Video game console

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Video games

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

A computer is a device that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers have the ability to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs. These programs enable computers to perform an extremely wide range of tasks. A "complete" computer including the hardware, the operating system, and peripheral equipment required and used for "full" operation can be referred to as a computer system. This term may as well be used for a group of computers that are connected and work together, in particular a computer network or computer cluster.

Image artifact that depicts or records visual perception

An image is an artifact that depicts visual perception, such as a photograph or other two-dimensional picture, that resembles a subject—usually a physical object—and thus provides a depiction of it. In the context of signal processing, an image is a distributed amplitude of color(s).

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

Contents

The term "video game console" is primarily used to distinguish a console machine primarily designed for consumers to use for playing video games, in contrast to arcade machines or home computers. An arcade machine consists of a video game computer, display, game controller (joystick, buttons, etc.) and speakers housed in large chassis. A home computer is a personal computer designed for home use for a variety of purposes, such as bookkeeping, accessing the Internet and playing video games. While arcades and computers are generally expensive or highly “technical” devices, video game consoles were designed with affordability and accessibility to the general public in mind.

Arcade cabinet

An arcade cabinet, also known as an arcade/coin-op machine, is the housing within which an arcade game's electronic hardware resides. Most cabinets designed since the mid-1980s conform to the Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturers Association (JAMMA) wiring standard. Some include additional connectors for features not included in the standard.

Home computer class of microcomputers

Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977, that started with what Byte Magazine called the "trinity of 1977", and which became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single nontechnical user. These computers were a distinct market segment that typically cost much less than business, scientific or engineering-oriented computers of the time such as the IBM PC, and were generally less powerful in terms of memory and expandability. However, a home computer often had better graphics and sound than contemporary business computers. Their most common uses were playing video games, but they were also regularly used for word processing, doing homework, and programming.

Game controller device used with games or entertainment systems

A game controller is a device used with games or entertainment systems to provide input to a video game, typically to control an object or character in the game. Before the seventh generation of video game consoles, plugging in a controller into one of a console's controller ports were the primary means of using a game controller, although since then they have been replaced by wireless controllers, which do not require controller ports on the console but are battery-powered. USB game controllers could also be connected to a computer with a USB port. Input devices that have been classified as game controllers include keyboards, mouses, gamepads, joysticks, etc. Special purpose devices, such as steering wheels for driving games and light guns for shooting games, are also game controllers.

Unlike similar consumer electronics such as music players and movie players, which use industry-wide standard formats, video game consoles use proprietary formats which compete with each other for market share. [1] There are various types of video game consoles, including home video game consoles, handheld game consoles, microconsoles and dedicated consoles. Although Ralph Baer had built working game consoles by 1966, it was nearly a decade before the Pong game made them commonplace in regular people's living rooms. Through evolution over the 1990s and 2000s, game consoles have expanded to offer additional functions such as CD players, DVD players, Blu-ray disc players, web browsers, set-top boxes and more.

A proprietary format is a file format of a company, organization, or individual that contains data that is ordered and stored according to a particular encoding-scheme, designed by the company or organization to be secret, such that the decoding and interpretation of this stored data is easily accomplished only with particular software or hardware that the company itself has developed. The specification of the data encoding format is not released, or underlies non-disclosure agreements. A proprietary format can also be a file format whose encoding is in fact published, but is restricted through licences such that only the company itself or licencees may use it. In contrast, an open format is a file format that is published and free to be used by everybody.

A home video game console, or simply home console, is a video game device that is primarily used for home gamers, as opposed to in arcades or some other commercial establishment. Home consoles are one type of video game consoles, in contrast to the handheld game consoles which are smaller and portable, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place, along with microconsoles and dedicated consoles.

Handheld game console lightweight, portable electronic device used for gaming

A handheld game console, or simply handheld console, is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls, and speakers. Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game consoles and contain the console, screen, speakers, and controls in one unit, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place.

History

Overview of timeline

Video game console
Source [note 1] [note 2] [note 3] [note 4] [note 5] [note 6] [note 7] [note 8]

First generation

The Magnavox Odyssey was the first video game console, released in 1972 Magnavox-Odyssey-Console-Set.jpg
The Magnavox Odyssey was the first video game console, released in 1972

The first video games appeared in the 1960s. [20] They were played on massive computers connected to vector displays, not analog televisions. Ralph H. Baer conceived the idea of a home video game in 1951. In the late 1960s, while working for Sanders Associates, Baer created a series of video game console designs. One of these designs, which gained the nickname of the 1966 "Brown Box", featured changeable game modes and was demonstrated to several TV manufacturers, ultimately leading to an agreement between Sanders Associates and Magnavox. [21] In 1972, Magnavox released the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game console which could be connected to a TV set. Ralph Baer's initial design had called for a huge row of switches that would allow players to turn on and off certain components of the console (the Odyssey lacked a CPU) to create slightly different games like tennis, volleyball, hockey, and chase. Magnavox replaced the switch design with separate cartridges for each game. Although Baer had sketched up ideas for cartridges that could include new components for new games, the carts released by Magnavox all served the same function as the switches and allowed players to choose from the Odyssey's built-in games.

Analog television original television technology that uses analog signals to transmit video and audio; in an analog television broadcast, the brightness, colors and sound are represented by rapid variations of either the amplitude, frequency or phase of the signal

Analog television or analogue television is the original television technology that uses analog signals to transmit video and audio. In an analog television broadcast, the brightness, colors and sound are represented by rapid variations of either the amplitude, frequency or phase of the signal.

Ralph H. Baer German-American inventor and engineer

Ralph Henry Baer was a German inventor, game developer, and engineer.

Sanders Associates

Sanders Associates was a defense contractor in Nashua, New Hampshire, United States, from 1951 until it was sold in 1986. It is now part of BAE Systems Electronics & Integrated Solutions, a subsidiary of BAE Systems. It concentrated on developing and manufacturing electronic systems, notably aircraft self-protection systems, and tactical surveillance and intelligence systems. Other business areas included microwave, missile and space electronics; infrared imaging; and automated mission planning systems, with both military and commercial applications.

The Odyssey initially sold about 100,000 units, [22] making it moderately successful, and it was not until Atari's arcade game Pong popularized video games that the public began to take more notice of the emerging industry. By autumn 1975, Magnavox, bowing to the popularity of Pong, canceled the Odyssey and released a scaled-down version that played only Pong and hockey, the Odyssey 100. A second, "higher end" console, the Odyssey 200, was released with the 100 and added on-screen scoring, up to four players, and a third game—Smash. Almost simultaneously released with Atari's own home Pong console through Sears, these consoles jump-started the consumer market. All three of the new consoles used simpler designs than the original Odyssey did with no board game pieces or extra cartridges. In the years that followed, the market saw many companies rushing similar consoles to market. After General Instrument released their inexpensive microchips, each containing a complete console on a single chip, many small developers began releasing consoles that looked different externally, but internally were playing exactly the same games. Most of the consoles from this era were dedicated consoles playing only the games that came with the console. These video game consoles were often just called video games because there was little reason to distinguish the two yet. While a few companies like Atari, Magnavox, and newcomer Coleco pushed the envelope, the market became flooded with simple, similar video games.

Atari Corparate and brand name

Atari SA is a French corporate and brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972, currently by Atari Interactive, a subsidiary of the French publisher Atari, SA. The original Atari, Inc., founded in Sunnyvale, California in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. The company's products, such as Pong and the Atari 2600, helped define the electronic entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.

Arcade game coin-operated entertainment machine

An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games or merchandisers. While exact dates are debated, the golden age of arcade video games is usually defined as a period beginning sometime in the late 1970s and ending sometime in the mid-1980s. Excluding a brief resurgence in the early 1990s, the arcade industry subsequently declined in the Western hemisphere as competing home video game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox increased in their graphics and game-play capability and decreased in cost.

