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Home video game console

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Part of a series on:
Video games

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.

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  • ✪ Best Vintage Game Console for Classic Arcade Games?
  • ✪ Home Video Game Consoles Evolution | 1972 - 2017
  • ✪ Game Sack - Arcade vs Console 1
  • ✪ Top 5 Arcade Games Better on the Home System
  • ✪ Epic Home Theater Room Tour! - Arcade and Console Gaming Setup Paradise


Welcome to another episode of the 8-Bit Guy. Now, a lot of people are always asking me what is a good vintage game console to get started with. Now it might seem obvious to some. A lot of people will just naturally go to whatever they are nostalgic for, whatever they grew up with. But, a lot of the people asking the question didn't even live during the 1970s or 1980s so they didn't really grow up with any of these things. So, I've constructed a little mini-series here where I want to kind-of pit these systems against each other in a little contest and judge them by different criteria. In this episode, I'm going to be looking at classic arcade games. These are basically arcade games from the late 1970s to around 1984. These kinds of games are what started the video game industry and remain iconic to this day. So, let's take a look at the systems I'm going to be comparing. Now, some of these are dedicated game consoles, where they were meant for games and nothing else. And, some of these of course, are home computers. Now, I'm only going to be comparing computers that their games could run off game cartridges just like a video game console. So you don't need a disk drive or anything like that in order to experience them as arcade consoles. So that's going to kind of rule out a lot of systems, for example the Apple II and the IBM PC. So the contenders are The Atari 2600. This console should require no introduction, as everyone knows about it. The Atari 7800. This console has the interesting feature that it can play its own games, but can also play the older 2600 games as well, increasing the size of its library. The Atari 8-Bit Line of computers, all of these computers will play the same game cartridges, but keep in mind they will NOT play Atari 2600 or any other console's cartridges. The Commodore VIC-20. The early predecessor to the Commodore 64. And, of course, the Commodore 64 itself, which includes both the original and the revamped version, as well as the Commodore 128 because all of these systems can use the same game cartridges. Next up is the Coleco, which by the way could also play Atari 2600 games, but that was only with the use of this large clunky adapter, which basically contained an entire Atari 2600 inside of it. So we'll only be looking at the Coleco for its own game library. Next is the Mattel Intellivision, which I do not have in my collection, but I thought it was important to show here. As well as the Atari 5200, which I also don't have in my collection but will be showing here. And last, but not least is the Nintendo Entertainment system. I won't be including any 16 bit systems in this particular competition. Those machines came way too late to be into the arcade games. I also thought about including the gameboy, but really this needs a video all of its own for the handheld market, where I'm really focusing more on video game consoles that would connect to like a television. OK, so the first comparison I want to make is with software selection. So I spent some time and came up with a list of 40 of the most popular arcade games of the era. Now, I'm sure this list will be controversial. But I can assure you I tried to be objective. There are some games on this list that I don't even like. And there are some other games I do like that are not on this list. In fact, part of what was required for a game to be on this list was that it must be available on many different platforms, everything from the actual arcades to home consoles. So, let's start with the Atari 2600. Despite its huge library of games, it is actually missing 8 games from this list, which surprised me. I was sure the 2600 would be the winner in this category. However, the Atari 7800 does even worse. It only has 13 of these games available. Of course, let's not forget that we can add in all of the 2600 titles that it is missing. So that certainly makes it look better as now it is only missing 4 titles. Of course we have to keep in mind that only these games with the green plus will have the better graphics of the 7800 and that all of the rest of these games will look crappy. Still, this console is a good contender for the software title champion. The Atari 5200 shares most of the same hardware with