learned some lessons from the Jaguar and don’t repeat the mistakes of the past with the new console.
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