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Jaguar TV

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Jaguar TV

It was the worlds first 64-Bit gaming console.  It promised a quantum-leap in gaming performance, and the world couldn't wait to get hold of one.  Atari was back with its first new console since the Atari 7800 which had been released in 1984, could the company really take back the market it gave birth too?

Jaguar was officially launched in New York and San Francisco December 1993 - 27,000 units moved in under 4 weeks.  It was the start Atari had hoped for.  Over 150 developers had pledged support for the new Atari console and IBM couldn't make enough Jaguar's to meet demand.  Although systems were selling, Atari had to step-up software development, the Jaguar would be useless to the consumer unless there was software to support it.


Sales were slower than expected after the initial excitement and by the Summer of 1995, Atari had sold only 100,000 units in the U.S. and 35,000 in Europe and the rest of the world (some 800,000 units below their projected forecasts!).  But software releases were also slow and many titles simply weren't good enough, they may have looked pretty, but gameplay was evidently lacking.  A number of "killer apps" were produced, such as Tempest 2000 and Alien Vs. Predator, but where were all the other games that Atari had promised, what happened to the 150 software developers who had pledged support?



(Limited print run Jaguar catalog by Atari UK)


Before launch, Atari was shipping custom TT systems and development kits - PC development kits had been delayed, and this in turn delayed the development companies, who refused TT systems!  A Jaguar Development system cost ~UKŁ5,000.00 (with TT030).

When the Jaguar was released, it's only competition were ageing systems such as the original 8-bit Nintendo, the Super Nintendo (very successful 16-bit console), the Mega Drive II from Sega (which was at the end of it's shelf life) and the new, but expensive 3DO system.  Other machines, such as the Neo-Geo (SNK) and Turbo-Duo (NEC) were more or less Japanese only systems.  Surely the Jaguar could "kill" the competition?

In December 1994, Atari announced that the Jaguar would be sold  through all 25 TOYS "R" US Inc. stores in Japan plus other outlets selected by its distributor and sales representative, MUMIN CORP.  Bundled with the excellent "Alien Vs. Predator" game, the system had localised manuals and instructions. This was a difficult territory for any western console to penetrate, and the Jaguar would ultimately sell in very small quantities.  By the early 90's the Atari brand had little impact on the Japanese market, coupled with Atari's new anti-Japanese "marketing" strategy (emblazing the "Made in the USA" mantra on all Jaguar shipping boxes) it is hardly surprising that the Jaguar didn't growl for long in the land of the rising sun.

Atari had the head start which they felt would leap frog the on-coming competition from Sega and Sony (Nintendo were another 2 years away from launching their N64).  Unfortunately, 1994 was a year wasted.  Software was late. Atari pushed developers to launch software, but the development time was the problem.  Atari didn't take development time into consideration with their new machine, programmers were still getting to grips with the console and Atari's programming libraries were thin on the ground.  By this time Sony and Sega had also delivered it's development systems, which in comparison to Atari, were extremely comprehensive and came with strong developer support.  As Jaguar sales began to slow, developers moved resources away from the Jaguar and onto Sega and Sony systems which were selling better and had multi-million dollar marketing campaigns backing them up.  Here lay Atari's big problem - software, and the lack of it and the hard cash to sell the Jaguar to the consumer.

1995/96 - Although the Jaguar-CD unit was delivered (late), the gamers had already been won over by Sega and Sony.  Atari began talking about the Jaguar-Duo (AKA Combo) and Jaguar II system, confusing and possibly eroding their already small market.  Atari kept fighting, shouting on the roof-tops about the Jaguars "64-bit" architecture, cutting the price point to $99.99, and even using the QVC home-shopping channel to sell excess stock.  Atari had cancelled its last outstanding contract with Comptronix for new Jaguar units by mid 1995 (IBM's contract was cancelled at the end of 1994).  By the end of 1995, Atari had over $10 Million worth of unsold stock.

The Jaguar was (and still is) a fine piece of hardware, especially for the price point, something Atari were well known for.  But Jaguar was the nail in the coffin for Atari Corp.  Atari did try an alternative escape route to avoid total disaster with the inception of Atari Interactive, a business unit devoted to promoting Atari's back-catalogue of famous software titles on the PC platform.   Unfortunately, this too was shelved after Tempest2000 launched in the stores, another fine decision from Atari management? Today Activision, Midway, Capcom, Taito, Sega, Namco and Infogrames think it's a great idea to raid their back catalogues (although the execution of some of these new next-gen products has been poor).

The Jaguar was a well conceived product, but the execution of the "Jaguar Plan" had to be meticulous for it to succeed.  The Hardware was fine and could have given Atari the staying power to fight another day, perhaps within the software sector as Sega has done successfully after its hardware withdrawal.  But Atari made mistakes.  It couldn't deliver enough machines at launch and could only afford to launch its console to select territories at certain times, it basically missed the European holiday season in 1993.  Software companies were still suspicious about Atari's ability to re-enter the videogame market.  After making a lacklustre attempt to sell its other gaming products (foremost the 7800 and Lynx), could they trust Atari to market the new machine?  Would the software devco's invest time and money on Atari after years as a "computer company", were Atari serious this time?

When it come down to the crunch, Atari had to hit the ground running with the Jaguar, and although initial signs were good, they didn't seem to react, or at least they reacted slowly when things started going wrong.  Its a shame Atari couldn't get the support it needed from the devco's so the platform had a healthy supply of software, its a shame that the press were more than a little critical of Atari's chances of success (thus influencing many potential gamers to wait and see before buying) and its a shame that Atari didn't change those attitudes by hitting a little bit harder and shouting a little more loudly - ultimately, all these factors (and more) brought the end of the Jaguar, and the end of Atari.



Hasbro (which purchased the leftovers of Atari in 1998) released the Jaguar platform into the public domain in 1999.  This means that anybody can develop and sell software for the Jaguar without obtaining any official licensing from the copyright/property holder and have to pay royalties.


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