the Atari home computers. Despite that, it doesn't have nearly as many titles available as you would think. And it will not play any cartridges from any other platform, not even the 2600. It supports 26 of the 40 titles I've selected. Next up is the Commodore VIC-20. It only has 17 of these titles available. I actually was surprised, to be honest, that even had 17 of them. I never really thought of the VIC-20 having this many mainstream titles. I only really remember it having a lot of proprietary and unusual games for it. And next up is the Commodore 64. It does better than its predecessor with 26 titles available. Now this may come as a shocker from the machine with one of the largest libraries of available software from any 8-bit system ever made. I was really expecting it to have all of the titles. However, part of the problem is I'm only looking at cartridge games. So technically if you include disk based games, then you could add 5 more to this list giving it an impressive 31 titles. So, I mean, yeah. If you have to include a big, heavy, bulky disk drive and all of the associated power cables and data cables in order to run the game, that kind of takes away from the living room arcade experience. I mean, it's okay if its sitting on a desk, but not for your living room. Ok, next up is the Nintendo Entertainment System, another console known for having a large library of games. Unfortunately, the NES only ends up with 11 titles out of this group. I was really surprised by this result myself, but now that I think about it, It does occur to me that Nintendo had kind of a harsh licensing system when they first came out. They didn't really allow a lot of 3rd party software development and those that did had to be licensed and manufactured by Nintendo themselves. So, I think that limited a lot of the Activision and Parker Brothers games and stuff that were really popular. And not only that, but I think by the time the system came out and by the time they finally started allowing more 3rd party games, I think people were tired arcade games. Those types of games were now considered obsolete. Next up is the Mattel Intellivision. And, well, I'm not terribly fond of this platform and this is certainly one of the reasons. There really just wasn't much software available on this platform at all, and it shows here too. It only has 13 titles available. And the graphics on this platform aren't all that great, so it's sad to say that even the little VIC-20 wins out over the Intellivision. Next we'll look at the Coleco. While it certainly does better than the Intellivision, it still has a rather depressing library of games, coming in at 20 games. Of course, I'll mention the Atari adapter one more time, even though I really don't think it should count. And the last system is the Atari 8-Bit line of home computers. And this is what really surprised me. It takes the crown with 38 cartridges being available of my top 40 list. So, I honestly wasn't expecting this. I found it a bit hard to believe that Atari's home computer systems were better supported with arcade games than, you know, their proprietary game consoles. So, here's the final score, and you can see which systems really win out. I'd honestly say that any of these systems have an acceptable library and are winners in my book, where these systems here are the losers of this category. OK, now we're going to switch gears and we're compare the systems based on graphics and sound capabilities. Now, I don't think that inferior graphics is necessarily a deal breaker when it comes to these sort of arcade games. In fact, to be honest, I had an Atari 2600 as a kid and it never even occurred to me that the graphics on it were inferior. But, the thing is, I really didn't have any frame of reference. I never got to see the games played side-by-side with another game console for any kind of comparison. However, today we're all a little more picky. And the Atari 2600 graphics were just really primitive. The 2600 was limited not just by its graphics and sound, but also by its minimal amounts of RAM and ROM. That meant there wasn't any room to store or deal with complex graphics or musical scores. So the 2600 definitely falls at the bottom of this category. The Atari 7800 was a vast improvement on graphics, however they kept the same crappy 2-voice sound left over from the 2600. But with a vast increase in both RAM and ROM sizes, the games that did come out for the 7800 were definitely on par with the better systems for these games. It's just too bad it was never more popular. The VIC-20 has very primitive graphics and sound, and worse it has no hardware sprites at all. Some games really suffer as a result, such as Q-bert that has black spaces around the players due to this. However, some programmers