Console gaming has been around for a long time. At one stage, the future of video game consoles looked uncertain, but it has continued to advance and offer new features and games for the masses to enjoy. The first console was developed 45 years ago and, since then, console gaming has evolved to the stage where we now have consoles equipped with motion sensing devices. Here is a summation of the history of video game consoles and how they have changed over time.
Brown Box (1967)
The Brown Box was the first-ever video game console. It was developed in 1967 by German engineer Ralph Baer. The working prototype was essentially a vacuum-tube circuit that could be connected to any ordinary television. As the name suggests, the console really was just a brown wooden box with two wired controllers. Initially, the only game available on the console consisted of players controlling two squares chasing each other. After further development, the video game console could run other simple games such as ping-pong and a light gun game.
Atari 2600 (1977)
The Atari 2600, released in 1977, was a cartridge-based system capable of playing multiple games. It became the first best-selling home console system and is credited for popularizing the plug-in concept to the gaming world. The Atari 2600 was successful due to its advanced hardware capabilities and the range of games it offered. Its success was largely based on a number of popular games such as Space Invaders, Combat, and Breakout.
Nintendo Entertainment System (1985)
Following the video game crash of 1983, the future of video game consoles appeared bleak, to say the least. However, the success of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a catalyst for stimulating the video-game market. The NES, released in 1985, was an 8-bit console that soon became the best-selling video game console of all time. One of the main reasons for the success of the NES was due to its strict licensing policy, which encouraged and catered to only the best third-party game development. The NES went on to release popular games including Final Fantasy and Mega Man.
Game Boy (1989)
The Game Boy was introduced in 1989 and immediately became Nintendo’s second greatest hit. The Game Boy was developed with an 8-bit CPU and a black-and-white LCD screen. It also had a combination of features from the Nintendo Entertainment System. The release of Tetris for the Game Boy saw its sales grow at an unbelievable rate. To date, the Game Boy, combined with Game Boy Color, has globally sold over 100 million units.
The Neo-Geo was both a home video game console and an arcade system board. It was well ahead of its time as it provided detailed 2D graphics. However, due to its hefty price tag, the Neo-Geo was not a popular home console. However, it was an attractive system for the arcade game industry due to its ability to run up to six different games in one cabinet. It became well known in the coin-operated arcade games industry and hosted many popular titles including Metal Slug and Fatal Fury.
The PlayStation was the first console released by Sony. Launched in 1994, the PlayStation become the most popular 32-bit video game console. It marked a new generation of video games, which overtook the appeal of 2D games by stressing three-dimensional gameplay. In 2000, a slim version of the PlayStation called PSone was released. The PlayStation is now a part of the PlayStation console and handheld gaming device series.
Nintendo 64 (1996)
The Nintendo 64 (N64) was released in 1996 and marked the last video game console to use cartridges. The benefits of using cartridges gave the N64 an edge over the PlayStation as it allowed games to be saved directly to the console without an added memory card. Additionally, the Nintendo 64 was able to launch without the load screens of the PlayStation as the cartridge system loaded much faster than CD-ROM games. While the Nintendo 64 lacked in the variety of games it provided, it produced several successful titles such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda.
PlayStation 2 (2000)
The PlayStation 2 (PS2) was the first 128-bit system and is the best-selling video game console of all time. Sony’s PlayStation 2 was released in 2000 and can do more than just run video games; it functions as a DVD player and is compatible with older PlayStation games. Additionally, the PS2 gave rise to online gaming on consoles. Since its launch, over 1.5 billion video games have been developed for the PS2, with its most popular games including the Grand Theft Auto series and Final Fantasy.
Microsoft made its first appearance in the video game console market with the release of the Xbox in 2001. The Xbox utilized PC technology to offer better performance than other 128-bit consoles like the PlayStation 2. Although it had great success with Halo: Combat Evolved, the Xbox lagged behind in sales from the PlayStation 2.
Xbox 360 (2005)
The Xbox 360 is the successor to the original Xbox and is one of three major competitors in the current generation of video game consoles. It features full HD graphics and Kinect for Xbox 360, which accurately senses physical motion to provide an interactive gaming experience.
PlayStation 3 (2006)
Sony’s PlayStation 3 was released in 2006 and has since sold over 62 million units worldwide. The PlayStation 3 Move is Sony’s version of a physical motion sensing feature, much like Xbox Kinect. The PS3 also boasts Blu-ray disc storage and the PlayStation network, which allows for free online gaming.
I have not gone into too much detail on the features of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as the debate on which console is better will be saved for another article. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the history of video game consoles. Due to reasons of practicality, I have only outlined a select few major consoles (noted omissions include Odyssey, Vectrex, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Dreamcast, and Wii). However, from this list, we can get an idea of how far video game consoles have come since their inception.
What is your favorite video game console, and what do you think the future of console gaming holds?
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