Posted on May 21, 2007
Atari History Through Commercials (Part 9)
1993: December: Atari Jaguar Commercial
In 1993, Atari Corp. pulled out all the stops for one last push at becoming a viable consumer good company. The cancelled support for nearly all their products to concentrate on their Falcon030 computer line (the successor to the ST) and their new Jaguar video game system. The Jaguar used a 64-bit graphics processor, the most advanced for a video game system at the time. As well, it could produce a significant number of 3D polygons in hardware, which was also unique for the time.
Without enough money to manufacture enough units for a national release, Atari Corp. “test marketed” the New 64-bit Jaguar system in New York and Los Angeles for Christmas 1993. The obvious plan was to show just how much more power the Jaguar had than the other systems of the day. The problem was, the games simply did not show it. Aside from a few notable exceptions (most of them featured below), Atari “beat itself” with the Jaguar by failing to make interesting games.
1994 April 13: Tempest 2000 Commercial
For a long time, the only reason to own an Atari Jaguar was so you could play this magnificent game by Llama loving programmer extraordinaire Jeff Minter. This game was pretty much a one-man show, and relied on Minter’s use of complex math and particle FX to make a stunning game. At the time, it was arguably the best video game ever made. Several magazines including Video Games and Electronic Games called “Tempest 2000” the “Game Of The Show” at the 1994 January CES. April 13th was the ship-date for “Tempest 2000”, so I’d assume this commercial was shown near that time.
1994 June 23rd: Jaguar CD-ROM Sizzle Film
Atari announced the Jaguar CD attachment at the June CES in 1994. This appears to be a sizzle film from that time. The fact that it shows no CD-ROM games at all is telling.
The CD system was eventually released in September of 1995, months after the Sony Playstation release made the Jaguar look like an Atari 2600 by comparison.
1994 October 21: Atari Jaguar Alien vs Predator Commercial
Besides Jeff Minter’s Tempest 2000, the most successful thing to come out of the Jaguar was this game. It spawned sequels on other platforms, and a terrible movie. Who could have predicted that? The game was released on October 21st, but I would assume that this commercial was shown nearer to Christmas.
1994 December: Jaguar “Suddenly Nothing Else Seems Fun Anymore” Commercial
This commercial features footage from many Jaguar games, including “Doom”. Doom was released on October 21st, 1994, so I assume this is a Christmas 1994 commercial. However, the price at the end says $159, so it could have been a bit later and into 1995.
This “Do The Math” 64-Bit commercial is probably from the same era. I have to admit, this is my favorite of all the Jaguar commercials.
By the way, did you know that the ID developed “Doom” for the Jaguar themselves?. They were paid $250,000. At the time, Jay Wilbur from Id called the Jaguar version “the most powerful version of the game on any video game system”.
1995 March: Atari Jaguar $149.99 Commercial
With the impending launch of the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn, Atari had to do whatever it could to stay in business. They dropped the price of the Jaguar and crossed their fingers. It didn’t help much.
1995 December: Tempest 2000 PC Version
Atari Corp. made a last ditch attempt to stay alive by releasing PC games. Tempest 2000 was the first. I’m not sure what to call this video. It’s certainly not a commercial. It might be a sizzle (although, as you can see, Atari Corp. was not about to spend any of its lawsuit gains ($40 million or so from Sega) on Sizzle in the waning days. The quality of this video stands as testament to just how far Atari Corp. had fallen by 1995.
In January of 1996, Atari reduced the price of the Jaguar again to $99.99. It was at that time that full picture of the Jaguar failure was revealed. In the three years that the Jaguar had been for sale, only about 200,000 systems had been sold and only 40 were games were available forit. By contrast, within the first 6 months of release, the Sony Playstation had sold 500,000 units. As a last ditch effort, the company reasserted their desire to enter the PC games market. At the time, they planned 17 new PC games for the year including remakes of “Missile Command”, “Asteroids”, “Pac Man”, “Crystal Castles”, and “Centipede”. However, these plans soon evaporated. By June of 1996, the company officially closed-shop, and merged with JT Storage Inc (JTS), and allowing Atari’s last major stockholders (Jack Tramiel and his sons) to walk away comfortably from Atari.
Personal Anecdote: In 1996, When the Jaguar finally fell to $69.99 with games available for as little as $4.99, I bought my brother one for Christmas. Since one or both of us had owned nearly every Atari system since their inception, I felt like we had to finish the job. However this time, it was not bought with some ridiculous fantasy this new system would somehow “save” the world’s first video game company, or that it would make Atari seem”cool” again like those heady days in 1982 before ColecoVision made the Atari VCS look like a Radio Shack pong console. I knew this was finally the end. There would be no more Atari game systems released with specs to pour over. There would be no more Atari cartridges to look forward to, or find at the neighborhood store. There would be no more commercials to see on TV that would get me excited about going to the store buy something “Atari”. This time I had not bought an Atari system in the vain hope that it would some day rule the world. No, instead, this time it was something else. This time it I was simply saying goodbye to an old friend in the only way I knew how.
Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 1996
Wall Street Journal, Feb 14 1996
Atari Coin Connection
U.S. Patent Database
U.S. Trademark Database
U.S. Copywrite Database