managed to work around it surprisingly well, and many of these games actually look and sound better than the Atari 2600. But let's face it, the VIC-20 isn't going to win this competition with its graphics, and beating the Atari 2600 is not saying a lot. I would have to say that the Commodore 64 and the Atari 8-Bit line of computers are really neck and neck on graphics and sound when it comes to these games. Both systems look really good and usually compare really well with the actual arcade versions that they were based on. In fact, I'm going to throw the Nintendo and the Coleco in with this group as well. The intellivision had somewhat inferior graphics, due to poor vertical resolution, making everything look blocky. So, ultimately, I would say these systems are all in the same league and the average person won't be able to tell the graphics apart. These systems have inferior graphics and may affect the quality of your arcade games. Now we have reached the 3rd and final comparison that I want to make about these systems. And that would be how easy are they to obtain and how easy are they to actually use in the modern world? How convenient are they? And so, there are many things to consider, so I'm just going to throw some things out there. For example, the VIC-20 has a big disadvantage because it only has a single joystick port. So games are one player only. However, some games can be two player if they use paddles, but none of the games on my list even support paddles to my knowledge. On the opposite end, the Atari 400 and 800 actually have 4 joystick ports. So not very many games actually made use of the 4 joystick ports. In fact, I suspect that is why they got rid of two of them in subsequent models. As a matter of fact, out of the list of 40 games, only one of those games, Asteroids, actually supports all 4 joysticks. Another consideration that I think is pretty important is, does the computer have composite or RF output? So, that rules out the Atari 400, 2600, 5200, 7800, the Intellivision, and the Coleco. So, if you want composite you can do the Commodore VIC-20, the 64, the Atari 8-Bit line of computers, except for the 400, and Nintendo. However, keep in mind that most of these systems use this old style DIN connector so you need a break out cable to go to composite and audio. However, two of these systems, namely the Nintendo and the Atari XEGS actually have standard composite and audio outputs right on the machine, which is a real winner, in my opinion. I can also mention that it is possible to do modifications to these machines to add a composite video port. So if that's something you're willing to do, then that may change your opinion on the system. So, who are the winners? Well, I'll start with 3rd place. This was the hardest place to decide. But I eventually picked the Atari 7800. There was really no reason to consider the 2600 since this machine can play all of those games too. Second place was easy to decide, and that's the Commodore 64. It's a very capable machine, they are super easy to find in working condition, considering how many were produced. It has composite video and a nice library of game cartridges. And the winner is the Atari 8-bit line of computers, and more specifically, the Atari XEGS. This system can have the keyboard detach and it literally becomes a game console at this point. It has composite video, and the largest library of arcade games available on cartridge. I would like to mention that I'm only including systems that were popular in North America. I know there were systems like the BBC Micro and the Sinclair Spectrum, but those are really hard to get here in the United States, and so I'm not including them, not because I don't like them or because I don't think it's fair, I just don't have 'em and I don't know much about 'em. So, I just wanted to throw that out there. I'm sure a lot of people will be asking why I did not include the TI/994a. Well, to be honest, the machine only supports 10 of the 40 games on my list, making it rock bottom as far as software support. And also technically speaking it is a 16 bit system, but not a very good one. In fact, it would have been appropriate for the era. But, I really think the biggest reason I didn't include it is just lack of software support. Well, I hope you found that entertaining. This is just the first episode. I'd like to come back and compare these systems again from different perspectives and using other criteria. And, I think the results will be very different when we compare them in different ways. In fact, you can leave a comment in the descriptions and tell me what criteria you think I should judge them on next, and maybe that's what we'll do in the next episode? So anyway, stick around, and as always, thanks for watching!



