Gaming consoles have come a long way from where they started. There was many variations of the game Pong to 3D realistic environments. From the start as a simulator all the way down as way of exercising. There were many consoles at the beginning, and then through time it came down to a final three top selling companies. Every gamer, close to the age of thirty and over, has seen the generations of game consoles evolve. There are 7 generations total of game consoles.
Game consoles have become part of our culture, some people do not know it yet, but in some way they are gamers.
In the beginning there was Ralph H. Baer, “The Father of Video Games”, and he created the “Brown Box” in 1968. Now the Brown Box was a working prototype. It was the first game console that could connect to ordinary television sets. It could play six very simple games, four of them very similar, which are ping-pong, tennis, handball, and volleyball, and the last two are chase game and a light gun game.
Now this brown box is essential to what will happen in the future. First generation of game consoles, now Ralph Baer took his brown box to Magnavox.
Right away Magnavox bought it. They change the name and design of the brown box and called it Magnavox Odyssey, and released it in 1972 predating it before Atari’s Pong. It was the 1st official home entertainment system. Now, like the first movies, it did not incorporate sound.
It was battery operated, it used cartridges for the built in game to change desired effects, and it came with two overlays to simulate color. This console sparked a fire for the video game industry. In 1975 Atari released Pong, which was scaled down unit of their famous Pong arcade machine in 1973.
It included on screen scoring and it included sound when the ball hit the paddle. Now there was competition, so Magnavox released two more consoles the Odyssey 100 and 200. The Odyssey 200 incorporated 2-4 players, when no home console had at that time. Then in 1976 Atari released Super Pong, it had color, built in speaker, and it had 4 built in games. So Odyssey put out three more that year, the Magnavox Odyssey 300, 400, and 500. The Odyssey 500, instead of sticks as paddles, it actually had the figure of the sport you were playing, tennis player, hockey player, and squash player.
There were a lot of Pong clones that were being made for a home video console. Some listed are Coleco Telestar, Fairchild Channel F, RCA Studio II, and Wonder Wizard 7702. Now there where such an abundance of Pong clones, that a lot of manufactures were forced to closed, leaving a lawsuit between Magnavox and Atari for stealing the Pong idea. Magnavox won, and is now receiving royalties from anyone that used that Pong program. The Second generation of game consoles starts with Atari. They released the Atari Video Computer System (VCS) in 1977.
This was a huge step in the video consoles, because Atari made detachable controllers and the first game console to use plug in cartridges. It was slow to sell at first, but when Atari bought the licensing of Space Invaders, it sky rocketed in sales. Magnavox still holding on to the Pong craze put out three new Odysseys, the 2000, the 3000, and the 4000. Odyssey 3000 had detachable controllers. The Odyssey 4000 then included color. Then in 1978, Magnavox released the Odyssey 2, this was sort of small computer which you could do basic programming.
It came with a built in keyboard plus joysticks and it used cartridges. Also, trying to take off Atari from their throne, Mattel made the Intellivision. This bad boy was better than the Atari VCS. It had better graphics, color and sound, and plus it was the first game console to use in game voice. But, the one thing they were pushing was that you can play games and do your checking. They were going to incorporate a keyboard. But it never happened due to the keyboard being way expensive. In 1982, Vectrex was released. This was the only game console, even now, that came with a monitor integrated with the console.
The Atari 5200 was the comeback to beat the Mattel Intellivision. Atari 5200 was the best in it time to be superior in technology and cost. It was the first to have 4 ports for controllers and the first TV switch, to switch between TV and with the game was turned on. Its competition was the Colecovision and Mattel Intellivision II. A few more consoles from other manufactures were still being made like, Coleco Telestar Alpha, Combat, Colortron, Arcade, and Gemini, and Atari Stunt Cycle, Video Pinball and 400, Bally Professional Arcade, Zircon Channel F System II, and the Emerson Arcadia 2001.
Since there were so many game consoles to choose from, many games were being made in a hurry, giving the consumer horrible made games. Two infamous games were E. T. the Extraterrestrial and Pac-man for the Atari, which lead to a crash in the video game industry. Many companies went into bankruptcy, which end the 2nd generation of game consoles. The Third generation of games started with the very famous company Nintendo. The video game crash was so severe, that distributors did not want to mess with video games. The Nintendo Company did step up to the plate to revitalize the gaming industry in 1985.
First, Nintendo did have a strict licensing policy that encourages only high quality third party game development. Nintendo knew that because of poor quality games the video game industry crashed. They introduced us to Super Mario Bros. , and The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid. Nintendo dominated the 3rd generation of game consoles. Sega wanted some of the action in North America, so they released Sega Master System in 1986. It was somewhat superior to Nintendo, with better graphics and sound. One difference that Sega had was to type of cartridges, a high and low quality game.
If you wanted better detail get the high quality and if you did not want to spend much get the low quality. Atari came out with Atari Jr. and 7800. Jr. appealed to younger gamers and 7800 was the first game console what was backwards compatible. This was the age of the 8-bit processor wars. The fourth generation of game consoles, came in 1989 when NEC made their console with 16 bits, it was called Turbo Grafx 16. This console was the first to support a CD-Rom Drive with allowed for better sound and graphics which could include full motion video.
Even though Sega Master System was better than Nintendo, it was not too well received with many American consumers. Also in 1989, Sega released their next game console called Genesis, which also contained 16 bits. It did fairly well with consumers because of arcade game conversions. In 1990 SNK was having a huge success with their arcade games because of their graphics processors. The owner wanted to bring the arcade to peoples’ homes, so they released SNK Neo-Geo. It had the same capability of their arcade machines, so the price on this game console was $650 and a game would cost at least $200.
