Whilst everyone is scrambling for the next generation of console I cant help but think back to some of the consoles I played throughout my childhood. Being born in the mid 80’s I got to witness the evolution of gaming and indeed play on many of the first gaming platforms to grace this planet.
So lets take a look through this nostalgia inducing history of gaming.
First Generation (1972-1980)
Most consoles from the first generation were only capable of displaying dots, lines and blocks. They were also only capable of displaying 2 colours. Nearly all games that were developed in this generation were hard wired into the consoles.
Some of the big hitters from this generation were Magnavox Odyssey, Pong and Coleco Telstar.
Pictures – First Generation Consoles.
Second Generation (1976-1992)
The second generation is where we see the introduction of cartridges and with it a huge popularity spike in home gaming in general. In 1977 the Atari 2600 was born. This console with a whopping 30 million units sold would go on to change the face of gaming and is credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and games stored on ROM cartridge.
This is also the generation that births a game that is still very much alive today……..Pac-Man!
Big hitters for this generation include Atari 2600 & 5200, Intellivision, Colecovision and Magnavox Odyssey 2.
Pictures – Second Generation Consoles.
Third Generation (1983-2003)
The third generation is probably the most nostalgia inducing generation for all those born in the 80’s. Most commonly known as the 8-bit generation we see the introduction of everyone’s childhood favourites NES and Saga Master System. NES went on to sell just under a whooping 62 million units outstripping the still respectable sales of the Master System at 13 million units sold.
I have many memories of enjoying rainy days playing Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex the Kid and getting my first case of game rage on duck hunt when I missed a shot and the dog would pop up and mock me!
Fourth Generation (1987-2004)
The fourth generation of consoles or the 16 bit generation is where we start to see home console gaming really take off. In this generation we see the introduction of the SNES and Mega drive. These two consoles combined sold a total of 82 million units with Nintendo again leading the race with a respectable 49 million units sold.
This generation is also where we see the introduction of the Original Game Boy. The Game Boy I think is everyone’s favourite childhood handheld computer. Complete with LCD 4 shade monochrome pixel display, cartridge based system and the ability to link two units together its easy to understand how Nintendo have dominated the held held scene for so long. Once the Game Boy introduced Pokémon to the world of gaming the sales of this hand held console sky rocketed and in total sold an eye watering 118.6 million units.
Fifth Generation (1993-2006)
The fifth generation in my opinion is where we see a real turning point in the future of gaming. Even with the growing popularity of home computers (PC’s) the video game console industry continued to boom. We also see a shift from cartridge gaming systems to CD-ROM.
This generation is where we first see the Playstation and boy did it make an entrance and a half. This console sold over 102 million units which is especially impressive when you compare the sales of other well known and already popular brands such as:- Sega Saturn – 9.2 million units sold and the Nintendo 64 – 33 million units sold.
The first game I ever played on the PlayStation was Ades Odyssey. I mean who doesn’t love a farting alien that’s trying to save his race from slavery. This console is also where I fell in love with Final Fantasy 7, the whole franchise and role playing games in general. It was a massive turning point in gaming for me, to be able to immerse yourself in such a deep story and feel for the characters you are controlling. I mean if you didn’t tear up a little when Aerith died are you even human? It would also be rude not to mention how epic Metal Gear Solid was also!
Pictures – Fifth Generation Consoles & Games.
Sixth Generation (1998-2013)
The sixth generation of consoles only really had four main contenders:- PlayStation2, Dreamcast, GameCube and Xbox.
This generation is where consoles had started to catch up to the performance of Personal Computers. With the adaption of DVD technology for greater data storage capacity, internal and external storage devices and the ability to download add-ons via the internet gaming consoles began to move away from being single feature systems.
Despite there being four major contenders during this generation only one took the crown. When I say took I mean ran away with it never having to look back. Sega despite its earlier success completely flopped with its introduction of the Dreamcast only selling a little over 9 million units. Nintendo faired a little better selling just under 22 million of its GameCube. On its debut Xbox managed to rack up and impressive 24 million units sold. However PlayStation after its success with its original model went of to sell an eye watering 155 million units of the Playstation 2. Now that’s impressive.
Seventh Generation (2005-2017)
The Seventh Generation for me is when consoles moved away from just being all about gaming and more about being a complete all in one multimedia platform for the household. This generation was all about integrating with the internet and making the most of what it could bring to the world of gaming. This is the generation online multiplayer gaming was born on console!
In this generation we saw the adaption of HDMI interfaces along with HD-DVD and Blu-ray disc formats. We also saw the introduction of motion controllers, large internal hard drives and online gaming services such as Xbox live and the PlayStation network.
There were only three contenders for the top spot during this generation and it was Nintendo with the Wii that took the crown with an impressive 101.5 million units sold. Playstation came in second with a respectable 87.4 million units sold. Xbox360 came in Third by extremely tight margins despite its early models being plagued with hardware issues (Red Ring of Death) with 84.7 million units sold.
Eighth Generation (2012-Present) & Ninth Generation (2020-Present)
We have now caught up to some of our most recent gaming consoles. It’s truly amazing to look back and see how far gaming consoles have advanced over the years and which manufacturers have survived the tests of time.
Nintendo are currently still going strong despite the Wii U flopping with only 13.5 million units sold and now discontinued Nintendo did what they do best and pulled it out of the bag with the handheld/home gaming console the Nintendo Switch which to this date has sold over 79 million units.
Xbox again created another decent console with the Xbox one and despite not doing as well as PlayStation still holds its own. Since its release in 2013 it has sold a modest 46.9 million to date.
Despite the eighth generation still being active as I write this the PlayStation 4 is not going to be beaten with a whooping 122.3 million units sold to date. Playstation again take the generational crown this time by a long shot.
So the big question is who will be the ninth generation champions? Who knows. Due to the pandemic and material shortages keeping up with demand has proven to be a real issue for Microsoft and Sony. Sales figures to date are pretty close between the two and we probably wont see any kind of gap starting to form until demand is met.
What was your favourite console and game growing up? Which consoles do you still own? let us know in the comments!