<i>Pong</i> early video game

Pong is one of the earliest arcade video games. It is a table tennis sports game featuring simple two-dimensional graphics. The game was originally manufactured by Atari, which released it in 1972. Allan Alcorn created Pong as a training exercise assigned to him by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. Bushnell based the idea on an electronic ping-pong game included in the Magnavox Odyssey; Magnavox later sued Atari for patent infringement. Bushnell and Atari co-founder Ted Dabney were surprised by the quality of Alcorn's work and decided to manufacture the game.

Second generation

Home consoles

The Atari 2600 became the most popular game console of the second generation. Atari-2600-Wood-4Sw-Set.jpg
The Atari 2600 became the most popular game console of the second generation.

Fairchild released the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES) in 1976. While there had been previous game consoles that used cartridges, either the cartridges had no information and served the same function as flipping switches (the Odyssey) or the console itself was empty (Coleco Telstar) and the cartridge contained all of the game components. The VES, however, contained a programmable microprocessor so its cartridges only needed a single ROM chip to store microprocessor instructions. RCA and Atari soon released their own cartridge-based consoles, the RCA Studio II and the Atari 2600 (originally branded as the Atari Video Computer System), respectively.

Fairchild Channel F video game console

The Fairchild Channel F, F for Fun, is a home video game console released by Fairchild Semiconductor in November 1976 across North America at the retail price of $169.95. It was also released in Japan in October the following year. It has the distinction of being the first programmable ROM cartridge–based video game console, and the first console to use a microprocessor. It was originally named Video Entertainment System, or VES, but when Atari released its VCS the next year, Fairchild changed the name for its machine, although they continued to use the old name alongside it. By 1977, the Fairchild Channel F had sold 250,000 units, trailing behind sales of the VCS.

RCA Studio II late 1970s video game console

The RCA Studio II is a home video game console made by RCA that debuted in January 1977. The graphics of Studio II games were black and white and resembled those of earlier Pong consoles and their clones. The Studio II also did not have joysticks or similar game controllers but instead used two ten-button keypads that were built into the console itself. The console was capable of making simple beep sounds with slight variations in tone and length. The Studio II included five built-in games.

Atari 2600 video game console

The Atari 2600, originally sold as the Atari Video Computer System or Atari VCS until November 1982, is a home video game console from Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and games contained on ROM cartridges, a format first used with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. This contrasts with the older model of having dedicated hardware that could play only those games that were physically built into the unit. The 2600 was bundled with two joystick controllers, a conjoined pair of paddle controllers, and a game cartridge: initially Combat, and later Pac-Man.

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Fairchild Channel F 19771976none250,000
Atari 2600 19831977197830,000,000
Magnavox Odyssey² 1982197919782,000,000
Intellivision 1982198019823,000,000
ColecoVision none198219832,000,000
Atari 5200 none1982none1,000,000

Handheld game consoles

The first handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges was the Microvision designed by Smith Engineering, and distributed and sold by Milton-Bradley in 1979. Crippled by a small, fragile LCD display and a very narrow selection of games, it was discontinued two years later. The Epoch Game Pocket Computer was released in Japan in 1984. The Game Pocket Computer featured an LCD screen with 75 X 64 resolution and could produce graphics at about the same level as early Atari 2600 games. The system sold very poorly, and as a result, only five games were made for it. Nintendo's Game & Watch series of dedicated game systems proved more successful. It helped to establish handheld gaming as popular and lasted until 1991. Many Game & Watch games were later re-released on Nintendo's subsequent handheld systems.

Rebirth of the home console market

The VES continued to be sold at a profit after 1977, and both Bally (with their Home Library Computer in 1977) and Magnavox (with the Odyssey² in 1978) brought their own programmable cartridge-based consoles to the market. However, it was not until Atari released a conversion of the golden age arcade hit Space Invaders in 1980 for the Atari 2600 that the home console industry took off. Many consumers bought an Atari console so they could play Space Invaders at home. The unprecedented success of Space Invaders started the trend of console manufacturers trying to get exclusive rights to arcade titles, and the trend of advertisements for game consoles claiming to bring the arcade experience home. Throughout the early 1980s, other companies released video game consoles of their own. Many of the video game systems (e.g. ColecoVision) were technically superior to the Atari 2600, and marketed as improvements over the Atari 2600. However, Atari dominated the console market in the early 1980s.

North American video game crash of 1983

In 1983, the video game business suffered a much more severe crash. A flood of low-quality video games by smaller companies (especially for the 2600), industry leader Atari hyping games such as E.T and a 2600 version of Pac-Man that were poorly received, and a growing number of home computer users caused consumers and retailers to lose faith in video game consoles. Most video game companies filed for bankruptcy, or moved into other industries, abandoning their game consoles. A group of employees from Mattel Electronics formed the INTV Corporation and bought the rights for the Intellivision. INTV alone continued to manufacture the Intellivision in small quantities and release new Intellivision games until 1991. All other North American game consoles were discontinued by 1984. Revenues generated by the video game industry fell by 97% during the crash.

Third generation

Home consoles

The NES made home console video games popular again in America after the 1983 crash NES-Console-Set.jpg
The NES made home console video games popular again in America after the 1983 crash

In 1983, Nintendo released the Family Computer (or Famicom) in Japan. The Famicom supported high-resolution sprites, larger color palettes, and tiled backgrounds. This allowed Famicom games to be longer and have more detailed graphics. Nintendo began attempts to bring their Famicom to the U.S. after the video game market had crashed. In the U.S., video games were seen as a fad that had already passed. To distinguish its product from older game consoles, Nintendo released their Famicom as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) which used a front-loading cartridge port similar to a VCR, included a plastic "robot" (R.O.B.), and was initially advertised as a toy. The NES was the highest selling console in the history of North America and revitalized the video game market. Mario of Super Mario Bros. became a global icon starting with his NES games. Nintendo took a somewhat unusual stance with third-party developers for its console. Nintendo contractually restricted third-party developers to three NES titles per year and forbade them from developing for other video game consoles. The practice ensured Nintendo's market dominance and prevented the flood of trash titles that had helped kill the Atari, but was ruled illegal late in the console's lifecycle. [23]

Sega's Master System was intended to compete with the NES, but never gained any significant market share in the US or Japan and was barely profitable. It fared notably better in PAL territories. In Europe and South America, the Master System competed with the NES and saw new game releases even after Sega's next-generation Mega Drive was released. In Brazil where strict importation laws and rampant piracy kept out competitors, the Master System outsold the NES by a massive margin and remained popular into the 1990s. [24] Jack Tramiel, after buying Atari, downsizing its staff, and settling its legal disputes, attempted to bring Atari back into the home console market. Atari released a smaller, sleeker, cheaper version of their popular Atari 2600. They also released the Atari 7800, a console technologically comparable with the NES and backward compatible with the 2600. Finally, Atari repackaged its 8-bit XE home computer as the XEGS game console. The new consoles helped Atari claw its way out of debt, but failed to gain much market share from Nintendo. Atari's lack of funds meant that its consoles saw fewer releases, lower production values (both the manuals and the game labels were frequently black and white), and limited distribution. Additionally, two popular 8-bit computers, the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC, were repackaged as the Commodore 64 Games System and Amstrad GX4000 respectively, for entry into the console market.

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Famicom/NES 19831985198661,910,000
Mark III/Master System 19851986198713,000,000
Atari 7800 none198619873,770,000
Atari XEGS none19871987100,000

Handheld game consoles

In the latter part of the third generation, Nintendo introduced the Game Boy and Atari released the Atari Lynx portable game consoles, pioneering and solidifying the handheld video game industry.

