A Look at Every Major Game Console Ever Made

Gaming consoles have changed a lot over the last 40 years. Prepare for a trip down memory lane as we look at how they’ve gone from 3 moving objects on a simple black and white display, to full immersive high definition gaming. We’ll look at innovation and failures as we explore every major game console ever made.

  1. Magnavox OdysseyodysseyThe first video game console could hardly be called one by today’s standards. Released in 1972, the Magnavox Odyssey had no microchips, had black and white graphics, had no sound, nor did it have anyway to keep score. Games were programmed directly into the console and plastic overlays were placed on the television which were used to simulate color and graphics such as baseball fields. It was priced at $100 and sold only 2 million units.
  2. Atari 2600atariThe first major console of the so-called “second generation,” because they were the first to be CPU-based, was released in 1977. The Atari 2600 has sold 30 million units (as of 2004) and had an initial price of $199.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: MOS 6507 1.19 Mhz
    • RAM: 128 bytes
    • Memory Limit: 4kB
    • Best-Selling Game: Pac-Man (7 million)
  3. IntellivisionintellivisionA major competitor to the Atari was the Intellivision. Released in 1980 by Mattel for $299, the system was marketed as more powerful than the Atari. It featured a 16 color palette and an ahead-of-its-time 16-bit processor. However, because of the price difference and Atari’s exclusive rights to games, the Intellivision never gained much of a market share selling only 3 million units.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: GI CP1610 16-bit 894.886 kHz
    • RAM: 1456 bytes
    • Best-Selling Game: Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (2 million)
  4. Nintendo Entertainment Systemnintendo-entertainment-system1983 began the start of the “third-generation,” or 8-bit era, when the Nintendo Entertainment System was released. Priced at $199.99, the NES featured a 53 color palette, though only 13 could be displayed simultaneously. Worldwide, almost 62 million units have been sold.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: Ricoh 2A03 1.79 MHz
    • RAM: 2 kB (main), 2 kB (video)/li>
    • Best-Selling Game: Super Mario Bros. (40 million)
  5. Sega Master SystemmastersystemBecause of licensing agreements that forbade developers from releasing games for other systems, few other systems of this era became popular. The Sega Master System was one of the few that did, selling 13.4 million units. Released in 1985 and retailing for $199.99 it had a 64 color palette allowing 32 to be displayed simultaneously.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: NEC 780C 3.57 MHz
    • RAM: 8 kB (main), 16 kB (video)
    • Best-Selling Game: Sonic the Hedgehog
  6. Sega Genesismegadrive_no_shadowIn 1988, Sega released the first major system of the “fourth generation,” or 16-bit era. The Sega Genesis initially retailed for $190 and has sold 29 million units. Although requiring an add-on known as the Sega CD, it was one of the first consoles that could use CD-ROMs instead of cartridges. The Genesis could display 64 colors onscreen from a possible 512.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: Motorola 68000 7.67MHz
    • RAM: 156 KB (total)
    • Best-Selling Game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (6 million)
  7. Super NESsuper_nintendo_entertainment_system-usaTo follow up the immensely popular NES, Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. Although not as popular as its predecessor, it sold over 49 million units initially priced at $199.99.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: Ricoh 5A22 3.58 MHz
    • RAM: 128 kB (main), 64 kB (video)
    • Best-Selling Game: Super Mario World (20 million)
  8. Sega SaturnssjapThe “fifth generation”, or 32-bit era, was the first generation, since the addition of microprocessors, to bring major changes to console gaming. It featured a move to 3D graphics and CD-ROM media rather than the traditional cartridges. The Sega Saturn, released in 1994, was the first of this era. It retailed for $399 went on to sell 9.5 million units.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 2 Hitachi SuperH-2 7604 28.63 MHz
    • RAM: 2 MB (main), 1.5 MB (video)
    • Best-Selling Game: Virtua Fighter 2 (1.7 million)
  9. Sony PlayStationplaystationconsole_bkg-transparentAfter originally working on the failed SNES-CD, Sony released the PlayStation, in 1994, just months after the Saturn. Initially priced at $299.99 it is the second best-selling console having sold 102 million units.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: MIPS R3000A 33.8688 MHz
    • RAM: 2 MB (main), 1 MB (video)
    • Colors: 24-bit (16.7 million)
    • Best-Selling Game: Gran Turismo (10.85 million)
  10. Nintendo 64nintendo64Jumping ahead of the pack, Nintendo released a a 64-bit system in 1996. Nintendo was skeptical of CD-ROMs, citing slower load times, but also worried about piracy, thus the N64 was the only console of the era to still use cartridges. Although cheaper than its competitors at $199.99, only 32.93 million N64s were sold.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 93.75 MHz NEC VR4300i
