Atari Jaguar CD
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|Type||Video game console peripheral|
|Retail availability||September 1995 |
Late in the life span of the company, Atari released this long-promised CD-ROM unit. The unit hit shelves on September 11, 1995 and retailed for $149.95. The device sat atop the Jaguar console, snapping very firmly into the ROM cartridge slot, and had a funnel-like shape. The drive had its own cartridge slot to allow cartridge games to be played without removing the CD drive. There was a separate "Memory Track" cartridge for storing saved game position and high scores.
The Jaguar CD unit featured a double speed (2x) drive and built-in VLM (Virtual Light Machine) software written by Jeff Minter. The VLM, which provided a sophisticated video light show when an audio CD was played in the machine, was as popular among buyers as the games themselves. 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 was different than that of the cartridge-based Jaguar: using the VLM banks it created a random 'light show' that was different every time the console was switched on. However, the startup was silent.
Jaguar CD games could 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 only provided 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 2007.
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.
Jaguar CD-ROM games 
- Baldies (initially an exclusive, later ported to other systems)
- Battlemorph (exclusive)
- Beebris SE
- Black Ice / White Noise
- Blue Lightning (bundled)
- Bomb Squad
- Brain Dead 13 (port)
- Dragon's Lair (port)
- Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp (cancelled)
- Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods (exclusive)
- Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands (exclusive)
- Iron Soldier 2 (cancelled, but later released in both cartridge & CD format by Telegames)
- Kobayashi Maru: Final
- Myst (port)
- Primal Rage (port)
- Rayman (Jaguar CD version, cancelled)
- Robinson's Requiem (cancelled, but later released by Songbird Productions)
- Space Ace (port)
- Thea Realm Fighters (cancelled)
- Vid Grid (bundled)
- World Tour Racing (cancelled, but later released by Telegames)
- Black Out
- Frog Feast
- GORF Classic
- Impulse X
- Native (Incomplete)
- Ocean Depths
- Orion Jaguar Collection
- Superfly DX
- "Atari Corp.". HFN. 1995-09-04. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
- "Atari Jaguar CD system pounces onto multimedia marketplace.". Business Wire. 1995-09-21. Retrieved 2011-05-15.