As a kid I owned a Sega Megadrive. I loved it dearly and spoke openly with my mates about my loyalty to Sega. It was funny back then in the early nineties; you either swore allegiance to Sega or, in the enemy’s case Nintendo. My brother owned a Super Nintendo and we fought bitter battles for console supremacy. Of course there was no doubt that Sonic was way cooler than Nintendo’s strange Italian plumber! Back then Sega and Nintendo had a massive monopoly on console gaming and these 16bit beasts were at the cutting edge of what consoles were capable of. There was however a huge competitor capable of wiping Nintendo and Sega off the face of the world. The Atari Jaguar launched in 1993 and marketed as the world most powerful gaming console was a major threat to the likes of Sony and Ninty. Why then did the 64bit powerhouse from the future prove to be such a commercial failure?
Atari had been making popular games consoles and computers since 1984 and enjoyed a pretty solid reputation. It was however well known that unless they could offer a competitive rival to match the super popular Megadrive and Snes then the company would likely be doomed. Bearing this in mind Atari went one step further and designed a mega-console. A console that was capable of trumping the competition and more. Unbeknown to Atari the Jaguar would not only be their last ever console but would almost bankrupt the company. There are of course many reasons for this, but we can have a look at some of the key issues;
Third party support
History has shown us that what makes a games console sell is its games catalogue. It is vital to have a good range of games at release to make a console successful. It is similarly as important to ensure you have developers on board and a decent catalogue of future games. What made this particularly difficult for Atari was that the Jaguar was notoriously difficult to develop games for. Not only was the console riddled with bugs but initial poor sales figures made the platform very undesirable to developers. Although the console did have a few good games including Doom, Wolfenstein, Rayman and Alien vs Predator, It was just not enough to keep the platform afloat. Many of the games were rushed out and totally rubbish or massively delayed. This major lack of support from developers proved to be one of largest nails in the Jaguars coffin.
Although the Jaguar did enjoy a modest marketing budget of $3Million Atari struggled to compete. The Snes and Megadrive had already enjoyed huge success and in 1995 Sega released the Saturn and and Sony released its first ever console the Playstation. Although both were only 32bit, it was argued that the Jaguar wasn’t actually a true 64bit console. Sony were the ultimate winners of this console war and enjoyed enormous success.
Hardware and focus
Let’s not forget that god awful controller. It was totally rubbish; far too big with way too many buttons. Furthermore, the cartridge based medium that Atari opted for presented many limitations.
Another issue was that Atari seemed to lack focus. Rather than putting most of their efforts into the the console itself, They spent too much time thinking about new ad-on’s and future developments.
Perhaps ultimately the Atari jaguar was just too far ahead of its time. It had so much potential but just couldn’t deliver. Its a shame really because when Atari finally threw in the towel it had been in the process of developing a new console; the Jaguar 2. It was suggested to have been 2 to 3 times more powerful than the Playstation! Who knows what it may have been capable of and where Atari may have been today. Imagine an Atari rival to the current next gen games consoles! The Jaguar will however live on in our hearts and does in fact enjoy a bit of a cult following today.
If you ever owned an Atari Jaguar then please share your experience.