Timeline overview

Below is a timeline of each generation with the top three home video consoles of each generation based on worldwide sales. For a complete list of home video consoles released in each generation please see the respective article of each generation.

     – Unit with the highest sales of its generation.
     – Unit with the second highest sales of its generation.
     – Unit with the third highest sales of its generation.
     – Manufacturer released a home video console during this generation but did not sell the most units.
 –  – Manufacturer didn't release a home video game console during this generation.
 current generation consoles  – Indicates the current generation consoles on the market.
Manufacturer Generation Ref(s)
Atari Home Pong
Atari 2600
(30 million)[note 1]
Atari 7800
(1 million)[note 2]
Atari Jaguar
[note 3]
Coleco Telstar
(1 million)
(2+ million)
[note 4]
Nintendo Color TV-Game series
(3 million)
(61.91 million)
Super NES
(49.1 million)
Nintendo 64
(32.93 million)
(21.74 million)
(101.63 million)
Nintendo Switch current generation consoles
(34.74 million)[note 5]
[note 6]
(2 million)
Videopac + G7400
[note 7]
Mattel Intellivision
(3 million)
[note 8]
Sega Master System
(10–13 million)
Sega Genesis
(33.75 million)
Sega Saturn
(9.26 million)
(9.13 million)
[note 9]
NEC TurboGrafx-16
(10 million)
[note 10]
Sony PlayStation
(102.49 million)
PlayStation 2
(>155 million)
PlayStation 3
(>87.4 million)
PlayStation 4 current generation consoles
(96.8 million)
[note 11]
Microsoft Xbox
(>24 million)
Xbox 360
(>84 million)
Xbox One current generation consoles
(est. 41 million)
[note 12]

>Final sales are greater than the reported figure. See notes.

First generation

The Magnavox Odyssey was the first video game console, released in 1972.
The Magnavox Odyssey was the first video game console, released in 1972.

Although the first video games appeared in the 1950s,[51] 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 he created a series of video game console designs. One of these designs, which gained the nickname of the "Brown Box", featured changeable game modes and was demonstrated to several TV manufactures ultimately leading to an agreement between Sanders Associates and Magnavox.[52]

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 gamers to turn on and off certain components of the console (the Odyssey lacked a Central processing unit) 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 gamers to choose from the Odyssey's built-in games.

The Odyssey only initially sold about 100,000 units,[53] 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, cancelled 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 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 only playing 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.

Second generation

The Atari 2600 became the most popular game console of the second generation.
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. Both Bally (with their Home Library Computer in 1977) and Magnavox (with the Odyssey² in 1978) also 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. Space Invaders' unprecedented success 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 were technically superior to the Atari 2600, and marketed as improvements over the Atari 2600, but Atari dominated the console market in the early 1980s. However, a severe crash occurred in 1983 in the video game business.

Third generation

The NES made video games popular again after the 1983 crash.
The NES made video games popular again 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 an 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 life cycle.

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 '90s.[54]

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 backwards 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.

Japan North America Europe
Family Computer/Nintendo Entertainment System 1983 1985 1986
Sega Mark III/Master System 1985 1986 1987
Atari 7800 none
Atari XEGS 1987

Fourth generation

The Super Famicom, the Japanese version of the Super NES.
The Super Famicom, the Japanese version of the Super NES.

NEC brought the first fourth-generation console to market with their PC Engine (later sold as the TurboGrafx-16 in North America) 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 (or Genesis) 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.

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.

The 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 US as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (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 the 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 Neo-Geo, 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 addon 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 90s, limiting NEC's and Sega's add-ons' sales.

Japan North America Europe
PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 1987 1989 1990
Mega Drive/Genesis 1988
Neo Geo 1990 1991
Super Famicom/Super NES 1990 1991 1992
LaserActive 1993 none

Fifth generation

The original PlayStation became the most popular system of the fifth generation consoles, eventually selling over 100 million systems.
The original PlayStation became the most popular system of the fifth generation consoles, eventually selling over 100 million systems.

The first fifth-generation consoles were the 3DO and the Atari Jaguar. Although both consoles were more powerful than the fourth generation systems, neither 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. Unfortunately, that very structure meant that unlike its competitors who could sell the console at a loss, all 3DO manufacturers had to sell for profit. The cheapest 3DO was more expensive than the Super NES and Genesis combined.

