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- Michael Rosamilia

It’s 1993. The Super Nintendo and Sega
Genesis are warring over territory. The
industry is growing and a name from the
past aims to recapture what it once
owned. The tactic? Raw power. The
play? Hail Mary. The player? Atari
made one last comeback attempt into the
console industry with a machine that
was supposed to be the most powerful
ever: the 64-bit Atari Jaguar. While Atari
claimed the Jaguar was truly 64-bit,
some say they used fuzzy math to come
up with that number. Out of the Jaguar’s
five processors, two were 32-bit working
in unison.

One big problem the Jaguar faced was
that it used the same 16-bit Motorola
68000 processor that the Sega Genesis
used. The Jaguar was designed to use
this processor for only minor tasks, like
checking controller ports. However, since
many programmers were already familiar with the 68000, the Jaguar was offering despite a few great games like
being that it was the CPU in the Genesis, they sometimes Alien vs. Predator and Tempest 2000. The system did not
opted to use only that processor instead of the more pow- fall flat on its face right away but by the time the Sega
erful processors named ―Tom‖ and ―Jerry.‖ The result? Saturn and Sony Playstation hit the market it was quickly
Despite the claims of 64-bits some games ended up look- over for Atari. The company merged with JTS Corporation
ing 16-bit, which undermined Atari’s sales pitch. Atari used in 1996. In 1998, for a mere $5 million dollars, JTS sold
the tagline ―Do the Math‖ in association with the 64-bit Atari to the video game subsidiary of toy and game com-
number being thrown around. A common joke around the pany Hasbro. In 2000 Hasbro Interactive lost about 70% of
time was that the players had to do the math because the stock value and in January of 2001 was sold along with the
Jaguar couldn’t. However, the 64-bit advertising platform rights and name of Atari to Infogrames. In 2003 Infog-
may not have been a lie. There are components used in rames changed its North American subsidiary to Atari, Inc
the machine that qualify as 64-bit and nobody has officially but with a string of relatively poor titles, the new Atari be-
established what is required in the architecture to accu- came just a shadow of its former glory.
rately define a system as a #-bit. To this day, there are still
some debates whether the Jaguar meets the criteria to be I don’t want to talk poorly about Atari but there are some
considered 64-bits. things about its swan song that just make me chuckle. The
most amusing aspect of the Jaguar is the controller. If you
The Atari Jaguar was not obscenely expensive with a $250 ever get a chance to hold this catastrophe, do so. You
launch price in 1993, but at the same time, it may not have won’t regret the laugh. The top part of it looks relatively
been worth it to spend the money on the Jaguar when that normal. Originally it had three action buttons. A second
cash could be better spent on quality Super Nintendo and controller was made with the same design but with six face
Sega Genesis games. Atari released the Jaguar CD in buttons and an additional two shoulder buttons not unlike
1995 but it was already too late for the console to live far the Saturn. The problem is, despite the numbers I just
beyond that. As such, the Jaguar CD was not a success. provided, the thing has more buttons than a telephone.
That’s right. Under the standard controller buttons is a
Atari had not been a heavy hitter in the industry for over ten telephone keypad. I appreciate the gesture but I don’t think
years and consumers were not prepared to accept what I’ll be ordering a pizza while playing.

The Jaguar sold just roughly half a million
units. With Atari’s failure, it became apparent
that throwing bits around was not a testament
of quality. The key to attracting consumers is
by attracting developers. As a console manu-
facturer, it is your job to convince third parties
that your console is worthwhile enough to
invest in. It is also your job to convince poten-
tial consumers, via a good library of games,
your console is worthwhile enough to pur-
chase. Atari, sadly, failed to do either.
Despite the Jaguar’s commercial failure, the
Jaguare has a large fan base that produces
homebrew games, making the console a cult
4 | Video Game Trader Magazine | #8 |
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