Atari Jaguar CD
|Type||Video game console peripheral|
|Retail availability||September 21, 1995|
Atari announced a CD-ROM drive for the Jaguar before the console's November 1993 launch. Code-named the Jaguar II during development, the Jaguar CD was released on September 21, 1995, and retailed for $149.95. It suffered from multiple delays, having been originally intended for launch during the 1994 holiday shopping season. The device sits on top the Jaguar console, fitting into the ROM cartridge slot. The drive has its own cartridge slot to allow cartridge games to be played without removing the CD drive, and to run software which used cartridge and CD in tandem. There was a separate "Memory Track" cartridge for storing saved game position and high scores.
The Jaguar CD unit featured a double-speed (2×) drive and built-in VLM (Virtual Light Machine) software written by Jeff Minter. Using a spectrum analyzer, the VLM provided a sophisticated video light show when an audio CD was played in the machine. Packaged with the drive were two games (Blue Lightning and Vid Grid), a music CD (Tempest 2000 soundtrack), and a Myst demo disc. Also, the startup screen is different from that of the cartridge-based Jaguar: using the VLM banks it creates a random "light show" that is different every time the console was switched on. However, the startup was silent.
Jaguar CD games can include as much as 790MB of data, considerably more than conventional CD-ROMs. The designers chose to ignore established CD-ROM formats and instead created their own based on the audio CD format. While allowing for dramatically more storage on the disc and foiling casual piracy, the format provides only limited error correction.
The drive was manufactured for Atari by Philips in the United States. The initial shipment was 20,000 units. Comments from Atari a few weeks after the unit was launched stated that the entire inventory had been sold, and that another batch would be ordered. With the JT Storage reverse takeover looming just a few months away, it is possible, however, that those 20,000 drives were the only units ever produced.
Only 11 games were released for the Jaguar CD during its lifetime: Battlemorph, Baldies, Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods, Brain Dead 13, Dragon's Lair, Space Ace, Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands, Myst, Primal Rage, and the two pack-ins. However, previously unfinished titles and homebrew releases have since been produced, and games for the Jaguar CD were released as recently as 2017.
In mid-1994 Atari and Sigma Designs signed an agreement to co-develop a PC board that would allow Jaguar CD games to be played on home computers, with a scheduled release by the end of 1994. However, it was never completed.
It is now possible to (legally) download and burn several encrypted demos (Black Ice/White Noise, Native, Atomic) to play on an actual CD unit with no modification. Due to this, the homebrew sector is active with several titles in progress. A third-party cartridge (Protector SE, B&C's cart) is, however, still required for unencrypted games.
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