Both the Commodore 64 (C64) and the Commodore Amiga have a huge soft spot in the hearts of many retro gamers here in Europe where micro computers was the main form of gaming in the 1980s as opposed to Japan and North America where it was mainly Atari and Nintendo consoles. However, in 1994 due to some seriously poor business decisions that would make even the likes of Sega sit up and take notes, and the change in the gaming landscape, Commodore went bankrupt. But the question remains, would it have been possible for Commodore to have survived regardless?
When it launched, the Amiga was incredibly powerful compared to alternatives on the market. Dreadful marketing and pricing aside, the computer line had huge potential for the future of gaming. Electronic Arts had a major interest in supporting the Amiga during its early years. LucasArts was another great supporter with many of their point and click adventure titles getting ported, some of which were superior to the IBM PC versions. Other developers offering a cinematic experience included Cinemaware, Delphine Software International and Revolution Software.
Due to the lack of licensing and relative low cost in manufacturing and distribution, a large number of developers and publishers were actively supporting the Amiga throughout its existence, some of which are still active today such as Codemasters porting pretty much anything and everything from the ZX Spectrum and C64 computers. Notable small developers that have since disappeared were The Bitmap Brothers, Sensible Software, Gremlin Graphics and DMA Design. Psygnosis prior to the Sony acquisition, was a publisher known for its high quality output and of course, that awesome logo. Remember Shadow of the Beast or Lemmings? The latter was, of course developed by DMA Designs who as we all know, went on to develop GTA before being purchased in the early 2000s to become Rockstar North.
Unfortunately the Amiga was incredibly outdated by the time 1992 came around and the AGA chip used in the Amiga 1200 didn’t do much to improve its performance. However, if Commodore hadn’t been so tight fisted with investing in research, there was to be a new chipset that would could have saved the Amiga line and possibly the company as a whole. Project Hombre was the name and it was to be a whole new start for the Amiga line of computers. The focus was to be on 64-bit 3D graphics which would have been a monumental leap forward. It would have been able to display 30 million 3D rendered pixels per second which is, apparently, in the vicinity of what the PS1 could achieve and have 3D texture mapping. There’s a whole load of other things the Hombre chipset was going to achieve, but I don’t understand most of it but it’s something you can easily look up.
The fact that Commodore had such a chipset in the works is a pretty exciting thought. It was cancelled in 1993 due to poor financial conditions at Commodore so it’s likely safe to believe it wasn’t something that would have been released that year, meaning it was going to be up against the 32-bit consoles and very soon, PC hardware which were too seeing huge leaps every year. The Amiga certainly wouldn’t have been the powerhouse it was when first launched but I still believe that it would have been able to survive in the marketplace. Whether Commodore could have kept up the momentum in research that was seen elsewhere in the PC space is something that’s not really possible to answer. But perhaps the Amiga could have stayed relevant and continued to enjoy success for at least a few more years and prove that the micro computers market could still hold its own in the IBM PC landscape.
Other changes would of course been needed, such as including a CD-ROM drive in addition to the floppy disk drive which would have been required for the planned backwards compatibility through the new AGA chipset that was to be used. This I believe was different to that of the one found on the Amiga 1200 as it took the functionality of multiple chips used in the Amiga line up to this point and put them on all on a single chip to allow backwards compatibility to work.
When you consider what could have been, the Amiga CD 32 could have been the perfect console to use this Hombre chipset as it would have been able to fully go up against Sony and Sega. To some degree at least. Support would always be an issue without any first party developers. But, since it never happened, there’s no harm in dreaming what could have been.