Looking at the game consoles offer throughout time

I worked for Sony for over 12 years (1996 to 2008) and I loved every minute of it. I was in the electronics division and worked closely with Sony Computer Entertainment (the gaming division). The first Playstation game console and games software were launched a year before I joined and I saw the launch of Playstation 2 and 3. One of my bosses came from there and so I used to be part of the product launches.

I enjoyed seeing the various Playstation consoles being born. I could see a tremendous evolution from the PS1, 2, 3 and 4. A little disclaimer here, I do not know the Microsoft consoles. My family and I have always enjoyed the PS world and we did not look any further (shame on us)! However, in the text below, I want to include all companies involved in the gaming industry.

So I thought it would be a good idea to investigate the gaming world and understand how we came to where we are today. Did you know that there were 8 generations of video games? Did you know it started in 1972? 45 years of video games… Unbelievable!

What fascinated me as well is the evolution in engagement throughout the years. Even if we were engaged in the 1st generation and the pong style games, it was not the same type of engagement nor experience. At first we had to plug the console into the TV set, find the right channel and then play with a screen that most of the time was not clear. Look at the situation today, 4K quality, surround sound, internet connection throughout the world and fantastic colors. A complete experience and an engagement like no other.

So, I decided to look through Wikipedia and other sources to understand better how we are now playing with the 8th generation of games and how our experience has improved tremendously.

This is what I found in a more summarized way.

 The first generation of video game consoles began in 1972 with the Magnavox Odyssey (which began development in 1968 by Ralph Baer under the code name “The Brown Box”), until 1977, when “pong”-style console manufacturers left the market en masse due to the video game crash of 1977 and when microprocessor-based consoles were introduced. In Japan, the generation continued until 1980 with the Color TV-Game series.

Magnavox game console in 1972

Magnavox Odissey

The second generation of computer and video games began in 1976 with the release of the Fairchild Channel F and Radofin Electronics’ 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System. It coincided with and was partly fuelled by the golden age of arcade video games, a peak era of popularity and innovation for the medium.

The early period saw the launch of several consoles as various companies decided to enter the market; later releases were in direct response to the earlier consoles. The Atari 2600 was the dominant console for much of the second generation, with other consoles such as Intellivision, the Odyssey and ColecoVision also enjoying market share. I used to have the Atari 2600 and enjoyed the experience very much. A year ago, I decided to buy one third or fourth hand with many games. I still have fun with it but my adult children think I am mad to play such low quality games.

The second generation had a mixed legacy affected by the video game crash of 1983. The Atari 2600 was discontinued on January 1, 1992, ending the second generation. The duration between the start of the 2nd generation in 1976 and the start of the 3rd generation in 1983 was seven years. Due to the long lifespan of the Atari 2600, which was available from 1977 to 1992, the second generation is the longest generation so far.

The Atari game console

Atari 2600

The third generation (sometimes referred to as the 8-bit era) began on July 15, 1983, with the Japanese release of both the Family Computer (referred to in Japan in the abbreviated form “Famicom”, and later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, in the rest of the world) and SG-1000. This generation marked the end of the North American video game crash, a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan, and the transition from block-based graphics to smooth hardware scrolling tile and sprite based graphics, which was a pivotal leap in game design. The end of the 3rd generation of video games comes as 8-bit consoles become obsolete in graphics and processing power compared to 16-bit consoles.

The Nintendo Entertainment System Game Console

Nintendo Entertainment System

The fourth generation (more commonly referred to as the 16-bit era) of games consoles began on October 30, 1987 with the Japanese release of NEC Home Electronics PC Engine (known as the TurboGrafx-16 in North America). Although NEC released the first fourth generation console, and was second to the Super Famicom in Japan, this era’s sales were mostly dominated by the rivalry between Nintendo and Sega’s consoles in North America: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (the Super Famicom in Japan) and the Mega Drive (named the Genesis in North America due to trademark issues). Nintendo was able to capitalize on its previous success in the third generation and managed to win the largest worldwide market share in the fourth generation as well. Sega was extremely successful in this generation and began a new franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog, to compete with Nintendo’s Mario series of games. Several other companies released consoles in this generation, but none of them were widely successful. Nevertheless, several other companies started to take notice of the maturing video game industry and began making plans to release consoles of their own in the future. This generation ended with the discontinuation of the Neo Geo in 2004.

