The Jaguar's Last Roar

The downfall of the Atari Jaguar.
January 28, 2010
I remember being a kid caught up in the middle of the video-game wars.

There were so many consoles out at the time, it was ridiculous. The two big ones were the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis. I'm not going to get into mentioning the obscure ones. Does anyone remember the Apple Pippin? Anybody? No? Didn't think so.

Apple totally had their own video-game!

But I digress. Let me get to the heart of this, in the early 90s, you were either a Nintendo person, or a Sega person. But for a few short years, Atari tried to step in and change all that with a groundbreaking new system that they were sure was going to be so earth-shattering it had us all talking, and they called it "The Atari Jaguar."

Unlike the Super Nintendo, which featured 16-bit gaming, or the Sega Genesis, which feature 16-bit gaming, WITH BLAST PROCESSING, the Atari Jaguar boasted it was 64-BIT! I remember my Dad, a seasoned computer salesman saying "Sixty-four bits? Why would anyone need so much power?!" But we decided to check it out, anyway.

The "64-bit" part had us crapping our pants!

We trekked out to the mall where there was a video-game store, I believe they were called "Electronics Boutique" at the time. Lo and behold, there it was, the mighty Atari Jaguar, sitting on display for all the world to see. My Dad looked over it, and some of the games it had, but he was skeptical. "Something doesn't seem right," he would say, and we'd leave the store, always wondering what that 'something' was. It didn't stop us from coming back every week to look at the Jaguar, but it did stop us from ever actually buying one. It wasn't until years later I learned what that 'something' was.

Behold, the mighty Jaguar, the original 64-bit machine.

I would later find out that the machine wasn't a true 64-bit system, at least not in the general sense of the term '64-bit.' The machine was actually built with three different processors, one was 32-bit and the other two were 16-bit, making for a grand-total of 64-bits. Of course this didn't really support an actual 64-bit architecture, but rather a sort of connected system that functioned on a slightly higher level than anything the market really had to offer at the time. Sadly, however, the machine began to fail, it wasn't making any money and Atari was beginning to sink. Then someone at Atari said "Hey, you know that Sega Genesis is doing really well with all their add-ons. Dude! We could totally make a CD pack for the Jaguar and that's not gonna be a bad idea!"

In the system's defense, it was a pretty good add-on for the time.

And the Jaguar-CD was born. It was also boasting the title of '64-bit,' but it didn't save the system from becoming bulky and bloated, among other things, it was expensive and had very few games, which were also expensive. The Jaguar and the Jaguar-CD were failures. Within a few years, Atari went under and became a 3rd party game company, working for Nintendo and Sega. It wasn't until recently that I rediscovered the Atari Jaguar and have been on the hunt for a good one on eBay ever since.

This is what the two looked like in unity with one another.

Other factors that contributed to the Atari Jaguar's downfall were glitches in several games, the sheer size of the controllers and goofy numerical pads that they had, as well as the overpriced nature of both machines. All in all the Atari Jaguar failed because Atari let it fail. It's sad, but it did break new ground and definitely laid way to consoles like the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 which permanently revolutionized gaming.

It was fun until you had to play with this beast of a joystick.

In recent years, the Atari Jaguar has become something of a cult-favorite, this is especially noticeable on eBay, where the system runs anywhere between twenty and five hundred dollars. It's funny to think that only now, in an age of the Microsoft XBOX360, Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii, that people are paying upwards of six-hundred dollars for a console that failed in the 90s. I'd call that a comeback, if there ever was one, but it's a comeback too late from ever seeing a new, top-of-the-line Atari system again. But all in all, things worked out okay and we saw some cool games, too.

After all, things could have been worse.

In conclusion, the Atari Jaguar had its ups and downs, but in the end, it ultimately failed due to bad marketing and poor design. It was the first of its kind to do what it did, but everyone was too one-sided to ever take the time to notice it. It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible, either. It was Atari's downfall, and they went down with a bang.

The echoes of the Jaguar's last roar can still be heard throughout the net, today.
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