It did not do to well. Nintendo was two years behind with 16 bits processor, but in 1991 Nintendo released Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Because of its late start, Sega Genesis was beating Super NES in sales, but Nintendo caught up and eventually took over as leader in the 16-bit era. Fifth Generation game consoles contain 32 and 64 bits processor. Since, Sega came over to North America they have wanted to beat Nintendo, so they released Sega CD for Genesis in 1992. And it was all downhill from there for Sega and its popularity.
Sega put out three new products in 1994 Genesis 2, which was the same as the first, Sega CD for Genesis 2, which played audio CDs and games, and the 32X, which was said to enhance the game but it did not. These products were so confusing to the consumers that they did not know why Sega was producing because they knew the following year 1995; Sega released the Sega Saturn which had a 32 bit processor. Sega released it four months earlier than intended which failed to sell because there were hardly any games on the launch date. Now in jumps Sony’s Playstation in the year 1995.
Nintendo asked Sony to make a CD-ROM add-on for the SNES and Nintendo wanted to name it “Playstation”. Sony was willing but requested 25% from the profits it made. Nintendo decided to go to Phillips. Sony then decided to make the Playstation themselves. Nintendo took them to court for stealing their name, but lost. Sony Playstation was a 32-bit processor. And Sony did have a successful launch. Nintendo, instead of making a 32-bit processor console, went straight to a 64-bit processor called the Nintendo 64, which was released in 1996.
This was a huge success, giving us games like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and GoldenEye 007. It redefined 3D games and first person shooter games. With all the success it was receiving there was come cons, since Nintendo was still using cartridges for games instead of CDs which held a lot more information to make games, some of their game developers strayed away to Nintendo’s competitors. The Nintendo 64 was the last game console to use cartridges. Nintendo also introduced a rumble pak that was integrated into controller to feel vibrations of the game.
They intro Others mentionable are NEC TurboDuo, which also played audio CDs, Panasonic 3DO Interactive, which promised too much and failed to deliver, and Atari Jaguar. The Jaguar supposed to turn the game console industry, because it boasted of playing 64-bits in the 16-bit era. Nonetheless Atari failed to take over and stopped making game consoles and became a game developer. In the sixth generation came in the year 1998, when Sega released the Dreamcast. It was the first console to have a modem built in to support online play. And it did do fairly well at launch.
The reason why it did not do too well was that it could not compensate for the consumers wanting the console. They had made less than expected and the consumers where well to excited for the release of the Sony Playstation 2. Sony release the it in the year 2000. This became the best selling console of all time. The Playstation included backward capability, it played audio CDs and DVDs, and it had internet support, strong games titles, and rumble pak in the controllers. This was a hard item to find anywhere. It also beat the Sega Dreamcast in to submission, forcing Sega to stop making consoles and become a game developer.
Sony gain dominancy as the number one home entertainment system. In 2001, Nintendo released the Gamecube, major advancement in graphics from the Nintendo 64, but did not compare to Sony Playstation. Nintendo’s first time using CDs, but they where 8 centimeters in diameter and it read the CD out to in to prevent piracy. Nintendo was label a “kiddie console” due to the lack of game developers to make games for them. Also in 2001, Microsoft having the computer technology wanted to try a go with the video game industry and released the Xbox. It used Sega Dreamcast idea and the Xbox allowed gamers to play each other online via broadband.
It would also allow the gamers to download content to their console. Even though it had the same capabilities of Sony Playstation 2 and a better processor, it could not beat Sony in Sales. Microsoft did push the Nintendo to 3rd place in the console market. The last generation for now is the 7th, with Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 3, and Microsoft Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 was released in 2005, a better console design, feature wireless controllers, better graphics, customizable faceplate, and USB ports to connect mp3 players or external hard drives, and etc.
It also redesigned their online experience called Xbox Live. Xbox 360 games where being made in high definition and it was backwards compatible with the original Xbox games. A year later in 2006 Sony released the Playstation 3. This had a slightly better graphics than the Xbox 360, wireless controllers which in included a motion gyro, and USB ports for electronic devices. It did have some problems with backward compatibility, so it worked for some games. One thing that differed from the Xbox 360 was that the Playstation 3 was capable of playing Blu-ray Discs.
Now the Xbox 360 could play DVDs, but later they made an add-on which connected to a HD DVD player. Now there was a war between the two movie console, to be HD DVD or Blu-ray. But in the end Blu-ray won, and Microsoft was left with a useless add-on and discontinued it. The Nintendo Wii was also released in 2006. Many were skeptical about Nintendo’s next console, because it could not compare to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 graphically. Nintendo saw an opportunity to connect with the casual gamer and made a revolution with Wii motion.
This allowed the gamer so “get off the couch” and interact with the game. With this new idea, Nintendo appealed to all ages. The Wii was slightly better in graphics from the GameCube. It was backwards compatible and it featured the wireless controller called the Wiimote, which was use for the interacting with the game. You could create an avatar and use the internet browser and download old games from previous Nintendo consoles. Now Microsoft and Sony saw what Nintendo was doing and wanted to cash in that area too, to appeal to the casual gamer.
Microsoft made the Kinect which did not require a controller to interact; it used the person’s body as the controller. Sony made the Move which was a combination of the Wii motion and the Kinect; it did use a controller but used the body as well. Nintendo might need to do something to stay strong in the console industry. And thus game consoles have evolved to certain perfection. And console industry does not look like it is slowing down. It is a continuous evolution that cannot be stopped. Until the day game consoles evolve to the holodeck from Star Trek, there will be new advances and evolution to this market.
Who knows, there will probably be new companies coming up with game consoles other than the top contenders like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony.
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