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  1. Action game
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  3. Arcade machine
  4. Artificial intelligence
  5. Atari Games
  6. Atari Lynx
  7. Audio game
  8. Board games
  9. Browser game
  10. Casual game
  11. Christian video games
  12. Comparison of handheld gaming consoles
  13. Computer and video games
  14. Computer animation
  15. Computer-assisted role-playing game
  16. Computer graphics
  17. Computer role-playing game
  18. Console game
  19. Dr. Mario
  20. Famicom
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  22. Game
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  45. Golden Age of Arcade Games
  46. Handheld game console
  47. History of computer and video games
  48. History of video game consoles
  49. History of video games
  50. Hotseat
  51. Internet gaming
  52. Joystick
  53. LAN gaming center
  54. List of books about computer and video games
  55. List of commercial failures in computer and video gaming
  56. List of gaming topics
  57. Mobile game
  58. Multiplayer game
  59. N-Gage
  60. Nintendo 64
  61. Nintendo DS
  62. Nintendo GameCube
  63. Personal computer game
  64. Pinball
  65. Play-by-mail game
  66. Play-by-post game
  67. PlayStation 3
  68. PlayStation Portable
  69. Pong
  70. Programming game
  71. Puzzle computer game
  72. Real-time strategy
  73. Sega Dreamcast
  74. Sega Saturn
  75. Serious game
  76. Simulation game
  77. Single player
  78. Sony PlayStation
  79. Stealth-based game
  80. Strategy game
  81. Strategy guide
  82. Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  83. Synthespian
  84. Tabletop role-playing game
  85. Teamspeak
  86. Tetris
  87. Tokyo Game Show
  88. Video game center
  89. Video game console
  90. Video game crash of 1983
  91. Video game industry
  92. Video game publisher
  93. Wargame
  94. Wii
  95. Xbox 360


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Video game console

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

video game consoles
video game consoles

A video game console is an interactive entertainment computer. The term is used to distinguish a machine designed for consumers to buy and use solely for playing video games from a personal computer, which has many other functions, or arcade games, which are designed for businesses that buy and then charge others to play.

Use of the term

The Sears Telegames Arcade System manual (top) and an Imagic game catalog (bottom).
The Sears Telegames Arcade System manual (top) and an Imagic game catalog (bottom).

The term "console" is used in the user manuals of several early video game systems. Its use, however, is not synonymous with "video game system" or the same as its modern usage. It refers to a specific part of the video game system. The Atari 2600, NES, and other consoles from those decades were called "video game systems" at the time.[1][2]

The first company to use the term "console" to officially refer to its video game system was Fairchild with the Video Entertainment System (VES) in 1976.[3]


Further information: History of computer and video games

First generation

Main article: History of video game consoles (first generation)

Although the first computer games appeared in the 50s[4] it was not until 1972 that Magnavox released the first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey. The Odyssey was initially only 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 1975 Magnavox, bowing to the popularity of PONG, cancelled the Odyssey and released a scaled down console that only played PONG - the Odyssey 100. Almost simultaneously released with Atari's own home PONG console through Sears, these consoles jump started the consumer market. As with the arcade market, the home market was soon flooded by dedicated consoles that played simple pong and pong derived games.

Second generation

Main article: History of video game consoles (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 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.

Video game crash of 1977

In 1977, manufacturers of older obsolete consoles sold their systems at a loss to clear stock, creating a glut in the market and causing Fairchild and RCA to abandon their game consoles. Only Atari and Magnavox stayed in the home console market.


Rebirth of the home console market

The VCS continued to be sold at a profit after the 1977 crash, 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 wasn't until Atari released a conversion of the arcade hit Space Invaders that the home console industry was completely revived. Many consumers bought an Atari just for Space Invaders. 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 80's 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. However, Atari dominated the console market throughout the early 80's

Video game crash of 1983

Main article: Video game crash of 1983

In 1983, the video game business suffered a much more severe crash. A flood of consoles, glut of low quality video games by smaller companies especially for the 2600, industry leader Atari hyping games such as E.T. that were poorly received, and a growing number of home computer users caused consumers and retailers to lose faith and interest in video game consoles. Most video game companies filed for bankruptcy, or moved into other industries, abandoning their game consoles. Intellivision sold the rights of the Intellivision to INTV Corp, who continued to produce Intellivision consoles and develop new games for the Intellivision until 1991. All other North American game consoles were discontinued by 1984.