The NEC home electronic game console

NEC home electronic

Playstation 1

The PlayStation is a home video game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. The console was released on 3 December 1994 in Japan, 9 September 1995 in North America, 29 September 1995 in Europe, and for 15 November 1995 in Australia. The console was the first of the PlayStation lineup of home video game consoles. It first competed against the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Saturn as part of the fifth generation of video game consoles.

The PlayStation is the first “computer entertainment platform” to ship 100 million units, which it had reached 9 years and 6 months after its initial launch. In 2000, a redesigned, slim version called the PSone was released, replacing the original grey console and named appropriately to avoid confusion with its successor, the PlayStation 2.

The fifth-generation (also known as the 32-bit era, the 64-bit era and the 3D era) refers to computer and video games, video game consoles and video game handhelds from approximately 1993 to 2001

The Sony Playstation 1 game console

Playstation 1

Playstation 2

In 1999, Sony announced the successor to the PlayStation, the PlayStation 2, which is backwards compatible with the PlayStation’s DualShock controller and games, and launched the console in 2000. The last PSone units were sold in winter 2004 before it was officially discontinued in March 2005, for a total of 102 million units shipped since its launch 10 years earlier. Games for the PlayStation continued to sell until Sony ceased production of PlayStation 1 games on 23 March 2006 – over 11 years after it had been released, and less than a year before the debut of the PlayStation 3.

The PlayStation 2 is the successor to the PlayStation 1. It was released on March 4, 2000 in Japan, October 26, 2000 in North America, November 24, 2000 in Europe, and November 17, 2000 in Australia. It competed with Sega’s Dreamcast, Microsoft’s Xbox, and Nintendo’s GameCube in the sixth generation of video game consoles.

Announced in 1999, the PlayStation 2 was the first PlayStation console to offer backwards compatibility for its predecessor’s DualShock controller, as well as for its games. The PlayStation 2 is the best-selling video game console of all time, selling over 155 million units, with 150 million confirmed by Sony in 2011. More than 3,874 game titles have been released for the PS2 since launch, and more than 1.5 billion copies have been sold. Sony later manufactured several smaller, lighter revisions of the console known as Slimline models in 2004 and well on, and in 2006, announced and launched its successor, the PlayStation 3.

Even with the release of its successor, the PlayStation 2 remained popular well into the seventh generation and continued to be produced until January 4, 2013, when Sony finally announced that the PlayStation 2 had been discontinued after 13 years of production – one of the longest runs for a video game console. Despite the announcement, new games for the console continued to be produced until the end of 2013.

The sixth-generation (sometimes referred to as the 128-bit era; see “Bits and system power” below) refers to the computer and video games, video game consoles, and video game handhelds available at the turn of the 21st century which was from 1998 to 2008. Platforms of the sixth generation include the Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Microsoft Xbox. This era began on November 27, 1998 with the Japanese release of the Dreamcast, and it was joined by the PlayStation 2 in March 2000 and the GameCube and Xbox in 2001. The Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001, the GameCube in 2007, Xbox in 2009 and PlayStation 2 in 2013. Though the seventh generation of consoles started in November 2005 with the launch of the Xbox 360, the sixth generation did not end until January 2013, when Sony announced that the PlayStation 2 had been discontinued worldwide.

Sony Game Console PS2

Playstation 2

Playstation 3

The PlayStation 3 is the successor to PlayStation 2. It was first released on November 11, 2006, in Japan, November 17, 2006 in North America, and March 23, 2007 in Europe and Australia. The PlayStation 3 mainly competes against consoles such as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles.

The console was first officially announced at E3 2005, and was released at the end of 2006. It was the first console to use Blu-ray Disc as its primary storage medium. The console was the first PlayStation to integrate social gaming services, included it being the first to introduce Sony’s social gaming service, PlayStation Network, and its remote connectivity with PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita, being able to remote control the console from the devices. In September 2009, the Slim model of the PlayStation 3 was released. It no longer provided the hardware ability to run PS2 games. It was lighter and thinner than the original version, and featured a redesigned logo and marketing design, as well as a minor start-up change in software. A Super Slim variation was then released in late 2012, further refining and redesigning the console.

