Guest Article: Why Did The Jaguar Fail?



In this second guest article, freelance games journalist Kieren Hawken looks at some of the reasons the Jaguar failed to take the market by storm, and relates back to his own personal experiences from the launch of the system. The following is an adaptation of an article originally printed in Atari User magazine.

One question you see asked again and again on the Atari forums and social media pages is “Why did the Jaguar fail?” Now I know what you're all thinking, this subject has been flogged to death on these very sites over the years and always seems to get the same answers. Atari didn’t have the money, the games were not good enough, it wasn’t advertised, Sony killed it and so on. Well I personally have always had a viewpoint very close to home on this subject that sees things from another angle altogether. I thought this would be something I could share with others and see what you think!

Back in 1993 I remember seeing the first previews for the new 64-bit Atari console that would be called the Jaguar. Like many Atari fans I was so excited about this and was dreaming about a return to greatness that just wasn’t to be. I pre-ordered my console from Telegames UK who, as well as being a mail order company, were also an official Atari developer having released games for both the 2600 and Lynx. As the release date got closer the number of consoles available seemed to get smaller and Atari cancelled many of big release events around the world, most notably Paris, simply because they just didn’t have enough consoles to go round. This shortage was down to manufacturing problems at the IBM plant building the Jaguar, something Atari stated was beyond their control. But was it? Was IBM really the only answer to building the Jaguar and did people really care about the system being made in the USA? As it turned out, no they didn’t. Atari did end up still doing the planned London release at toy store Hamleys but on a much smaller scale than intended as only 1000 consoles made it to England, of them a small number went Telegames. So I was lucky enough to get mine and enjoyed playing Cybermorph for along time before I got my second game – Crescent Galaxy.


Now fast forward to Christmas 1994 and I had a seasonal job working for Game, the largest seller of video games in the UK. And this is really where my story and my theory begins. In the year that had passed we still only had a trickle of games but interest in the machine was still high going into Xmas and surely in that last year Atari had sorted out the supply problems? And of course the answer is no! In our store alone we had a massive waiting list of people who wanted a Jaguar and had put their name down to reserve one. But as each delivery arrived at the store we were lucky to get 5 consoles! I distinctly remember our really big Xmas week delivery where all the staff had to come in at 6 am to unload the lorry and get the store ready for our busiest weekend of the year. On that lorry we got 7 Jaguars, yes SEVEN. Even worse we had tons of games, more than we knew what to do with, just no machines. The consoles were not even going on the shelves as each morning we rang the next few names on the pre-order list and they came and took them away. I know for a fact that we could have sold hundreds of consoles had we had them to sell. I always felt so bad for the people who came in asking for the Jaguar and having to send them away disappointed, especially as I had one at home myself and wanted the console to do well so badly.

Now this for me was Atari’s biggest own goal, they only had 1993 and 1994 to get a firm hold on the market before the PlayStation came along to take over the market and in the UK they certainly had the demand for it. In fact the boss of Atari in the UK Darryl Still was quoted as saying he thinks they could have sold over 20 times the units they did in 1994 alone had they had the stock to sell. The UK and Europe were always strong markets for Atari. The 2600 lasted well into the nineties, the ST was a massive success outselling the Amiga for many years and the Lynx sold over 1 million units alone in the UK and France respectively. In fact we were still selling them when I was working at Game in 1994. Atari didn’t have the bad name they had in the US and we hadn’t been affected by the North American video games crash either. The ST and Lynx were both still going strong when the Jaguar arrived and many Atari fans were ready to snap Atari’s new console up. Had Atari delivered in the UK and Europe, even at the expense of the US, would we be telling a different story today? Sure, you can try to say that without the US and Japan a console can’t be a success but go tell that to Sega and the Master System . . .

4 comments:

  1. I don't think Jaguar failed :( but theres an article all about jaguar on this blog servicing stop which is a good read!

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  2. ;-) A rather different perspective,i'll give it that.

    Darren Still was never Atari UK boss though,just Marketing Manager for Atari Corp here in UK initially, then Atari Europe..

    To get a balanced view from Atari Europe you would really need Peter Walker,Bob Gleadlow, etc to Alistair Bowden,etc to give their insights.

    The Atari name sadly was dirt here in the UK after Atari had constantly over promised with likes of 5200,7800,Panther,STE,CD ST,Falcon etc..no one really believed a word they said any more.

    as for the ST..

    It was slaughtered in the USA by PC and Amiga, put up a great early show in Europe, but once amiga priced dropped, game over man..

    If you've ever read comments by or spoken to people from Gremlin,Core Design, Virgin, Domark, Audiogenic, Caspain Software etc you will be aware of how few units of ST software sold by time Jaguar was annouced.

    Some publishers put commercial ST games figures into brackets shareware sold..

    Or try picking up a late ST era magazine, entire periods where no commercial games available for review.

    Also,no one talks of the very real added financial pressures the Jaguar being a cart based Base unit put on publishers at the time, yet likes of Team 17 were quick to raise concerns..

    Long lead times, fixed production runs, no wonder publishers took a wait and see approach before fully committing to the Jaguar, if committing at all..

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    Replies
    1. :-)) Damn phone auto correct..

      Darryl Still not Darren

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  3. I can remember getting my UK jaguar and loving it. Then the sound stopped and Atari UK refused to touch it claiming it was an import..... There's another reason it failed, Atari support.

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