Third generation

Main article: History of video game consoles (third generation)
The Robotic Operating Buddy that came packaged with the NES
The Robotic Operating Buddy that came packaged with the NES

In 1983, Nintendo released the Famicom in Japan. It supported high-res, full color, tiled backgrounds, and high-res sprites. This allowed Famicom games to be longer, and have more detailed graphics. Nintendo brought their Famicom over to the US in the form of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985. In the US, video games were seen as a fad that had already passed. To distinguish its product from older video game consoles Nintendo used a front loading cartridge port similar to a VCR on the NES, packaged the NES with a plastic "robot" (R.O.B) and a light gun (The Zapper), and originally advertised it as a toy.

Nintendo also built a lock-out chip into the NES. This kept third parties from producing their own cartridges and forced all developers to go through Nintendo to get NES games published. This allowed Nintendo to do things like prevent developers from releasing low-quality games and limit developers to five titles a year.

Like Space Invaders for the 2600, Nintendo found its breakout hit game in Super Mario Brothers. Nintendo's success revived the video game industry and new consoles were soon introduced in the following years to compete with the NES.

Fourth generation

Main article: History of video game consoles (fourth generation)

Sega's Master System was intended to compete with NES, but never gained any significant market share in the USA and was barely profitable. It fared notably better in PAL territories, especially Brazil. Sega regained market share by releasing their next-generation console, the Sega Mega Drive, which was released in Japan on the 29th of October 1988, and in the USA/Europe on the 1st of September 1989 (renamed in the USA to the Sega Genesis), two years before Nintendo could release the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)(1990).

Fifth generation

Main article: History of video game consoles (fifth generation)
Going from left to right, top to bottom: Iron Soldier (Atari Jaguar), Gex (3DO), Starfox (SNES), Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES), Virtua Racing (Genesis), Vectorman (Genesis).
Going from left to right, top to bottom: Iron Soldier (Atari Jaguar), Gex (3DO), Starfox (SNES), Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES), Virtua Racing (Genesis), Vectorman (Genesis).

The first fifth generation consoles were the Atari Jaguar and the 3DO. Both of these systems were much more powerful than the SNES or Genesis (known as Mega Drive outside the U.S.); they were better at rendering polygons, could display more onscreen colors, and the 3DO used CDs that contained far more information than cartridges and were cheaper to produce. Neither of these consoles were serious threats to Sega or Nintendo, though. The 3DO cost more than the SNES and Genesis combined, and the Jaguar was extremely difficult to program for, leading to a lack of games that used its extra power.

Nintendo released games like Donkey Kong Country that could display a wide range of tones (something common in fifth-gen games) by limiting the number of hues onscreen, and games like Star Fox that used an extra "Super FX 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.)

It was not until Sony's PlayStation, Sega's Saturn, and Nintendo's Nintendo 64 were released that fifth generation consoles started to become popular. They had advanced polygon capabilities. The Saturn and Playstation used CDs to store games, while the N64 still used cartridges. All three cost far less than the 3DO, and were easier to program than the Jaguar. The Saturn also had 2D sprite handling power on par with the Neo-Geo.

