By BelowStupid 8 Comments
After an absence from the videogame console market since the demise of the 7800 system in 1991, Atarimade its return with the Jaguar. The system was released in 1993 in San Francisco and in 1994 for the rest of America and Europe. Unfortunately, the Jaguar was a commercial failure that left the company financially crippled. It was the last console Atari produced.
Atari advertised the Jaguar aggressively in the press with its "Do the Math" campaign; boasting about its technical superiority over the 16-bit platforms, and claiming to be the first 64-bit home console on the market. While the Jaguar was certainly more powerful than the Super Nintendo and Genesis in most respects, these claims caused some controversy.
Many technically knowledgeable industry insiders and gamers claimed that the Jaguar was not a true 64-bit platform, because the Jaguar’s Motorola 68000 CPU chip was only 32-bit, and the primary GPU delivered a 32-bit instruction set. The complaint is similar to the earlier argument that the TurboGrafx-16 was actually an 8-bit system, since it was based around an 8-bit CPU (but with 16-bit video chips), and equally gray.A major contributor to this issue was the industry's desire to use "bits" as a concrete measure of subjective "impressiveness." With Sega and Nintendo promoting 16-bit systems as vastly superior to previous 8-bit systems, gamers naturally expected a similar, obvious jump in quality with the Jaguar. In theory, 64-bit games should have been 4x as impressive as 16-bit systems (as frequently cited when the Jaguar is compared to the Nintendo 64). In reality, this is misunderstanding the meaning of "bits," and applying some wishful thinking toward rating a console's performance by a simple number.Ultimately, due to Jaguar's chip set architecture and processing methods, there was just enough to backup Atari’s 64-bit claim. The design, if always followed as intended, would indeed utilise 64-bit graphical processing and buck claims of the Jaguar being simply "two 32-bit chips glued together."
Unfortunately, developers did not fully understand how to program for the console (and the unique requirements made porting games difficult - similar to complaints about the Playstation 3), and the games frequently failed to match up with any technological potential.Jaguar programming enthusiasts looking over dumped code from retail titles have suggested many companies treated the Motorola CPU as the main processing unit, instead of as a controller for the 64-bit Tom and Jerry "workhorse" chips as Atari intended. This would artificially limit the machine's capabilities, and has been cited as the primary reason for choppy performance in some games ( Checkered Flag is a specific example). It is unclear as to how frequently this occurred, and if it was due to poor documentation from Atari, or simply that developers were more familiar with the common 68000 chip.The Jaguar platform did have a few excellent titles for it, including Alien VS Predator, Doom and Tempest 2000, but most the games released did not look much better than 16 bit games.
Indeed, a large number of them were ports of games released on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo systems.The Atari Jaguar was a powerful system for its time, with many of the units being sold to the loyal and dedicated Atari fan base that had built up since the early 1980‘s. Many clever and innovative ideas for the system were in the pipeline, most of which never made it past the prototype phase because of poor sales and short life span of the console.The Jaguar’s success was hindered by a number of contributing factors, such as a limited game library, third party software development issues, and fierce competitors in the form of Sony’s PlayStation and Sega’s Saturn which finally finished off the Jaguar by mid-1996.In the late 1990’s Hasbro interactive bought out all Atari properties and declared the Jaguar an open platform for homebrew development. Today the Atari Jaguar has a loyal cult following, who use the console for all sorts of development, including utilizing the COM Lynx and "CatBox" device for the networking of up to 32 Jaguar consoles.