There have been eight generations of gaming consoles classified, beginning way back in 1972. It’s hard to believe that video game consoles have been around that long but it’s true. Strangely enough, the first consoles for home consumption on the market were made by TV companies–the very same people that manufactured the TVs that the games would be played on were building their own consoles. So since home-based gaming consoles have been around forever, we thought we’d take just a few minutes and stroll down memory lane and take a look at the two best consoles from each of the eight generations of gaming.
The first generation of gaming is classified as being consoles released from 1972 to 1980. One of the better systems to come out during this timeframe was the Telstar by Coleco. It was originally released in 1976 and would be the first of fourteen different consoles released under the Telstar name. Coleco would reach one million units sold with the fourteen different systems under this banner. The original controller featured two knobs that you could manipulate to play games like handball, tennis and Hockey.
Released in 1972, it was one of the best and most stable systems released during the first gen. Ralph Baer’s prototype for this system, called the ‘Brown Box,’ is on display at the Smithsonian as the very first video game console. Originally developed in 1968, the system featured a small, box-like controller with two knobs and a button that you used to manipulate the objects on the screen. It was also the first console to incorporate a “light gun.” The Odyssey sold approximately 350,000 before the second system was released in 1974–which sadly didn’t fare as well as the original.
The second generation of gaming is classified by systems released between 1976 and 1983, respectively. And no one dominated this era more than Atari. The release of their 2600 system began the domino effect that would shove us down the road that ultimately brought us to where we are today. Released in 1977, the 2600 didn’t start out as a powerhouse system. In fact sales numbers were bleak at first. But Atari had something that no one else did. The 2600 was the first system released with a joy stick, which at the time was a revolutionary innovation.
Released in 1982, the ColecoVision was Coleco’s answer to Atari’s mounting dominance of the home-based console industry. Though it still incorporated the use of the knob-based controller, it added two side buttons and a keypad for added control. They released a total of 145 titles for the ColecoVision before it’s time was through and it was the only system to effectively give Atari a run for their money. It was even listed as one of the top 15 gaming systems of all time by IGN. In addition, this system was also the first to license Nintendo’s Donkey Kong for packaging with the system. By the time the ColecoVision was taken off the market in 1985, it had sold more than two million units.
SEGA Master System
In the third gen of gaming–which lasted from 1983 to 1993–the concept of home-based video game consoles began to soar once again after the gaming collapse that happened in late ’82 to mid ’83. And though SEGA wasn’t the first company to the after party of the collapse, they emerged as one of the few victors. Even though it was a whopping $200 back in 1986, it managed to not only survive, but thrive in a market that was thought to be all but gone. Pre-dated by only four other machines during this period, only one other victor emerged besides the Master System.
Nintendo Entertainment System
Released in 1983, the NES quickly became one of the most important systems in video game history. The reason for their success? They did something that no one else had ever done before. They started soliciting third-party developers to create video games for their system. Nintendo inadvertently set the standard for what would become the norm in gaming from that point on. So even though the video game industry very nearly disappeared from the Earth near the beginning of 1983, it was Nintendo that saved us all from a gameless future.
During gen four of consoles (1987-1995), there were a few contenders that took aim at SEGA and Nintendo, like the Turbo Grafx 16 and Neo Geo, but none of them could compete with the two emerging powerhouses. One of the main reasons for their defeat was the SEGA Genesis system. Developed from the ground up to try and recreate the arcade experience of multi-button control at home, the Genesis had a huge library of titles that gamers could play at home and then head to the arcade to show off their skills to their friends, since a large number of the games were released in arcades as well.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Not that there is any need for an introduction to the system that brought us historic games Like Super Mario World, Super Mario RPG, F-Zero, and many others. The SNES, released in 1990, was an incredibly gamer-friendly system that was easy to maintain and one of the first systems to find itself being modified by gamers who wanted to play games from the Japanese counterpart, the Super Famicom. All one had to do was file down the cartridge tabs inside the cart slot and you could put SF games right into your system, no extra accessories needed. And even if you couldn’t translate Japanese, you were still the coolest kid on the block with a modded system.
