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 . . .


  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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  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.

  4. I think in order to bring into perspective just how weak the ST market was in the UK,by time the Jaguar arrived,you need to look at comments from those still developing commercial games software for it..

    Caspian Software estimated of the 1 Million ST's Atari had claimed to of sold in the UK,by the Summer of 1994, only 100,000 were still in active use.

    The ST games market had fallen to the level of P.D and Shareware software and big games publishers simply weren't going to back it.

    That sort of apathy towards Atari wasn't going to get the Jaguar the serious levels of support it needed.

  5. There are a couple other issues when a writer presents a version of events like this, without the the reader being given an idea of numbers, it's impossible to put things into context.

    What exactly constitutes a massive waiting list for Jaguar hardware for 1 store?

    50 people? 100?? 500? 1000? and was this demmand reflected around the country as a whole?.

    It's the same when saying the store was still selling Lynx units each many? 3 a week? 20?

    You'd need huge numbers for Lynx to be considered an economically viable platform.

    The UK press at the time loved the Jaguar sold out within days stories..indie store owners quoted,but again,no specific numbers...only numbers given were that Atari had said it had,by this point sold 70,000 Jaguar's in the USA.

    But even these didn't state to consumers or stores or combined..

    Sam Tramiel was quoted as saying he hoped to get 100,000 Jaguar machines into the UK from summer 94 to Xmas of that year and wanted European sales of 1 Million Jaguar units in Europe by the end of 1995 as users abandoned their existing 16 bit consoles.

    I've seen claims of actual units sold in Europe broken down to:

    40,000 UK
    15,000 Germany
    30,000 France.

    Even if best guess,they highlight the very real fact that even if the UK had been given far more units at launch, European sales alone would still of Fallen way short of Atari's sales expectations.

    Jaguar was Lynx all over again,Atari boasting it'd of sold X amount by end of 199X,take market share away from Sega and Nintendo and reality was it was greeted with apathy from developers and consumers alike.

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  7. Just to add a degree of closure and clarity on the shortages...

    Atari UK HAD been hoping to receive around 10,000 Jaguar units on Nov 22nd 1993, to get to high street chains and indie stores, to fulfil Xmas preorders.

    They only received a few hundred machines and thus stores were left short.

    HMV and Virgin only received 100 units each.

    So of course customers were left angry.

    Atari received and exchanged 7 faulty units..1 of these just needed a new RF cable.

    Even if the UK had received and sold ALL 10,000 machines that Xmas, it would of done little if anything to reverse the jaguar's fortunes.

    Atari would of needed to of sold 100,000 not 10,000 units to convince publishers they could make a go of it.

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  9. Your guest writer also failed to point out..Atari..including Atari UK Boss, Bob Gleadow, had been promising Jaguar would have a UK RRP of £200.

    It launched with a £229 RRP..But initally units to Silica and Rumbelows sold for £249 due to price of shipping them into the UK by air freight.

    As for software:Peter Walker of Atari UK had told us to expect the games..or Mega Carts as he called be priced around the £20 mark.

    We say them retail in 3 ranges..




    Now do you see why people didn't believe a word Atari said?


    1. You don't realize that Tom is not active anymore here right? Also, we know you have a bias against Kieren 'cause you like him so much to the point of calling him sweetheart many times ;-)

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  12. I will let the then Mod at Assembler who banned him,explain Kgramr to those who don't know him,no personal bias that way:

    "You will not be seeing KGRAMR around any more.
    He's banned from here, Atari Age, unseen 64 and other sites. Let's just say that apart from spamming and taking credit for others work he was also abusive to people.

    He even took to YouTube comments to belittle others in the Atari Community".




    Just so the community isn't taken in by the guest writer.

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