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Top 10 Unreleased Consoles

5.  Atari Panther

The Atari Panther never officially materialized aside from 3 possible (and perhaps incomplete) prototypes, though I wanted to included it on the list since it is one of the few unreleased consoles that people are familiar with (assuming they’re familiar with any unreleased systems…).  Originally Atari intended to jump back into the market with a 32-bit console before continuing development on a 64-bit device (what would later become the Jaguar), but progress moved so quickly on the Jaguar project that eventually elements of the Panther were folded in.  This decision would ultimately lead to Atari’s status as the “odd man out” by the time the 5th generation rolled around, and it’s likely that the company’s prolonged absence from public visibility played no small role in Atari’s eventual demise.

Atari Panther Concept Art

Atari wanted to complete its 32-bit console not to compete with 5th generation systems such as the PlayStation and Sega Saturn, but rather to follow up on the lackluster reception of their 3rd generation consoles (particularly the 7800 and XEGS).  After the video game crash of 1983, Nintendo’s NES emerged as the overwhelmingly preferred 3rd gen / late 8-bit system, and Atari was desperately attempting to recapture audiences.  The Panther would’ve therefore gone head to head against the likes of the SNES and Sega Genesis with a proposed launch date sometime in 1991, and by most accounts the plan was for the Jaguar to follow roughly two years later.  In fact, the universally panned Jaguar controllers were originally conceived of during development of the Panther.  Based on the Panther’s documented hardware, it would’ve been vastly superior to any other 4th gen consoles.

By the time Atari’s Jaguar was released (1993), the brand had lost relevance with its intended demographic and gamers everywhere were eagerly awaiting Sony’s debut console (the PlayStation) or busy deciding between Sega’s 32X and Saturn, all 3 released in 1994.  In what was perhaps nothing more than bad luck, several other companies were anxious to cash in on CD-based gaming consoles and contenders such as the 3DO, Neo Geo CD, and TubroGrafx CD were all competing for their piece of the pie.  Had Atari continued development of the Panther, there’s a good chance that (with their superior hardware) they would’ve been a serious standout against the backdrop of the SNES vs. Genesis war.  Besides building up a post-1983 crash fanbase, perhaps Atari could have learned from their mistakes earlier and produced a more competent and respectable Jaguar.

Atari Panther

Yes, the ill-fated Panther.  If you’ve ever wondered why Atari took such a long break between consoles or why the Jaguar was such an inexcusably poor example of what a 64-bit machine ought to be capable of, I hope this has enlightened you.  The Panther was exactly the stepping stone that Atari needed for transitioning from the early 8-bit days to the optical media dominated era that the Jaguar was up against.  But instead the company bit off more than they could chew and rushed to release a system that wasn’t even truly 64-bit and generally had graphics that couldn’t even stand up to the average standard of the previous (4th) generation.

The designers of the Panther were connected to another failed system, the Konix Multisystem, which is really only even somewhat known to our English-speaking brethren across the pond.  Four titles were planned for the Panther’s launch.  Three of them, Raiden, Cybermorph, and Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy, were subsequently reworked into the eponymous Jaguar titles we know today.  The final title, dubbed Panther-Pong, would suggest a Panther-exclusive game, but little else is known.  Many believe it likely that several of the Jaguar’s games were reworked from Panther-era developments, especially considering the typically low quality visuals and sometimes complex control schemes.  Being that the Jaguar’s controller was lifted straight from the Panther’s development, it’s probable that the specialized functions of the controller’s “keypad” area were conceptualized long before the Panther project was abandoned.

Hell, I’d be glad to have bought a Panther if only so that the Jaguar could be a little less awful.

Written by The Cubist

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One Comment

  1. Haha, I bought the 32X add-on just to play Doom on my Genesis.


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