    • RAM: 4 MB RDRAM
    • Best-Selling Game: Super Mario 64 (11.62 million)
  11. Sega Dreamcastdreamcast-set-orangeThe first entrant into the “sixth generation” was sadly the last console produced by Sega. Released in 1998, the Dreamcast sold for $199.99 and featured many innovations including online gameplay and the first console to feature full SD graphics. But, it never gained much of a market share and was discontinued in 2001 having sold only 10.6 million units.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 200 MHZ SuperH SH-4
    • GPU: 100 MHZ NEC/Video Logic Power CLX2
    • RAM: 16 MB SDRAM, 8 MB VRAM
    • Online Service: SegaNet, Dreamarena
    • Best-Selling Game: Sonic Adventrue (2.5 million)
  12. Sony PlayStation 2playstation2In 2000, Sony released the best-selling console in history. Over 140 million PlayStation 2s have been sold. Initially priced at $299.99, the PS2 featured many innovations that helped secure dominance. It featured backwards compatibility with the already successful PlayStation and was the first to use and thus be able to play DVDs.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 294 MHZ MIPS “Emotion Engine”
    • GPU: 147 MHZ “Graphics Synthesizer”
    • RAM: 32 MB RDRAM, 4 MB VRAM
    • Best-Selling Game: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (12 million)
  13. Microsoft Xboxxbox_11Microsoft entered the market in 2001 with the Xbox priced at $299.99. Although not nearly as popular as the PS2, it garnered mild success in the North America and Europe. After Sega’s failed attempt at online play, Xbox Live proved successful and helped 24 million units to be sold.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 733 MHz X86 Intel Celeron/PIII Custom Hybrid
    • GPU: 233 MHz Custom Nvidia NV2A
    • RAM: 64 MB unified DDR SDRAM
    • Online Service: Xbox Live
    • Best-Selling Game: Halo 2 (8 million)
  14. Nintendo GameCubegame-cubeWith the release of the GameCube in 2001, Nintendo continued to struggle. It lacked both online play and, after building a family-friendly image, the more “mature” titles of the PS2 and Xbox. Nintendo still had a loyal fanbase though, priced at $199.99, over 21 million GameCubes were sold.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 485 MHZ PowerPC “Gekko”
    • GPU: 162 MHZ ATI “Flipper”
    • RAM: 24 MB 1T-SRAM, 3 MB embedded 1T-SRAM (video)
    • Best-Selling Game: Super Smash Bros. Melee (7.09 million)
  15. Microsoft Xbox 360xbox360full_500x526Microsoft was the first to release a “seventh generation” console with the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005. Due to the established Xbox Live and being released a full year before any competitor, the Xbox 360 was a quick success. Microsoft released two different models, the Core at $299.99 and the Premium at $399.99. Although initially plagued with technical problems, the system has gone on to sell over 30 million units.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 3.2 GHz IBM PowerPC “Xenon”
    • GPU: 500 MHz custom ATI “Xenos”
    • RAM: 512 MB GDDR3
    • Storage: SATA 20 GB, 60 GB, or 120GB hard drive
    • Online Service: Xbox Live
    • Best-Selling Game: Halo 3 (10.3 million)
  16. Sony Playstation 3playstation-32006 saw Sony’s PlayStation 3 entrance into the market. Like the Xbox 360, it was sold at two different price points. Priced at $499.99, the Basic model featured a 20GB hard drive, while the Premium model, which featured an 80GB drive, was priced at $599.99. The PlayStation 3, focusing on high-definition graphics, utilizes Blu-Ray discs. Having only sold 22 million units, Sony blames its higher price, loss of exclusive titles, and stock shortages.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 3.2GHz PowerPC PPE and seven 3.2GHz SPEs
    • GPU: 550 MHz RSX “Reality Synthesizer” (based on NVIDIA G70)
    • RAM: 256 MB XDR, 256 MB CDDR3
    • Storage: 2.5″ SATA 1.0 compliant HDD or SSD
    • Online Service: PlayStation Network
    • Best-Selling Game: Metal Gear Solid 4 (4.5 million)
  17. Nintendo Wiinintendo_wii_1While the PS3 and Xbox 360 focused on cutting edge graphics and technologies, Nintendo, after struggling with previous consoles, went a different route. Released in 2006, the Wii focused more on gameplay with its innovative motion sensor controller. Retailing for $249.99, over 50 million Wiis have been sold, making it the best-selling console of the era.

    Specifications:

    • CPU: 729 MHZ PowerPC based IBM “Broadway”
    • GPU: 243 MHz ATI “Hollywood”
    • RAM: 24 MB “internal” 1T-SRAM, 64 MB “external” GDDR3 SDRAM
    • Storage: 512MB built-in flash memory
    • Online Service: Virtual Console
    • Best-Selling Game: Wii Sports (45.71 million)

Many consoles were left out of this, surely some favorites, but the arbitrary line of what defines major had to be drawn somewhere. Let us know in the comments which game systems you owned and which were your favorites. Also, please comment on what you think the eighth generation consoles will bring.

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