Atari cancelled their line of home computers, their Atari Portfolio, the Stacy laptop, and their handheld Atari Lynx when they released the Jaguar. It was an all or nothing gamble that ran the company into the ground. 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. While games like Tempest 2000, Rayman, and Alien vs Predator showed what the console was capable of, the vast majority of releases underwhelmed. 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, and announced that they would replace the Genesis with the Neptune, a combination 32X and Genesis, and sell it as a budget console alongside their upcoming Saturn. Despite public statements from Sega claiming that they would continue to support the Genesis/32X throughout the next generation, Sega Enterprises quietly killed the Neptune project and 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 a handful of acclaimed titles on NEC's PC Engine CD-ROM² and Sega's Mega CD add-ons, it wasn't until the fifth generation that a CD-based consoles and games began to seriously compete with cartridges. CDs 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 PC Engine as early as 1990, and presented a prototype, dubbed the "Iron Man," to developers in 1992, but shelved the project as the PC Engine 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 standard 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 localization 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 it came with only two launch titles. Partly to curb piracy and partly as a result of Nintendo's failed disc projects with Sony and Phillips, 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.

Japan North America Europe
FM Towns Marty 1993 none
Atari Jaguar 1994 1993 1994
3DO Interactive Multiplayer
PC-FX none
32X 1994
Sega Saturn 1995
Nintendo 64 1996 1997

Sixth generation

With more than 155 million units sold, the PlayStation 2 is the best selling videogame console in history.
With more than 155 million units sold, the PlayStation 2 is the best selling videogame console in history.

The sixth generation saw a move towards PC-like architectures in gaming consoles, as well as a shift towards using DVDs for game media. This brought games that were both longer and more visually appealing. Furthermore, this generation also saw experimentation with online console gaming and implementing both flash and hard drive storage for game data.

Sega's Dreamcast was released in Japan on November 27, 1998, in North America on September 9, 1999, in Europe on October 14, 1999 and in Australia on November 30, 1999. It was the company'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 of the games, like Phantasy Star Online, online, making it the first console with built-in internet connectivity. 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.[55][56] This makes it the best selling home console of all time to date, and now the best-selling video game console 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 Nintendo GameCube did not play standard 12 cm DVDs, instead it employed smaller 8 cm optical discs. With the release of the Game Boy Player, all Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges could be played on the platform. The Nintendo GameCube was discontinued in 2007 with the release of Wii.

Microsoft released its first games console, the Xbox in North America on November 15, 2001, in Japan on February 22, 2002, and in Europe and Australia on March 14, 2002. 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.

Japan North America Europe
Dreamcast 1998 1999
PlayStation 2 2000
Nintendo GameCube 2001 2002
Xbox 2002 2001

Seventh generation

Wii has sold more than 100 million units, becoming the most popular console of the seventh generation.
Wii has sold more than 100 million units, becoming the most popular console of 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.

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 Grand Theft Auto V 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 currently shipping "E" version of the Xbox 360 includes 3 configurations: a 4 GB 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.

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 3s 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" 120 GB 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.[57] 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 PS2 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 Nintendo GameCube games and support up to four Nintendo 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. The Wii has four colors: white, blue, black, and red. Current models include Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Motion Plus.

Japan North America Europe
Xbox 360 2005
PlayStation 3 2006 2007
Wii 2006

Eighth generation

The PlayStation 4 console with its controller
The PlayStation 4 console with its controller
The Xbox One, the controller and the Kinect sensor
The Xbox One, the controller and the Kinect sensor

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]

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, and GameStick Android-based systems, the PlayStation Vita TV, and the forthcoming Steam Machine.[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 April 2014, 7 million PlayStation 4 consoles have been sold worldwide,[65] and 5 million Xbox One units have shipped,[66] both outpacing sales of their seventh generation systems. In May, Nintendo announced that it had sold only 2.8 million Wii U consoles, falling far short of their forecasts.[67]

In 2016, both Microsoft and Sony announced hardware refreshes of their respective consoles, which all aim to futureproof their platforms and provide improved support for 4K ultra high-definition content and virtual reality.[68][69][70][71][72] Nintendo discontinued production of the Wii U in January 2017,[73] and released a new "hybrid" console, the Nintendo Switch, in March 2017. The Switch can be used as either a handheld tablet or docked for use on televisions.[74]

Japan North America Europe
Wii U 2012
PlayStation 4 2014 2013
Xbox One
Nintendo Switch 2017