Fourth generation

Home consoles

Nintendo Super Famicom Nintendo-Super-Famicom-Set-FL.jpg
Nintendo Super Famicom

NEC brought the first fourth-generation console to market with their PC Engine (or TurboGrafx16) when Hudson Soft approached them with an advanced graphics chip. Hudson had previously approached Nintendo, only to be rebuffed by a company still raking in the profits of the NES. The TurboGrafx used the unusual HuCard format to store games. The small size of these proprietary cards allowed NEC to re-release the console as a handheld game console. The PC Engine enjoyed brisk sales in Japan, but its North American counterpart, the TurboGrafx, lagged behind the competition. The console never saw an official release in Europe, but clones and North American imports were available in some markets starting in 1990. NEC advertised their console as "16-bit" to highlight its advances over the NES. This started the trend of all subsequent fourth generations consoles being advertised as 16 bit. Many people still refer to this generation as the 16-bit generation and often refer to the third generation as "8-bit".

Sega scaled down and adapted their Sega System 16 (used to power arcade hits like Altered Beast and Shinobi) into the Mega Drive (sold as the Genesis in North America) and released it with a near arcade-perfect port of Altered Beast. Sega's console met lukewarm sales in Japan, but skyrocketed to first place in PAL markets, and made major inroads in North America. Propelled by its effective "Genesis does what Nintendon't" marketing campaign, Sega capitalized on the Genesis's technological superiority over the NES, faithful ports of popular arcade games, and competitive pricing. The arcade gaming company SNK developed the high end Neo Geo MVS arcade system which used interchangeable cartridges similar to home consoles. Building on the success of the MVS, SNK repackaged the NeoGeo as the Neo Geo AES home console. Though technologically superior to the other fourth-generation consoles, the AES and its games were prohibitively expensive, which kept sales low and prevented it from expanding outside its niche market and into serious competition with Nintendo and Sega. The AES did, however, amass a dedicated cult following, allowing it to see new releases into the 2000s. Fourth generation graphics chips allowed these consoles to reproduce the art styles that were becoming popular in arcades and on home computers. These games often featured lavish background scenery, huge characters, broader color palettes, and increased emphasis on dithering and texture. Games written specifically for the NES, like Megaman, Shatterhand , and Super Mario Bros. 3 were able to work cleverly within its limitations. Ports of the increasingly detailed arcade and home computer games came up with various solutions. For example, when Capcom released Strider in the arcade they created an entirely separate Strider game for the NES that only incorporated themes and characters from the arcade.

In 1990, Nintendo finally brought their Super Famicom to market and brought it to the United States as the Super NES (SNES) a year later. Its release marginalized the TurboGrafx and the Neo Geo, but came late enough for Sega to sell several million consoles in North America and gain a strong foothold. The same year the SNES was released Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog , which spiked Genesis sales, similar to Space Invaders on the Atari. Also, by 1992 the first fully licensed NFL Football game was released: NFL Sports Talk Football '93 , which was available only on the Genesis. This impact on Genesis sales and the overall interest of realistic sports games would start the trend of licensed sports games being viewed as necessary for the success of a console in the US. While Nintendo enjoyed dominance in Japan and Sega in Europe, the competition between the two was particularly fierce and close in North America. Ultimately, the SNES outsold the Genesis, but only after Sega discontinued the Genesis to focus on the next generation of consoles.

One trait that remains peculiar to the fourth generation is the huge number of exclusive games. Both Sega and Nintendo were very successful and their consoles developed massive libraries of games. Both consoles had to be programmed in assembly to get the most out of them. A game optimized for the Genesis could take advantage of its faster CPU and sound chip. A game optimized for the SNES could take advantage of its graphics and its flexible, clean sound chip. Some game series, like Castlevania, saw separate system exclusive releases rather than an attempt to port one game to disparate platforms. When compact disc (CD) technology became available midway through the fourth generation, each company attempted to integrate it into their existing consoles in different ways. NEC and Sega released CD add-ons to their consoles in the form of the TurboGrafx-CD and Sega CD, but both were only moderately successful. NEC also released the TurboDuo which combined the TurboGrafx-16 and its TurboGrafx-CD add-on (along with the RAM and BIOS upgrade from the Super System Card) into one unit. SNK released a third version of the NeoGeo, the Neo Geo CD, allowing the company to release its games on a cheaper medium than the AES's expensive cartridges, but it reached the market after Nintendo and Sega had already sold tens of millions of consoles each. Nintendo partnered with Sony to work on a CD add-on for the SNES, but the deal fell apart when they realized how much control Sony wanted. Sony would use their work with Nintendo as the basis for their PlayStation game console. While CDs became an increasingly visible part of the market, CD-reading technology was still expensive in the 1990s, limiting NEC's and Sega's add-ons' sales.

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 19871989198910,000,000
Mega Drive/Genesis 19881989199040,000,000
Neo Geo 199019911994980,000
Super Famicom/Super NES 19901991199249,100,000
Sega CD/Mega-CD 1991199219932,240,000
Neo Geo CD 199419961994570,000

Handheld game consoles

The first handheld game console released in the fourth generation was the Game Boy, on April 21, 1989. It went on to dominate handheld sales by an extremely large margin, despite featuring a low-contrast, unlit monochrome screen while all three of its leading competitors had color. Three major franchises made their debut on the Game Boy: Tetris , the Game Boy's killer application; Pokémon; and Kirby. With some design (Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light) and hardware (Game Boy Color) changes, it continued in production in some form until 2008, enjoying a better than 18-year run. The Atari Lynx included hardware-accelerated color graphics, a backlight, and the ability to link up to sixteen units together in an early example of network play when its competitors could only link 2 or 4 consoles (or none at all), [25] but its comparatively short battery life (approximately 4.5 hours on a set of alkaline cells, versus 35 hours for the Game Boy), high price, and weak games library made it one of the worst-selling handheld game systems of all time, with less than 500,000 units sold. [26] [27]

The third major handheld of the fourth generation was the Game Gear. It featured graphics capabilities roughly comparable to the Master System (better colours, but lower resolution), a ready made games library by using the "Master-Gear" adapter to play cartridges from the older console, and the opportunity to be converted into a portable TV using a cheap tuner adaptor, but it also suffered some of the same shortcomings as the Lynx. While it sold more than twenty times as many units as the Lynx, its bulky design - slightly larger than even the original Game Boy; relatively poor battery life - only a little better than the Lynx; and later arrival in the marketplace - competing for sales amongst the remaining buyers who didn't already have a Game Boy - hampered its overall popularity despite being more closely competitive to the Nintendo in terms of price and breadth of software library. [28] Sega eventually retired the Game Gear in 1997, a year before Nintendo released the first examples of the Game Boy Color, to focus on the Nomad and non-portable console products. Other handheld consoles released during the fourth generation included the TurboExpress, a handheld version of the TurboGrafx-16 released by NEC in 1990, and the Game Boy Pocket, an improved model of the Game Boy released about two years before the debut of the Game Boy Color. While the TurboExpress was another early pioneer of color handheld gaming technology and had the added benefit of using the same game cartridges or 'HuCards' as the TurboGrafx16, it had even worse battery life than the Lynx and Game Gear - about three hours on six contemporary AA batteries - selling only 1.5 million units. [27]

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Game Boy 198919891990118,690,000
Atari Lynx 1990198919903,000,000
Game Gear 19901991199110,620,000
TurboExpress 19901991none1,500,000

Fifth generation

During this time home computers gained greater prominence as a way of playing video games. The gaming console industry nonetheless continued to thrive alongside home computers, due to the advantages of much lower prices, easier portability, circuitry specifically dedicated towards gaming, the ability to be played on a television set (which PCs of the time could not do in most cases), and intensive first party software support from manufacturers who were essentially banking their entire future on their consoles. [29]

Home consoles

The Sony PlayStation became the most popular system of the fifth generation consoles, eventually selling over 100 million systems PSX-Console-wController.jpg
The Sony PlayStation became the most popular system of the fifth generation consoles, eventually selling over 100 million systems

The first fifth-generation consoles were the Amiga CD32, 3DO and the Atari Jaguar. Although all three consoles were more powerful than the fourth generation systems, none of them would become serious threats to Sega or Nintendo. The 3DO initially generated a great deal of hype in part because of a licensing scheme where 3DO licensed the manufacturing of its console out to third parties, similar to VCR or DVD players. However, unlike its competitors who could sell their consoles at a loss, all 3DO manufacturers had to sell for profit. The Jaguar had three processors and no C libraries to help developers cope with it. Atari was ineffective at courting third parties and many of their first party games were poorly received. Many of the Jaguar's games used mainly the slowest (but most familiar) of the console's processors, resulting in titles that could easily have been released on the SNES or Genesis.

