The machine, which is four times Faber than a standard ST and the 16-bit consoles which presently dominate the market, is expected by Atari to become the market leader in the new cycle of 64-bit machines.
Bob Brodie, Director of Communications at Atari US describes the Jaguar as “a billion dollar baby” and is confident that Atari will be doing everything right this time to ensure maximum sales.
They recognise that to get ahead in a market presently dominated by huge companies with an equally huge budget, they need to ''leapfrog the competition,'' in terms of value for money and superb technology. Sam Tramiel, President of Atari, takes huge pride in the technological advancements the machine makes, ''The Jaguar system will revolutionise the state of home entertainment as we see it today, the idea of a 64-bit system is earth-shattering.”
The machine certainly has impressive technical specifications – 64-bit technology, a palette of 16.7 million colours to give 24-bit colour, a Digital Signal Processor chip specifically for the 16-bit stereo CD quality sound and the ability to expand it in all sorts of directions, whether your interest be to listen to music via digital audio tape, view your holiday snaps on photo-CD or connect to modems.
All this for less than $200!
To make sure of their position, particularly in view of their past mistakes and the slow economy, Atari plan a very competitive price point. Peter Walker, Atari's UK Press Officer commented, “The Jaguar will be aggressively priced to grab a large volume of sales early to establish brand leadership - the US price is going to be around the $200 mark including a game and power pad controller.”
Games will run on megaCarts and although the price of these hasn't been confirmed, Walker confirmed that they would probably be in line with the aggressive pricing policy of the Jaguar – “around £20 mark.”
There is a also to be a very strong promotion campaign initially centred in New York and San Francisco, widening to the rest of the US in time for Christmas and reaching Europe early in 1994. Walker explained, “We are going to mount a massive advertising campaign in the UK, with a massive financial investment for the UK market. Every marketing option wild be considered to achieve volume sales. We have a huge technological lead with the Jaguar that we must take advantage of.”
Pressed further about what form the promotion would take, whether, for example, there was to be an official Atari branding character, Walker would only say, ''That is an attractive option that we are considering… the marketing teams are working on several ideas."
Games, more games
There are likely to be around half a dozen titles available for the Jaguar when it first comes out although there are plenty more games under development. Even though software developers are bound by non-disclosure agreements, we can reveal that Jeff Minter, best known for his interest in llamas and the creator of Llamazap for the Falcon, has had a Jaguar since the end of last year and is very enthusiastic about its capabilities.
As well as games from third party publishers, Atari are also planning to release versions of Cybermorph, Alien vs Predator, Jaguar Formula One Racing, Battle-zone 2000 and Tempest 2000. As yet, however, no developer has received a fully-finished machine - they just have the innards housed
in a basic case; it's very much a cosmetic consideration, according to Brodie, although it is described as having a “futuristic” design.
Watch this space because as soon as we have anything visual we can show you, we will… until then, roll on the autumn.
The capabilities of the Jaguar are reportedly quite amazing - not surprising considering the incredible technology that's behind it. The heart of the system is Atari's own reduced instruction set (RISC) processor which is a relatively new type of processor which uses simple, fast internal instructions to process data rather than the more complex instructions used by traditional microprocessors, So, as well as operating four times faster than any console presently available, it has a 24-bit palette which can supply over 16.7 million colours, it also features shaded polygons - like those in the graphically stunning shoot 'em-up Starwing on the Super Nintendo - which can be generated while the game is running. It also has the ability to perform real-time texture mapping.
Like the Falcon, the Jaguar has a Digital Signal Processor although this time it's being used specifically to produce 16-bit stereo CD quality sound. To make the most of the “multi-media” applications the DSP can process other sounds and human voices at the same time. You can also expand the Jaguar since it includes a 32-bit expansion port enabling you to connect your machine into cable and telephone networks - and it has a digital signal processing port so you can use modems and connect your machine to digital audio accessories like DAT players. On top of all this there's a double speed CD unit that is being developed which you'll be able to use for games, audio CDs, including those with graphics and Kodak Photo CDs - the Photo CD compatibility is to be built into the Jaguar CD-ROM.
Atari have recently licensed Cinepak - advanced video compression technology - from SuperMac Technology lnc. This software stores video footage on CD-ROM at very high compression rates enabling full motion video to be used in games and other CD-ROM applications. Cinepak is used by Apple for their QuickTime standard, known as Apple Compact Video