The fifth generation of consoles (1993-1999) saw the beginning of the end for SEGA, Nintendo’s return to power and a newcomer dominate the market nearly completely. But the first system to really make a splash was the N64. It beat out the Atari Jaguar, the 3DO and the Amiga and topped their sales–even if you added the totals of all three of them together. And the N64 brought back the fun of the analog joystick as well as introducing fully rendered worlds to play in, like Super Mario 64 . In doing so, the N64 sold more than 3.6 million units in its first year in the US–350,000 of which were sold the first day.
Now called the PSOne, the first iteration of the Sony system was fresh and new and stepped on the scene with something no one had ever seen before. It was a disc-based video game system. Where everyone else, including Nintendo, was still rocking the cartridge based system, Sony popped onto the scene and blew everyone away with the graphics and massive content of their games. Originally released in 1994, It would sell over 100 million units. And strangely enough, Bill Gates, as well as the entire staff of Microsoft Games, went on record and stated that they preferred making games for Sony’s platform over everyone else.
On the outset of gen six (1999-2007), the SEGA Dreamcast tried to put SEGA back on the console map. Things were going fairly well for them too until the PlayStation 2 and Gamecubes released. But what no one could’ve predicted is that a company that took a huge hit and actually went upside down to get their system out would become one of the greatest powerhouses in gaming history. The Microsoft Xbox released in 2001 to mixed reviews. With the exception of Halo , most people believed that the Xbox lacked the depth of games that were released on system like the PS2 and that it wouldn’t last… shows what they knew.
Sony PlayStation 2
Released in 2000, the PS2 has been classified by many as the greatest single gaming console of all time. It had the largest number of games ever released for a console, ringing in at over 3800 titles by the end. It also had the longest run of any single system in history. It was released in 2000 and production of games for it finally stopped in 2013–well into the lifespan of the PS3. In its lifetime, it sold more than 155 million units and sold a mind-boggling 1.5 billion copies of games for it. The official date that the system’s production run ended was January 4th, 2013. The PS4 was unveiled on February 20 2013. Yep, you read that right.
Sony PlayStation 3
The advent of Gen seven (2005-2012) saw the rise of the ‘big three,’ and the decline of every other console maker in the world. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, were the only three major console companies left standing by this point and the PS3, became a quick contender for the title due to their introduction of free online access to gameplay, whereas Microsoft required a subscription fee to play online. They were even the first to successfully integrate handheld gaming system information into their console so that there was compatibility with the PSP and Vita systems. But due to some hacking issues and other technical problems, as well as exclusivity deals signed with publishers, the Xbox 360 reigned supreme during this era.
Microsoft Xbox 360
The undisputed winner of the console war of the seventh gen was Microsoft and its Xbox 360. So much so that their bleed-green fans became cultish in their devotion to the brand. Many remain so to this day, and with over 25 million in sales just in the US alone, who can blame them? Also, Microsoft began what would ultimately anger many gamers by signing exclusivity agreements with publishers so that certain titles would either only release on Xbox 360 or would release much earlier for the 360 than anyone else’s system. The only company that this really helped was a faltering Activision, whose exclusivity deals concerning their Call of Duty franchise saved them from bankruptcy.
Microsoft Xbox One
As you might have guessed, the eighth generation of gaming started in 2012 and is still currently ongoing. And even though we have seen an even greater rise of two superpowers, Nintendo is still hanging on and a new company (Ouya) with their developer-minded console has arisen as well. But be that as it may, it falls to Microsoft and Sony. Sadly, even though Microsoft ruled over all in the last gen, they are still scrambling to make the Xbox One a contender in this current gen of gaming. They have had some great releases like TitanFall , but they still have been unable to catch Sony in the running for best console this gen.
Sony PlayStation 4
Finally, the current leader of this generation of gaming is without a doubt the PlayStation 4 from Sony. It has outsold the Xbox One from Microsoft since day one and has seen far less trade-ins at retailers such as Gamestop than the XBO. As of April of 2014, the PS4 had outsold the XBO three-to-one and has steadily maintained a 2:1 sales ratio over the XBO since then. Sales of the PS4 are over 11 million at this point, towering over the XBO’s 5 million plus number. However, that being said, we are in the infancy of this gen and both sides of the war have made mistakes. Both Sony and Microsoft have skeletons in their closets that have not yet surfaced in their full force. So only time will tell how this generation of gaming consoles ends. Who do you think will win in Gen 8?