To compete with emerging next gen consoles, Nintendo released Donkey Kong Country which could display a wide range of tones (something common in fifth-generation games) by limiting the number of hues onscreen, and Star Fox which used an extra chip inside of the cartridge to display polygon graphics. Sega followed suit, releasing Vectorman and Virtua Racing (the latter of which used the Sega Virtua Processor). Sega also released the 32X, an add-on for the Genesis, while their Sega Saturn was still in development. Despite public statements from Sega claiming that they would continue to support the Genesis/32X throughout the next generation, Sega Enterprises forced Sega of America to abandon the 32X. The 32X's brief and confusing existence damaged public perception of the coming Saturn and Sega as a whole.

While the fourth generation had seen NEC's TurboGrafx-CD and Sega's Sega CD add-ons, it was not until the fifth generation that CD-based consoles and games began to seriously compete with cartridges. CD-ROMs were significantly cheaper to manufacture and distribute than cartridges were, and gave developers room to add cinematic cut-scenes, pre-recorded soundtracks, and voice acting that made more serious storytelling possible. NEC had been developing a successor to the TurboGrafx-16 as early as 1990, and presented a prototype, dubbed the "Iron Man," to developers in 1992, but shelved the project as the CD-ROM² System managed to extend the console's market viability in Japan into the mid-90s. When sales started to dry up, NEC rushed its old project to the market. The PC-FX, a CD-based, 32-bit console, had highly advanced, detailed 2D graphics capabilities, and better full-motion video than any other system on the market. It was, however, incapable of handling 3D graphics, forfeiting its chances at seriously competing with Sony and Sega. The console was limited to a niche market of dating sims and visual novels in Japan, and never saw release in Western markets.

After the abortive 32X, Sega entered the fifth generation with the Saturn. Sega released several highly regarded titles for the Saturn, but a series of bad decisions alienated many developers and retailers. While the Saturn was technologically advanced, it was also complex, difficult, and unintuitive to write games for. In particular, programming 3D graphics that could compete with those on Nintendo and Sony's consoles proved exceptionally difficult for third-party developers. Because the Saturn used quadrilaterals, rather than triangles, as its basic polygon, cross platform games had to be completely rewritten to see a Saturn port. The Saturn was also a victim of internal politics at Sega. While the Saturn sold comparably well in Japan, Sega's branches in North America and Europe refused to license localizations of many popular Japanese titles, holding they were ill-suited to Western markets. First-party hits like Sakura Taisen never saw Western releases, while several third-party titles released on both PlayStation and Saturn in Japan, like Grandia and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night , were released in North America and Europe as PlayStation exclusives.

Born from a failed attempt to create a console with Nintendo, Sony's PlayStation would not only dominate its generation but become the first console to sell over 100 million units by expanding the video game market. Sony actively courted third parties and provided them with convenient c libraries to write their games. Sony had built the console from the start as a 3D, disc-based system, and emphasized its 3D graphics that would come to be viewed as the future of gaming. The PlayStation's CD technology won over several developers who had been releasing titles for Nintendo and Sega's fourth generation consoles, such as Konami, Namco, Capcom, and Square. CDs were far cheaper to manufacture and distribute than cartridges were, meaning developers could release larger batches of games at higher profit margins; Nintendo's console, on the other hand, used cartridges, unwittingly keeping third-party developers away. The PlayStation's internal architecture was simpler and more intuitive to program for, giving the console an edge over Sega's Saturn.

Nintendo was the last to release a fifth generation console with their Nintendo 64, and when they finally released their console in North America, it came with only two launch titles. Partly to curb piracy and partly as a result of Nintendo's failed disc projects with Sony (as SNES-CD) and Philips, Nintendo used cartridges for their console. The higher cost of cartridges drove many third party developers to the PlayStation. The Nintendo 64 could handle 3D polygons better than any console released before it, but its games often lacked the cut-scenes, soundtracks, and voice-overs that became standard on PlayStation discs. Nintendo released several highly acclaimed titles, such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the Nintendo 64 was able to sell tens of millions of units on the strength of first-party titles alone, but its constant struggles against Sony would make the Nintendo 64 the last home console to use cartridges as a medium for game distribution until the Nintendo Switch in 2017.

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
FM Towns Marty 1993nonenone45,000
Amiga CD32 none19941993100,000
Atari Jaguar 199419931994250,000
3DO 1994199319942,000,000
PC-FX 1994nonenone400,000
Sega 32X 199419941995665,000
Virtual Boy 19951995none770,000
Sega Saturn 1994199519959,260,000
PlayStation 199419951995102,490,000
Nintendo 64 19961996199732,930,000
Apple Pippin 19961996none42,000

Handheld game consoles

For handheld game consoles, the fifth generation began with the release of the Virtual Boy on July 21, 1995. [30] Nintendo extensively advertised the Virtual Boy, and claimed to have spent US$25 million on early promotional activities. [31] The Virtual Boy was discontinued in late 1995 in Japan and in early 1996 in North America. Nintendo discontinued the system without fanfare, avoiding an official press release. [31] Taken as a whole, the marketing campaign was commonly thought of as a failure. [32] The Virtual Boy was overwhelmingly panned by critics and was a commercial failure. [33] The Virtual Boy failed for a number of reasons, among them "its high price, the discomfort caused by play [...] and what was widely judged to have been a poorly handled marketing campaign." [32]

The Nomad was released in October 1995 in North America only. [34] [35] The release was five years into the market span of the Genesis, with an existing library of more than 500 Genesis games. According to former Sega of America research and development head Joe Miller, the Nomad was not intended to be the Game Gear's replacement and believes that there was little planning from Sega of Japan for the new handheld. [36] Sega was supporting five different consoles: Saturn, Genesis, Game Gear, Pico, and the Master System, as well as the Sega CD and 32X add-ons. In Japan, the Mega Drive had never been successful and the Saturn was more successful than Sony's PlayStation, so Sega Enterprises CEO Hayao Nakayama decided to focus on the Saturn. [37] By 1999, the Nomad was being sold at less than a third of its original price. [38]

Meanwhile, the commercial failure of the Virtual Boy reportedly did little to alter Nintendo's development approach and focus on innovation. [31] According to Game Over, Nintendo laid blame for the machine's faults directly on its creator, Gunpei Yokoi. [39] The commercial failure of the Virtual Boy was said by members of the video game press to be a contributing factor to Yokoi's withdrawal from Nintendo, although he had planned to retire years prior and finished another more successful project for the company, the Game Boy Pocket, which was released shortly before his departure. [40]

In 1996, Nintendo released the Game Boy Pocket: a smaller, lighter unit that required fewer batteries. It has space for two AAA batteries, which provide approximately 10 hours of game play. [41] Although, like its predecessor, the Game Boy Pocket has no backlight to allow play in a darkened area, it did notably improve visibility and pixel response-time (mostly eliminating ghosting). [42] The Game Boy Pocket was not a new software platform and played the same software as the original Game Boy model. [43]

First released in Japan on October 21, 1998, the Game Boy Color (abbreviated as GBC) added a (slightly smaller) color screen to a form factor similar in size to the Game Boy Pocket. It also has double the processor speed, three times as much memory, [44] and an infrared communications port. Technologically, it was likened to the 8-bit NES video game console from the 1980s although the Game Boy Color has a much larger color palette (56 simultaneous colors out of 32,768 possible) which had some classical NES ports and newer titles. It comes in seven different colors; Clear purple, purple, red, blue, green, yellow and silver for the Pokémon edition. Like the Game Boy Light, the Game Boy Color takes on two AA batteries. It was the final handheld to have 8-bit graphics.

