Atari Panther: The Extinct Cat

In 1988 Atari Corporation’s Jack Tramiel ordered work to begin on the successor to the Atari 7800 and XEGS. Work quickly begun on the Panther and Jaguar consoles – yes, the Jaguar! The Atari Panther was being developed by Flare Technology (Flare One and Konix Multisystem) and was scheduled for release in 1991, directly competing with Nintendo’s SNES and Sega’s Mega Drive.

The Panther platform was going to be a mash up of the Atari ST and Transputer “Blossom” video card, once again blurring the lines of “is it 16 or 32-bit?”. For the record, the Motorola 68000 CPU was going to run at 16MHz (compared to the Mega Drive’s 8MHz and the SNES’ 12MHz) which was going to be paired with a 32-bit graphics card running at a whopping 32MHz! On paper, Atari was doing their math(s) right!

As the Panther and Jaguar were being developed in parallel, Atari Corp. started favouring the Jaguar as it was progressing quickly and presented far more impressive and superior technology. Atari eventually decided to scrap the Panther and forge ahead with their 64-bit console. The cancellation of the Panther meant that Atari had no hardware presence in the home console market between the discontinuation of the Atari 7800 in 1992 and the launch of their Jaguar in 1993. This gap weakened the Atari brand and likely contributed to the failure of the Jaguar console.

The cancellation of the Panther was poor timing, which in retrospect Atari wishes they had pursued it to market, as it would have given both the SNES and Mega Drive one hell of a fight!

The Atari Panther blueprint!

Looking good – front, back with nice sides!

The press release that got us drooling!

image source: Atari-Explorer via Wayback Machine