See also


  1. ^ The Atari 2600 sold 30 million units during its life-cycle. Atari also released a second home console during the second generation known as the Atari 5200 which sold 1 million units.
  2. ^ The Atari 7800 sold 1 million units. Atari also released the Atari XEGS during the third generation which sold 100,000 units.
  3. ^ Home Pong sold 150,000 units.[1][2] Atari 2600 sold 30 million[3], Atari 5200 and Atari 7800 sold 1 million units each[4][5] Atari XEGS sold 100,000 units[6], and the Atari Jaguar sold 250,000 units.[7]
  4. ^
    • Telestar: Coleco launched Telstar in 1976 and sold a million. Production and delivery issues, and dedicated consoles being replaced by electronic handheld games dramatically reduced sales in 1977. Over a million Telstars were scrapped in 1978, and it cost Coleco $22.3 million that year[8]—almost bankrupting the company.[9]
    • ColecoVision:The ColecoVision reached 2 million units sold by the spring of 1984. Console quarterly sales dramatically decreased at this time, but it continued to sell modestly[10][8] with most inventory gone by October 1985.[11]
  5. ^ As of March 31, 2019 the Nintendo Switch has sold 34.74 million units.[12] Nintendo also released the Wii U during the eighth generation which sold 13.56 million units during its lifecycle.[12]
  6. ^ Color TV-Game series sold 3 million units.[13] NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii sales figures.[14] Wii U and Switch sales figures.[12]
  7. ^ Magnavox Odyssey[15], Magnavox Odyssey²[16] Philips CD-i[17]
  8. ^ Intellivision sold 3 million units.[18]
  9. ^
    • Master System: 10–13 million, not including recent Brazil sales figures.[19][20] Screen Digest wrote in a 1995 publication that the Master System's active installed user base in Western Europe peaked at 6.25 million in 1993. Those countries that peaked are France at 1.6 million, Germany at 700 thousand, the Netherlands at 200 thousand, Spain at 550 thousand, the United Kingdom at 1.35 million, and other Western European countries at 1.4 million. However, Belgium peaked in 1991 with 600 thousand, and Italy in 1992 with 400 thousand. Thus it is estimated approximately 6.8 million units were purchased in this part of Europe.[21] 1 million were sold in Japan as of 1986.[22] 2 million were sold in the United States.[23] 8 million were sold by Tectoy in Brazil as of 2016.[24]
    • Sega Genesis: 30.75 million sold by Sega worldwide as of March 1996,[25][26] not including third-party sales. In addition, Tec Toy sold 3 million in Brazil,[27][28] and Majesco Entertainment projected it would sell 1.5 million in the United States.[29]
    • Sega Saturn: 9.26 million units sold.[26]
    • Dreamcast: 9.13 million units sold.[26][30][31][32]
  10. ^ The TurboGrafx-16 was designed by Hudson and manufactured and marketed by NEC.[33] The TurboGrafx-16 managed to sell 10 million units.[34] The PC-FX sold less than 100,000 after a year on sale.[35]
  11. ^ PlayStation: Sony corporate data reports 102.49 million units sold as of March 31, 2007.[36] Sony stopped divulging individual platform sales starting with 2012 fiscal reports,[37][38] and continues to sporadically.[39] PlayStation 2: 155 million units sold as of March 31, 2012.[40] It was discontinued worldwide on January 4, 2013.[41] PlayStation 3: Sony corporate data reports 87.4 million sold as of March 31, 2017.[40] PS3 shipments to Japanese retailers, the last country Sony was selling units to, ceased by May.[42] PlayStation 4: Sony corporate data reports 96.8 million units sold as of March 31, 2019.[40]
  12. ^ Xbox: More than 24 million units sold as of May 10, 2006.[43] Microsoft announced in October 2015 that individual platform sales in their fiscal reports will no longer be disclosed. The company shifted focus to the amount of active users on Xbox Live as its "primary metric of success".[44] Active Xbox Live subscribers reached 59 million by March 2018.[45] Xbox 360: Sold 84 million as of June 2014.[46] Production ended in 2016.[47] Xbox One: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled at a December 3, 2014 shareholder presentation that 10 million units were sold.[48] Research firm IHS Markit estimated 39.1 million units were sold by the end of March 2018.[49] Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad estimated 41 million units were sold by the end of 2018.[50]