Despite of Nintendo's domination of handheld console market, some competing consoles such as Neo Geo Pocket, WonderSwan, Neo Geo Pocket Color, WonderSwan Color appeared in late 90s and discontinued several years later after their appearance in handheld console market.

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Virtual Boy 19951995none770,000
Genesis Nomad none1995none
Game Boy Pocket 1996nonenone
Game.com
Game Boy Light 1998nonenone
Game Boy Color 199819981998
Neo Geo Pocket
WonderSwan
Neo Geo Pocket Color
WonderSwan Color


Sixth generation

Home consoles

With more than 155 million units sold, the Sony PlayStation 2 is the best selling video game console in history PS2-Fat-Console-Set.jpg
With more than 155 million units sold, the Sony PlayStation 2 is the best selling video game console in history
The Dreamcast was the last system released by Sega, who became a third-party software publisher. Dreamcast-Console-Set.jpg
The Dreamcast was the last system released by Sega, who became a third-party software publisher.

The sixth generation witnessed a shift towards using DVDs for video game media. This brought games that were both longer and more visually appealing. Adding furthermore features with online console gaming and implementing both flash and hard drive storage for game data.

  • Sega's Dreamcast, the first console with a built-in modem, was released in Japan on November 27, 1998. The Dreamcast initially underperformed in Japan; while interest was initially strong, the company was forced to stop taking preorders due to manufacturing issues, and the system underperformed its sales expectations, with reports of disappointed customers returning Dreamcast consoles to buy PlayStation games and peripherals.
After the sluggish sales in Japan, Sega pursued a different strategy in other areas. The system launched in North America with 18 titles, including the much-anticipated Sonic Adventure. A big part of marketing their system to North America was taking advantage of the turn of the century and North America's tendency to end a products price tag with the number 9. They came up with the slogan "9/9/99 for $199", and the system initially sold briskly. Despite Japan having a year head start on North America, by the end of 1999 the Dreamcast had sold 2 million units in North America versus only 1 million in Japan, and at the end of the year Sega controlled 31% of the American video game market. The Dreamcast went on to launch in Europe on October 14, 1999 and in Australia on November 30, 1999.
However, Sega's success ultimately proved to be short-lived. Sony announced their own upcoming system, the PlayStation 2, in the fall of 1999; while they had few details on their system, many consumers ultimately held off on buying a system until Sony's own system launched. The PS2 released a year later and received immense critical acclaim. The PS2 quickly outsold the Dreamcast, eventually going on to become the best-selling video game console of all time while the Dreamcast's own sales stagnated.
The Dreamcast was Sega's last video game console and was the first of the generation's consoles to be discontinued. Sega implemented a special type of optical media called the GD-ROM. These discs were created in order to prevent software piracy, which had been more easily done with consoles of the previous generation; however, this format was soon cracked as well. It also sported a 33.6Kb or 56k modem which could be used to access the Internet or play some games that took advantage of this feature, such as Phantasy Star Online, making it the first console with built-in Internet connectivity. An add-on for an Ethernet port allowed one to access broad band Internet though it did not come with the system. The Dreamcast was discontinued in March 2001, and Sega transitioned to software developing/publishing only.
  • Sony's PlayStation 2 was released in Japan on March 4, 2000, in North America on October 26, 2000, in Europe on November 24, 2000, and in Australia on November 30, 2000. It was the follow-up to its highly successful PlayStation and was also the first home game console to be able to play DVDs. As was done with the original PlayStation in 2000, Sony redesigned the console in 2004 into a smaller version. As of November 21, 2011 over 140 million PlayStation 2 units have been sold. [45] [46] This makes it the best selling home console of all time to date.
  • Nintendo's GameCube was released in Japan on September 15, 2001, in North America on November 18, 2001, in Europe on May 3, 2002, and in Australia on May 17, 2002. It was Nintendo's fourth home video game console and the first console by the company to use optical media instead of cartridges. The GameCube did not play standard 12 cm DVDs, instead it employed smaller 8 cm optical discs. With the release of the GameCube Game Boy Player, all Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges could be played on the platform. The GameCube was discontinued in 2007 with the release of Wii.
  • Microsoft's Xbox was the first dedicated video game console released by the company in North America on November 15, 2001, in Japan on February 22, 2002, and in Europe and Australia on March 14, 2002. Microsoft realized the power of video game consoles and feared with growing capabilities they may take over more than the living room. It was the first console to employ a hard drive right out of the box to save games, the first to include an Ethernet port for broadband internet, and the beginning of Microsoft's online Xbox LIVE service. Microsoft was able to attract many PC developers by using the NT kernel and DirectX from their Windows operating system. Though criticized for its bulky size and the awkwardness of its original controller, the Xbox eventually gained popularity, especially in the US, where it outsold the GameCube to secure second place, due in part to the success of the Halo franchise.
JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Dreamcast 1998199919999,130,000
PlayStation 2 200020002000155,000,000
GameCube 20012001200221,740,000
Xbox 20022001200224,000,000

Handheld game consoles

During the sixth generation era, the handheld game console market expanded with the introduction of new devices from many different manufacturers. Nintendo maintained its dominant share of the handheld market with the release in 2001 of the Game Boy Advance, which featured many upgrades and new features over the Game Boy. Two redesigns of this system followed, the Game Boy Advance SP in 2003 and the Game Boy Micro in 2005. Also introduced were the Neo Geo Pocket Color in 1998 and Bandai's WonderSwan Color, launched in Japan in 1999. South Korean company Game Park introduced its GP32 handheld in 2001, and with it came the dawn of open source handheld consoles. The Game Boy Advance line of handhelds has sold 81.51 million units worldwide as of September 30, 2010. [47]

A major new addition to the market was the trend for corporations to include a large number of "non-gaming" features into their handheld consoles, including cell phones, MP3 players, portable movie players, and PDA-like features. The handheld that started this trend was Nokia's N-Gage, which was released in 2003 and doubled primarily as a mobile phone. It went through a redesign in 2004 and was renamed the N-Gage QD. A second handheld, the Zodiac from Tapwave, was released in 2004; based on the Palm OS, it offered specialized gaming-oriented video and sound capabilities, but it had an unwieldy development kit due to the underlying Palm OS foundation. With more and more PDAs arriving during the previous generation, the difference between consumer electronics and traditional computing began to blur and cheap console technology grew as a result. It was said of PDAs that they were "the computers of handheld gaming" because of their multi-purpose capabilities and the increasingly powerful computer hardware that resided within them. This capability existed to move gaming beyond the last generation's 16-bit limitations; however, PDAs were still geared towards the typical businessman and lacked new, affordable software franchises to compete with dedicated handheld gaming consoles.

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Game Boy Advance 20012001200181,510,000
N-Gage none200320033,000,000

Seventh generation

Video game consoles had become an important part of the global IT infrastructure. It is estimated that video game consoles represented 25% of the world's general-purpose computational power in the year 2007. [48]

Home consoles

With more than 101 million units sold, the Nintendo Wii is the best-selling home video game console in the seventh generation. Wii console.png
With more than 101 million units sold, the Nintendo Wii is the best-selling home video game console in the seventh generation.
The release of the Xbox 360 began the seventh generation Xbox-360-Pro-wController.jpg
The release of the Xbox 360 began the seventh generation

The features introduced in this generation include the support of new disc formats: Blu-ray Disc, utilized by the PlayStation 3, and HD DVD supported by the Xbox 360 via an optional $200 external accessory addition, that was later discontinued as the format war closed. Another new technology is the use of motion as input, and IR tracking (as implemented on the Wii). Also, all seventh generation consoles support wireless controllers. This generation also introduced the Nintendo DS, and the Nintendo DSi, which brought touchscreens into the mainstream for and added cameras to portable gaming.