  • Atari Corp.'s Jaguar was released to combat the dominance that Nintendo and Sega were fighting for. Atari's hope was that by designing a "More Powerful" console, they would be able to leap-frog all of the (at the time) released systems and give gamers a technologically superior system. The Jaguar eventually faded into the twilight due to a number of things. Some of the reasons for the failure of the system were, for one, the Jaguar was hard to program for, thus making it too problematic to have good third party support. Another of the Jaguar's pitfalls was the dominance of the previously popular systems. In 1994, The release of the super popular Sony Playstation was the end for the Jaguar. The failure of the Jaguar put Atari Corp. into a bad financial situation and forced it to reverse merge with JTS Inc., a short-lived maker of hard disk drives, to form JTS Corp. Essentially killing the company, which existed as a small department for minor support of the Jaguar and the selling off of Atari Corp.'s intellectual properties.
  • The 3DO Interactive multiplayer console was released in Canada and the United States in October, 1993. It was released to much fanfare but was, like the Jaguar, doomed to fade out of the market with little popularity. The system was technically superior to all the videogame consoles released at the time but due to the over saturated videogame market and the hefty US$699.95 price tag, the system did not adopt well into the market. One thing unique about the 3DO consoles is that the rights to manufacturing the console itself was divided up between different companies. These companies released their own different styles of the same console.
  • Sony's PlayStation was released in Japan on December 3, 1994. The PlayStation was the eventual result of Nintendo's botch-up of a business relationship between Sony and themselves. The deal was to create a CD-based version of the SNES. Nintendo changed the deal and went to Phillips. However, the project was near completion, Sony had taken what they had and marketing it off as a Sony brand console, leading to the release of the original PlayStation. The PlayStation spawned a whole lineup of consoles from generation to generation and has earned Sony great respect as a video game company, becoming the first video game system to sell over 100 million consoles. Sony released a redesigned, smaller version of the PlayStation entitled the 'PSOne' released July 7, 2000.
  • The Sega Saturn videogame console was the first independent Sega videogame console to use a CD-ROM based media standard and used a special dual chip processor. This processor was a downfall to the system due to the difficulty to program for the 2 chips in parallel. The Sega Saturn was a mild success which was overshadowed by Sony's surprise dominance of the videogame market. The Sega Saturn was discontinued in 1998 with the release of Sega's last videogame console, the Sega Dreamcast.
  • Nintendo 64, Nintendo's answer to the growing dominance of the PlayStation, was a success for the company. It was a 64-bit console, the only one officially in that class. Unlike the other companies' consoles of the generation, the N64 had continued to use ROM cartridges, which many saw as a hindrance to gameplay, as cartriges have much less memory space than optical media. However, Nintendo's answer to this was that unlike CDs, cartriges cannot be damaged by a simple scratch to the surface, nor are load times much of an issue.

Sixth generation

Main article: History of video game consoles (sixth generation)

This 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 Sega's last video game console, and was the first of the generation's consoles to be discontinued, despite being the first internet ready console. Sega implemented a special type of optical media called the GD-ROM. These discs were created in order to prevent software piracy such as what had been more easily done with consoles of the previous generation (however, by this point in time, this format has too been cracked). The Dreamcast was the last major video game console to be released in the twentieth century.
  • Sony's PlayStation 2 was the follow-up to their 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.
  • Nintendo's GameCube was Nintendo's fourth home video game console and the first Nintendo console to use optical media instead of cartriges. The Gamecube could not play standard 12cm DVDs, instead employing smaller 8cm optical discs.
  • Microsoft's Xbox was the company's first video game console. The first console to employ a hard drive to save games, the Xbox blurred the line between PC and console gaming, as it had similar hardware specifications to a low-end desktop computer at the time of its release. Though criticized for its bulky size, which was easily twice that of the competition, as well as for the awkwardness of the original controller that shipped with it, it eventually gained popularity due to the success of the Halo franchise.

Seventh generation

Main article: History of video game consoles (seventh generation)

This generation is currently being introduced to the home market. It has marked the first generation of systems to use Blu-Ray discs and HD-DVD discs as a gaming and movie playback standard. Nintendo, preferring not to utilize more expensive hardware and unproven formats, relies on the motion-sensitive controllers as their approach to a unique way of playing console games for the "next generation".

  • Microsoft's Xbox 360 was released on November 22, 2005. The 360 is capable of playing HD-DVDs with an add-on. The controllers can connect wirelessly or by usb. You can buy a webcam and a wireless adapter to connect to the Xbox Live service, which is the hallmark of the system.
  • Sony's PlayStation 3 was released in Japan on November 11, 2006 and in North America on November 17, 2006. It is scheduled for release in Europe in March of 2007. All PlayStation 3's come with a hard drive (either 20GB for $499 or 60GB for $599) and are ready to play Blu-Ray video discs and games out of the box. Controllers connect to the console through Bluetooth and have tilt-sensing capabilities, but unlike previous PlayStation family consoles, have no rumble features.
  • Nintendo's Wii was released in North America on November 19, 2006, and in Japan on December 2, 2006, Australia on December 7, 2006, and in Europe on December 8, 2006. Wii features a completely redesigned controller which resembles a TV remote, which also adds both motion and tilt sensors to its design. Wii is also the first nintendo console to have internal flash memory. Wii can play GameCube games as well as its own software through a slot-loading disc drive, and features ports for GameCube controllers and memory cards, for full backwards compatibility. Wii Sports ships with the system in all regions except for Japan. Unlike the other two systems of the seventh generation, both of which cost upwards of US$400, Wii retails for approximately $250.