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  2. ^ Kent, Steven (2001). "Strange Bedfellows". Ultimate History of Video Games. Three Rivers Press. pp. 94–95. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  3. ^ "AtGames to Launch Atari Flashback 4 to Celebrate Atari's 40th Anniversary!" (Press release). PR Newswire. November 12, 2012. Archived from the original on November 27, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  4. ^ Schrage, Michael (May 22, 1984). "Atari Introduces Game In Attempt for Survival". The Washington Post: C3. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 29, 2009. The company has stopped producing its 5200 SuperSystem games player, more than 1 million of which were sold.
  5. ^ Axlon To Develop New Video Games For Atari (Press Release), Atari (June 1, 1988)
  6. ^ "Editorial: Ever-Changing Atari Marketplace". Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  7. ^ Orlando, Greg (May 15, 2007). "Console Portraits: A 40-Year Pictorial History of Gaming". Wired News. Condé Nast Publications. Archived from the original on December 23, 2008. Retrieved March 23, 2008.
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  9. ^ Mehegan, David (May 8, 1988). "Putting Coleco Industries Back Together". The Boston Globe. p. A1. ISSN 0743-1791. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2014. When the game [Telstar] crashed hard, earnings fell 50 percent in 1977 and the company lost $22 million in 1978, barely skirting bankruptcy after Handel -- then chief financial officer -- found new credit and mollified angry creditors after months of tough negotiation.
  10. ^ "Coleco Industries sales report" (Press release). PR Newswire. April 17, 1984. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2013. 'First quarter sales of ColecoVision were substantial, although much less that [sic] those for the year ago quarter,' Greenberg said in a prepared statement. He said the company has sold 2 million ColecoVision games since its introduction in 1982.
  11. ^ "Coleco's Net In Sharp Rise". The New York Times. Associated Press. October 19, 1985. p. 45. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 13, 2014. Thursday, Coleco said the entire inventory of its troubled Adam personal computer has been sold, along with much of its Colecovision inventory. The company's chairman, Arnold Greenberg, said Coleco expects no more charges against earnings from the two discontinued products.
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  13. ^ Sheff, David; Eddy, Andy (1999), Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World, GamePress, p. 27, ISBN 978-0-9669617-0-6, Nintendo entered the home market in Japan with the dramatic unveiling of Color TV Game 6, which played six versions of light tennis. It was followed by a more powerful sequel, Color TV Game 15. A million units of each were sold. The engineering team also came up with systems that played a more complex game, called "Blockbuster," as well as a racing game. Half a million units of these were sold.
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  22. ^ Nihon Kōgyō Shinbunsha (1986). "Amusement". Business Japan. Nihon Kogyo Shimbun. 31 (7–12): 89. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  23. ^ Sheff & Eddy 1999, p. 349: "Atari sold a handful of its 5200s and 7800s, and Sega sold a total of 2 million Master Systems."
  24. ^ Azevedo, Théo (May 12, 2016). "Console em produção há mais tempo, Master System já vendeu 8 mi no Brasil" (in Portuguese). Universo Online. Retrieved May 13, 2016. Comercializado no Brasil desde setembro de 1989, o saudoso Master System já vendeu mais de 8 milhões de unidades no país, segundo a Tectoy.
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  32. ^ "Sega Corporation Annual Report 2002" (PDF). Sega Corporation. July 1, 2002. p. 6. Retrieved November 2, 2015. The year ended March 31, 2002 was a turning point for Sega. We exited the hardware business, ceasing production of Dreamcast and selling through the remaining inventory.
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Further reading

External links

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