  • Microsoft kicked off the seventh generation with the release of the Xbox 360 on November 22, 2005, in the United States, December 2, 2005, in Europe, December 10, 2005, in Japan and March 23, 2006, in Australia. It featured market-leading processing power until the Sony PlayStation 3 was released one year later. While the original Xbox 360 "Core" did not include an internal HDD, most Xbox 360 models since have included at least the option to have one. The Xbox 360 optical drive is a DVD9 reader, allowing DVD movies to be played. No Blu-ray drive was included, making big games like Battlefield and Wolfenstein: The New Order require two or more DVDs to play. Up to four controllers can be connected to the console wirelessly on the standard 2.4 GHz spectrum. There are 4 discontinued versions of the Xbox 360: the "Arcade," the "Pro," and the "Elite," and the newer "S" or 'slim' model. The "E" version of the Xbox 360 included 3 configurations: a 4GB internal SSD version which acts like a USB hard drive, a 250 GB HDD version, and a branded 320 GB HDD version. The Xbox 360 is backward compatible with about half the games of the original Xbox library. In 2010, Microsoft released Kinect, allowing for motion-controlled games. The Xbox 360 was discontinued on April 20, 2016.
The Xbox 360 had major technical problems on release, with a large portion of its consoles suffering from general hardware failures, nicknamed "the Red Ring of Death (RROD)" for the display of a red ring around the console's power button indicating the problem. The company spent over $1 billion correcting the problem. [49]
  • Sony's PlayStation 3 was released in Japan on November 11, 2006, in North America on November 17, 2006, and in Europe and Australia on March 23, 2007. All PlayStation 3's come with a hard drive and are able to play Blu-ray Disc games and Blu-ray Disc movies out of the box. The PlayStation 3 was the first video game console to support HDMI output out of the box, using full 1080p resolution. Up to seven controllers can connect to the console using Bluetooth. There are 6 discontinued versions of the PS3: a 20 GB HDD version (discontinued in North America and Japan, and was never released in PAL territories), a 40 GB HDD version (discontinued), a 60 GB HDD version (discontinued in North America, Japan and PAL territories), 80 GB HDD version (only in some NTSC territories and PAL territories), a "slim" 120GB HDD version (discontinued), and a "slim" 250 GB version (discontinued). The two current shipping versions of the PlayStation 3 are: a "slim" 160 GB HDD version and a "slim" 320 GB HDD version. The hard drive can be replaced with any standard 2.5" Serial ATA drive and the system has support for removable media storage, such as Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo, USB, SD, MiniSD, and CompactFlash (CF) digital media, but only the PlayStation versions up to 80 GB support this. The slim PlayStation 3 consoles (120 GB and up) had removable storage discontinued. [50] All models are backward compatible with the original PlayStation's software library, and the launch models, since discontinued, are also backward compatible with PlayStation 2 games. As a cost-cutting measure, later models removed the Emotion Engine, making them incompatible with PlayStation 2 discs. In 2010, Sony released PlayStation Move, allowing for motion-controlled games. With recent software updates, the PlayStation 3 can play 3D Blu-ray movies and 3D games.
  • Nintendo's Wii was released in North America on November 19, 2006, in Japan on December 2, 2006, in Australia on December 7, 2006, and in Europe on December 8, 2006. It is bundled with Wii Sports in all regions except for Japan. Unlike the other systems of the seventh generation, the Wii does not support an internal hard drive, but instead uses 512 MB of internal Flash memory and includes support for removable SD card storage. It also has a maximum resolution output of 480p, making it the only seventh generation console not able to output high-definition graphics. Along with its lower price, the Wii is notable for its unique controller, the Wii Remote, which resembles a TV remote. The system uses a "sensor bar" that emits infrared light that is detected by an infrared camera in the Wii Remote to determine orientation relative to the source of the light. All models, other than the Wii Family Edition and the Wii Mini, are backwards compatible with GameCube games and support up to four GameCube controllers and two memory cards. It also includes the Virtual Console, which allows the purchase and downloading of games from older systems, including those of former competitors. In 2009, Nintendo introduced the 'Wii MotionPlus' expansion, which uses the same technology as the console previously used, but with enhanced motion tracking and sensing to improve gameplay quality.
JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Xbox 360 20052005200584,700,000
PlayStation 3 20062006200785,900,000
Wii 200620062006101,630,000

Handheld game consoles

For handheld game consoles, the seventh generation began with the release of the Nintendo DS on November 21, 2004. This handheld was based on a design fundamentally different from the Game Boy and other handheld video game systems. The Nintendo DS offered new modes of input over previous generations such as a touch screen, the ability to connect wirelessly using IEEE 802.11b, as well as a microphone to speak to in-game NPCs. [51] On December 12, 2004, Sony released its first handheld, PlayStation Portable (PSP). The PlayStation Portable was marketed at launch to an above 25-year-old [52] or "core gamer" market, [53] while the Nintendo DS proved to be popular with both core gamers and new customers. [54] Nokia revived its N-Gage platform in the form of a service for selected S60 devices. This new service launched on April 3, 2008. [55] Other less-popular handheld systems released during this generation include the Gizmondo (launched on March 19, 2005 and discontinued in February 2006) and the GP2X (launched on November 10, 2005 and discontinued in August 2008). The GP2X Wiz, Pandora, and Gizmondo 2 were scheduled for release in 2009. Another aspect of the seventh generation was the beginning of direct competition between dedicated handheld gaming devices, and increasingly powerful PDA/cell phone devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch, and the latter being aggressively marketed for gaming purposes. Simple games such as Tetris and Solitaire had existed for PDA devices since their introduction, but by 2009 PDAs and phones had grown sufficiently powerful to where complex graphical games could be implemented, with the advantage of distribution over wireless broadband.

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Nintendo DS 200420042005154,020,000
PlayStation Portable 20042005200582,000,000

Eighth generation

Home consoles

The Wii U was the least selling console of the eighth generation, selling around 13.56 million units before being discontinued, but some of Nintendo's first party games for the system have sold around half the install base of the system, telling that Nintendo has a very dedicated fanbase Wii U Console and Gamepad.png
The Wii U was the least selling console of the eighth generation, selling around 13.56 million units before being discontinued, but some of Nintendo's first party games for the system have sold around half the install base of the system, telling that Nintendo has a very dedicated fanbase
The original Xbox One, Microsoft's eighth generation console, which has since been superseded by two upgraded models, the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Microsoft-Xbox-One-Console-Set-wKinect.jpg
The original Xbox One, Microsoft's eighth generation console, which has since been superseded by two upgraded models, the Xbox One S and Xbox One X.

Aside from the usual hardware enhancements, consoles of the eighth generation focus on further integration with other media and increased connectivity. [58] The Wii U introduced a controller/tablet hybrid whose features include the possibility of augmented reality in gaming. [59] The PlayStation 4 is Sony's eighth generation console, featuring a "share" button to stream video game content between devices, released on November 15, 2013. Microsoft released their next generation console, the Xbox One, on November 22, 2013. [60] On March 3, 2017, following poor sales of the Wii U, Nintendo released the Nintendo Switch, a 'hybrid' console consisting of a tablet with controller attachments that can be used as a mobile device or connected to a television via a dock.

