Micro Machines: Atari Panther

Micro Machines: Atari Panther

The Panther was intended to go head-to-head with Atari's biggest rivals Nintendo and Sega, and their latest 16-bit offerings, SNES (Super Famicom) and Genesis (Megadrive). The most impressive feature of Atari's console was probably its sprite-manipulating capabilities, handled by the Panther object processor. This chip dazzled even the legendary game developer Jeff Minter, who was commissioned to create demo programmes for the console. The Panther was also supposed to be able to produce swift 3D graphics and incredible multi-channel sound.

Alas, the planned release in 1991 never came to pass, as Atari cancelled the project abruptly. Depending on the source, six to thirteen publishers had already received development kits, with big names such as Psygnosis, Domark and Tecmo already planning or working on titles. Of all the games, only three survived and were later finished on the Atari Jaguar, which was being developed in parallel with the Panther.

Most surprisingly, even Atari UK had been left in the dark, receiving the information of cancellation only after the first marketing efforts for the upcoming console had begun. There has been plenty of speculation about the reasons for the sudden abandoning of the Panther. Rumours have ranged from production issues to simply forfeiting before the competition. However, the most widely printed reason is that Atari's Jaguar project was progressing faster, and its 3D graphics capabilities wowed the bosses. Instead of releasing two consoles, they decided to go all in on the promise of Jaguar.

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