The Sega Megadrive was branded as a 16-bit console
The Sega Megadrive was branded as a 16-bit console

Each new generation of console hardware made use of the rapid development of processing technology, Newer machines could output a greater range of colours, more sprites, and introduced graphical technologies such as scaling, and vector graphics. One way this increase in processing power was conveyed to consumers was through the measurement of "bits". The TurboGrafx 16, GENESIS, and SNES 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, but 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, but served better to distinguish between generations.


Note: This is an abridged timeline of video game consoles in North America.

Note: This is an abridged timeline of video game consoles in Japan.

Note: This is an abridged timeline of video game consoles in Europe.

Note some consoles are omitted from the timelines due to a lack of known dates; see the list of video game consoles.



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. This board carries ROM chips storing the software in question. Some cartridges carried components that boosted the original console's power, such as extra RAM or a coprocessor. Cartridges were the first external media to be used with home consoles and remained the most common until the mid nineties due to continued improvements in capacity. Nevertheless, the relatively high manufacturing costs saw them completely replaced by optical media for home consoles by the early 21st century. They are still in use in some hand held video game consoles.


The Sega Master System and the Turbo Grafix could play games stored on smart cards. The cards were cheaper to produce, but held less information than cartridges. Due to advances in flash memory technology in the early 21st century, the Nintendo DS system uses "game cards" which are of a larger capacity than mid-1990s cartridges, and are significantly cheaper to make.

Magnetic media

Magnetic tapes were popular on early computer systems, but seldom used on consoles. At the time they could hold more information than cartridges, particularly if games were stored on multiple tapes, the media could be written to, and could be manufactured more cheaply than cartridges. These were rendered obsolete by magnetic disks in the same applications, which behaved similarly while having a larger capacity, faster reading speed, and greater robustness. These in turn were rendered obsolete by optical media.

Optical media

In the mid-1990s, various manufacturers shifted to optical media, specifically CD-ROM, for games. Although slower than the cartridges available at that time, they were significantly cheaper to manufacture and had a larger capacity than the existing cartridge technology. By the early 21st century, all of the major home consoles used optical media, usually DVD-ROM or similar disks, which are widely replacing CD-ROM for data storage. The PlayStation 3 system uses even higher-capacity, but more expensive, Blu-Ray optical discs.

Internet distribution

All three Seventh Generation, or "next-gen" consoles (the PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360) 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 full advantage of internet distribution with arcade games, television shows and film trailers being available. Sony recently announced that two high profile titles Gran Turismo HD and Tekken 6 are scheduled only to be released via the internet distribution service.


  1. ^ "Atari 2600 Game Catalog Scans
  2. ^ Atari 2600 Manuals Scans
  3. ^ Channel F manual
  4. ^ Computer Games - Beginnings

See also

  • List of video game consoles
  • Console manufacturer
  • History of computer and video games
  • Handheld game consoles
  • Dedicated console
  • List of occurrences of game consoles in entertainment media
  • Unlockable games


  • Forster, Winnie (2005). The Encyclopedia of Game Machines - Consoles, handheld & home computers 1972-2005. Gameplan. ISBN 3-00-015359-4.

External links

  • RF Generation, an Internet database of video games, includes a collection tool
  • MobyGames, an Internet database of video games, including console games
  • Video Game News Covering all the major video game consoles
  • Video Game and Console Timeline, a Brief Video Game and Console Timeline
  • The Link Cable of Time article and history of video game consoles and their makers
  • Consoles a detailed history of video game consoles
  • A Podcast on the history of video games called "Bits of History"
  • Console Database One of the first sites to include detailed history and specs for game consoles including the lesser-known ones
  • The Console Conspiracy is a website devoted to reporting on all the news available about console gaming
  • Console Watcher News and discussions about video games consoles
  • The Old Computer Dot Com Archive of retro gaming advertisements
  • Information on games consoles.
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