Game systems in the eighth generation also faced increasing competition from mobile device platforms such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems. Smartphone ownership was estimated to reach roughly a quarter of the world's population by the end of 2014. [61] The proliferation of low-cost games for these devices, such as Angry Birds with over 2 billion downloads worldwide, [62] presents a new challenge to classic video game systems. Microconsoles, cheaper stand-alone devices designed to play games from previously established platforms, also increased options for consumers. Many of these projects were spurred on by the use of new crowdfunding techniques through sites such as Kickstarter. Notable competitors include the GamePop, OUYA, GameStick Android-based systems, the PlayStation TV, the NVIDIA SHIELD and Steam Machines. [63]

Despite the increased competition, the sales for major console manufacturers featured strong starts. The PlayStation 4 sold 1 million consoles within 24 hours in 2 countries, whilst the Xbox One sold 1 million consoles within 24 hours in 13 countries. [64]

As of July 22, 2018, over 80 million PlayStation 4 consoles have been sold worldwide, [65] and 10 million Xbox One units have shipped to retailers (by the end of 2014), [66] both outpacing sales of their seventh generation systems. In contrast, the Wii U was a commercial failure and ceased production in January 2017, having sold only 13.56 million units after four years on the market. [67] [68] The Nintendo Switch sold 2.74 million in its first month, making it the strongest hardware launch in the history of the company, and surpassed the Wii U by the end of 2017. [69]

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Wii U 20122012201213,560,000
PlayStation 4 20142013201381,200,000
Xbox One 20142013201330,000,000
Nintendo Switch 20172017201732,270,000

Handheld game consoles

JapanNorth AmericaEuropeUnits sold
Nintendo 3DS 20112011201174,840,000
PlayStation Vita 20112012201215,900,000

Media

Cartridges

Game cartridges consist of a printed circuit board housed inside of a plastic casing, with a connector allowing the device to interface with the console. The circuit board can contain a wide variety of components. All cartridge games contain at the minimum, read only memory with the software written on it. Many cartridges also carry components that increase the original console's power, such as extra RAM or a coprocessor. Components can also be added to extend the original hardware's functionality [81] (such as gyroscopes, rumble packs, tilt-sensors, light sensors, etc.); this is more common on handheld consoles where the user does not interact with the game through a separate video game controller. [82] Cartridges were the first external media to be used with home consoles and remained the most common until continued improvements in capacity in 1995 (the Nintendo 64, released in 1996, was the last mainstream game console to use cartridges). [83] Nevertheless, the relatively high manufacturing costs and limited data capacity compared to optical media at the time saw them completely replaced by the latter for home consoles by the early 21st century, although they are still in use in some handheld video game consoles and in the Nintendo Switch. Due to the aforementioned capabilities of cartridges such as more memory and coprocessors, those factors make it harder to reverse engineer consoles to be used on emulators.

Chip cards

Several consoles such as the Master System and the TurboGrafx-16 have used different types of smart cards as an external medium. These cards function similar to simple cartridges. Information is stored on a chip that is housed in plastic. Cards are more compact and simpler than cartridges, though. This makes them cheaper to produce and smaller, but limits what can be done with them. Cards cannot hold extra components, and common cartridge techniques like bank switching (a technique used to create very large games) were impossible to miniaturize into a card in the late 1980s. [84] [85] Compact Discs reduced much of the need for cards. Optical Discs can hold more information than cards, and are cheaper to produce. The Nintendo GameCube and the PlayStation 2 use memory cards for storage, but the PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo Switch are currently the only modern systems to use cards for game distribution. Nintendo has long used cartridges with their Game Boy line of hand held consoles because of their durability, small size, stability (not shaking and vibrating the handheld when it is in use), and low battery consumption. Nintendo switched to cards starting with the DS, because advances in memory technology made putting extra memory on the cartridge unnecessary. [86] The PlayStation Vita uses Sony's own proprietary flash-memory Vita cards as one method of game distribution. [87]

Magnetic media

Two forms of magnetic media commonly used in the 1980s and 1990s for video games are cassette and floppy disk Magneticgames.JPG
Two forms of magnetic media commonly used in the 1980s and 1990s for video games are cassette and floppy disk

Home computers have long used magnetic storage devices. Both tape drives and floppy disk drives were common on early microcomputers. Their popularity is in large part because a tape drive or disk drive can write to any material it can read. However, magnetic media is volatile and can be more easily damaged than game cartridges or optical discs. [88] Among the first consoles to use magnetic media were the Bally Astrocade and APF-M1000, both of which could use cassette tapes through expansions. In Bally's case, this allowed the console to see new game development even after Bally dropped support for it. While magnetic media remained limited in use as a primary form of distribution, three popular subsequent consoles also had expansions available to allow them to use this format. The Starpath Supercharger can load Atari 2600 games from audio cassettes; Starpath used it to cheaply distribute their own games from 1982 to 1984 and today it is used by many programmers to test, distribute, and play homebrew software. The Disk System, a floppy disk-reading add-on to the Famicom (as the NES was known in Japan), was released by Nintendo in 1986 for the Japanese market. Nintendo sold the disks cheaply and sold vending machines where customers could have new games written to their disks up to 500 times. [89] In 1999, Nintendo released another Japan-only floppy disk add-on, the Nintendo 64DD, for the Nintendo 64.

Optical media

Shown is a CD-ROM (left) and a game in Nintendo's proprietary optical disc format similar to a MiniDVD, as the most widely used forms of optical media are DVDs and compact discs Opticalgames.JPG
Shown is a CD-ROM (left) and a game in Nintendo's proprietary optical disc format similar to a MiniDVD, as the most widely used forms of optical media are DVDs and compact discs

In the mid-1990s, various manufacturers shifted to optical media, specifically CD-ROM, for games. Although they were slower at loading game data than the cartridges available at that time, they were significantly cheaper to manufacture and had a larger capacity than the existing cartridge technology. NEC released the first CD-based gaming system, the TurboGrafx-CD (an add-on for the TurboGrafx-16), in December 4, 1988 in Japan and August 1, 1990 in the United States. Sega followed suit with the Sega CD (an add-on for the Sega Genesis) in Japan on December 12, 1991; Commodore stepped into the ring shortly after with the Amiga-CD32, the first 32-bit game console, on September 17, 1993. During the later half of the 1990s, optical media began to supplant cartridges due to their greater storage capacity and cheaper manufacturing costs, with the CD-based PlayStation significantly outpacing the cartridge-based Nintendo 64 in terms of sales. By the early 21st century, all of the major home consoles used optical media, usually DVD-ROM or similar discs, which are widely replacing CD-ROM for data storage. The PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One systems use even higher-capacity Blu-ray optical discs for games and movies, while the Xbox 360 formerly used HD DVDs in the form of an external USB player add-on for video playback before it was discontinued. However, Microsoft still supports those who bought the accessory. Nintendo's GameCube, Wii, and Wii U, meanwhile, use proprietary disc formats based on then-current industry standard discs—the GameCube's discs are based on mini-DVDs, the Wii's on DVDs and the Wii U's are believed to be based on Blu-rays. These discs offer somewhat smaller storage capacities compared to the formats they are based on, though the difference is significantly smaller compared to the gap between the N64's cartridges and CDs.

Internet distribution

All seventh and eighth generation consoles offer some kind of Internet games distribution service, allowing users to download games for a fee onto some form of non-volatile storage, typically a hard disk or flash memory. Recently, the console manufacturers have been taking advantage of internet distribution with games, video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and film trailers being available.

Bits

Each new generation of console hardware made use of the rapid development of processing technology. Newer machines could output a greater range of colors, more sprites, and introduced graphical technologies such as scaling, and vector graphics. One way console makers marketed these advances to consumers was through the measurement of "bits". The TurboGrafx-16, Genesis, and Super NES were among the first consoles to advertise the fact that they contained 16-bit processors. This fourth generation of console hardware was often referred to as the 16-bit era and the previous generation as the 8-bit. The bit-value of a console referred to the word length of a console's processor (although the value was sometimes misused, for example, the TurboGrafx 16 had only an 8-bit CPU, and the Genesis/Mega Drive had the 16/32-bit Motorola 68000, but both had a 16-bit dedicated graphics processor). As the graphical performance of console hardware is dependent on many factors, using bits was a crude way to gauge a console's overall ability. For example, the NES, Commodore 64, Apple II, and Atari 2600 all used a very similar 8-bit CPU. The difference in their processing power is due to other causes. For example, the Commodore 64 contains 64 kilobytes of RAM and the Atari 2600 has much less at 128 bytes of RAM. The jump from 8-bit machines to 16-bit machines to 32-bit machines made a noticeable difference in performance, so consoles from certain generations are frequently referred to as 8-bit or 16-bit consoles. However, the "bits" in a console are no longer a major factor in their performance. The Nintendo 64, for example, has been outpaced by several 32-bit machines. [91] Aside from some "128 Bit" advertising slogans at the beginning of the sixth generation, marketing with bits largely stopped after the fifth generation.

See also

Notes

  1. The first generation of video game consoles began with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey, the first commercial home video game console, was released in May 1972. [2] This generation came to an end when Nintendo discontinued the Color TV-Game series in 1980. [3]
  2. The second generation of video game consoles began when the Fairchild Channel F was released in May 1976. [4] This generation came to an end when Atari discontinued the Atari 2600 on January 1, 1992. [5]
  3. The third generation of video game consoles began with both Sega and Nintendo releasing SG-1000 and Nintendo Entertainment System (known in Japan as the Family Computer), respectively, on July 15, 1983 in Japan. [6] This generation came to an end when Nintendo discontinued the Nintendo Entertainment System on September 25, 2003 in Japan. [7]
  4. The fourth generation of video game consoles began when the TurboGrafx-16 was released on October 30, 1987. [8] This generation came to an end when SNK discontinued the Neo Geo in 2004. [9]
  5. The fifth generation of video game consoles began when Panasonic released the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer on October 4, 1993. [10] This generation came to an end when Sony discontinued the PlayStation on March 31, 2005. [11]
  6. The sixth generation of video game consoles began when Sega released the Dreamcast on November 27, 1998 in Japan. [12] This generation came to an end when Sony discontinued the PlayStation 2 on January 4, 2013. [13]
  7. The seventh generation of video game consoles began when Microsoft released the Xbox 360 on November 22, 2005, [14] several months before Sony Computer Entertainment's release of the PlayStation 3 on November 17, 2006. [15] The first console of this generation to be discontinued was the Xbox 360 on April 20, 2016, [16] then the second console of this generation to be discontinued was the PlayStation 3 on May 29, 2017 [17] and while Wii still remain in production. Potentaially, the seventh generation is partially still ongoing under temporary surpport.
  8. The eighth generation of video game consoles began when Nintendo released the Wii U on November 18, 2012. [18] This is the current generation of video game consoles. The first console of this generation to be discontinued is the Wii U, on January 31, 2017; [19] the other major consoles from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony remain in production.

Related Research Articles

Game Gear handheld game console

The Game Gear is an 8-bit fourth generation handheld game console released by Sega on October 6, 1990 in Japan, in April 1991 throughout North America and Europe, and during 1992 in Australia. The Game Gear primarily competed with Nintendo's Game Boy, the Atari Lynx, and NEC's TurboExpress. It shares much of its hardware with the Master System, and can play Master System games by the use of an adapter. Sega positioned the Game Gear, which had a full-color backlit screen with a landscape format, as a technologically superior handheld to the Game Boy.

History of video games aspect of history

The history of video games goes as far back as the early 1950s, when academic computer scientists began designing simple games and simulations as part of their research or just for fun. At M.I.T. in the 1960s, professors and students played games such as 3D tic-tac-toe and Moon Landing. These games were played on computer such as the IBM 1560, and moves were made by means of punch cards. Video gaming did not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when video arcade games and gaming consoles using joysticks, buttons, and other controllers, along with graphics on computer screens and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since the 1980s, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern popular culture in most parts of the world. One of the early games was Spacewar!, which was developed by computer scientists. Early arcade video games developed from 1972 to 1978. During the 1970s, the first generation of home consoles emerged, including the popular game Pong and various "clones". The 1970s was also the era of mainframe computer games. The golden age of arcade video games was from 1978 to 1982. Video arcades with large, graphics-decorated coin-operated machines were common at malls and popular, affordable home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision enabled people to play games on their home TVs. During the 1980s, gaming computers, early online gaming and handheld LCD games emerged; this era was affected by the video game crash of 1983. From 1976 to 1992, the second generation of video consoles emerged.

This is a list of all video game lists on Wikipedia, sorted by varying classifications.

In the history of computer and video games, the fourth generation of game consoles began on October 30, 1987 with the Japanese release of NEC Home Electronics' PC Engine. Although NEC released the first console of this era, sales were mostly dominated by the rivalry between Nintendo's and Sega's consoles in North America: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis. Handheld systems released during this time include the Nintendo Game Boy, released in 1989, and the Sega Game Gear, first released in 1990.

The fifth-generation era refers to computer and video games, video game consoles, and handheld gaming consoles dating from approximately 1993 to 2002. For home consoles, the best-selling console was the PlayStation (PS) by a wide margin, followed by the Nintendo 64 (N64), and then the Sega Saturn. The PlayStation also had a redesigned version, the PSOne, which was launched in July 2000.

In the history of video games, the sixth-generation era refers to the computer and video games, video game consoles, and handheld gaming devices available at the turn of the 21st century, from 1998 to 2005. Platforms in the sixth generation include consoles from four companies: the Sega Dreamcast (DC), Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2), Nintendo GameCube (GC), and Microsoft Xbox. This era began on November 27, 1998, with the Japanese release of the Dreamcast, which was joined by the PlayStation 2 in March 2000, and the GameCube and Xbox in 2001. The Dreamcast was the first to be discontinued, in 2001. The GameCube was next, in 2007, the Xbox in 2009, and the PlayStation 2 in 2013. Meanwhile, the seventh generation of consoles started in November 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360.

In the history of computer and video games, the third generation began on July 15, 1983, with the Japanese release of two systems: the Nintendo Family Computer and Sega SG-1000. This generation marked the end of the North American video game crash, and a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan. Handheld consoles were not a major part of this generation, although the Game & Watch line from Nintendo had started in 1980 and the Milton Bradley Microvision came out in 1979.

1989 has seen many sequels and prequels in video games and several new titles such as Phantasy Star II, Golden Axe, Mega Man 2, and Bonk's Adventure.

Homebrew (video games)

Homebrew is a term frequently applied to video games or other software produced by consumers to target proprietary hardware platforms that are not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods. This can include games developed with official development kits, such as Net Yaroze, Linux for PlayStation 2 or Microsoft XNA. A game written by a non-professional developer for a system intended to be consumer-programmable, like the Commodore 64, is simply called hobbyist.

Import gamers are a subset of the video game player community that take part in the practice of playing video games from another region, usually from Japan where the majority of games for certain systems originate.

Nintendo video game consoles Wikimedia list article

The Japanese multinational consumer electronics company Nintendo has developed seven home video game consoles and multiple portable consoles for use with external media, as well as dedicated consoles and other hardware for their consoles. As of September 30, 2015, Nintendo has sold over 722.22 million hardware units.

Video game console emulator program that reproduces video game consoles behavior

A video game console emulator is a type of emulator that allows a computing device to emulate a video game console's hardware and play its games on the emulating platform. More often than not, emulators carry additional features that surpass the limitations of the original hardware, such as broader controller compatibility, timescale control, greater performance, clearer quality, easier access to memory modifications, one-click cheat codes, and unlocking of gameplay features. Emulators are also a useful tool in the development process of homebrew demos and the creation of new games for older, discontinued, or more rare consoles.

In the history of video games, the eighth generation of consoles is the current generation. It includes those released since 2012 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. For home consoles, the eighth generation began on November 18, 2012 with the release of the Wii U, and continued with the release of the PlayStation 4 (PS4) on November 15, 2013, and Xbox One (XBO) on November 22, 2013. The Wii U was the first to be discontinued to make way for the Nintendo Switch on March 3, 2017, which is still considered as part of the eighth generation. These video game consoles follow their seventh generation predecessors from the same three companies: Nintendo's Wii, Sony's PlayStation 3, and Microsoft's Xbox 360, respectively.

Online console gaming involves connecting a console to a network over the Internet for services. Through this connection, it provides users the ability to play games with other users online, in addition to other online services.

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Further reading