The system had a slow start in the market but managed to recover, particularly after the introduction of the Slim model. As of March 2016, PlayStation 3 has sold 85 million units worldwide, putting it about on-par with Xbox 360, but behind the Wii. On September 29, 2015, Sony confirmed that sales of the PlayStation 3 were to be discontinued in New Zealand, but the system remains in production in other markets.

The seventh generation includes consoles released since late 2005 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Computer Entertainment. The eighth generation began in November 2012. For home consoles, the seventh generation began on November 22, 2005 with the release of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and continued with the release of Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation 3 on November 17, 2006, and Nintendo’s Wii on November 19, 2006. Each new console introduced a new type of breakthrough in technology. The Xbox 360 offered games rendered natively at high-definition video (HD) resolutions, the PlayStation 3 offered HD movie playback via a built-in 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and the Wii focused on integrating controllers with movement sensors as well as joysticks. Some of the Wii controllers could be moved about to control in-game actions, which enabled players to simulate real-world actions during gameplay (e.g., in the Wii sports tennis game, the user swings the controller to hit the on-screen image of a tennis ball). Video game consoles had become an important part of the global IT infrastructure. It is estimated that video game consoles represented 25% of the world’s general-purpose computational power in the year 2007.

The Sony Playstation 3 game console

Playstation 3

Playstation 4

The PlayStation 4 is the successor to the PlayStation 3. It was launched on November 15 in North America, November 29 in Europe, South America and Australia, and February 22, 2014 in Japan. It competes with Nintendo’s Wii U and Microsoft’s Xbox One, as part of the eighth generation of video game consoles.

Moving away from the more complex Cell microarchitecture of its predecessor, the console features an AMD Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) built upon the x86-64 architecture, which can theoretically peak at 1.84 teraflops; AMD stated that it was the “most powerful” APU they had developed to date. The PlayStation 4 places an increased emphasis on social interaction and integration with other devices and services, including the ability to play games off-console on PlayStation Vita and supported Sony Xperia mobile devices (“Remote Play”), the ability to stream gameplay online or to friends, with them controlling gameplay remotely (“Share Play”). The console’s controller was also redesigned and improved over the PlayStation 3, with improved buttons and analog sticks, and an integrated touchpad among other changes.

Reception to the PlayStation 4 prior to launch was positive, with critics praising Sony for acknowledging its consumers’ needs, embrace of independent game development, and for not imposing restrictive digital rights management schemes that Microsoft had previously announced for Xbox One prior to its release. Critics and third-party studios also praised the capabilities of the PlayStation 4 in comparison to its competitors; developers described the performance difference between the console and Xbox One as being “significant” and “obvious”. Heightened demand also helped Sony top global console sales. By the end of 2016, more than 53 million consoles have been sold worldwide, with more than 57 million shipped.

On September 7, 2016, Sony unveiled two hardware revisions of PlayStation 4; a slim build of the console, and a “Pro” version with an upgraded GPU and higher CPU clock rate to support 4K gameplay on supported titles. All models, including the original sold in 2013, support HDR10 high-dynamic-range color.

The eighth generation includes consoles released since 2012 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Computer Entertainment. For home consoles, the eighth generation began on November 18, 2012 with the release of the Wii U, and continued with the release of the PlayStation 4 on November 15, 2013, and Xbox One on November 22, 2013. These video game consoles follow their seventh generation predecessors: Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, respectively. For video game handhelds, the generation began in February 2011 with the release of the Nintendo 3DS, successor to the Nintendo DS, in Japan, followed by a North American and European release in March. Nintendo released the New Nintendo 3DS XL in North America on February 13, 2015. The successor of the PlayStation Portable, the PlayStation Vita, was released in Japan in December 2011, and in Western markets in February 2012.

The VR mask to play with the PS4 game console

Virtual Reality mask

The Sony playstation 4 game console

Playstation 4

From 1994 until today Sony has been working on several evolutions. This progress has been focused not only in technology but also in design, game complexity, engagement, flexibility, connectivity, with the new Virtual Reality mask, and in experiences like no other.

I have been lucky enough to see the ping style games and have played them. When I first saw them, I was amazed that we could play on television. The games were not very sophisticated, 2 bars and a ball but it was the first. Then we had the Atari 2600, and after several others we joined the 5th generation of video games taking us to environments we never expected. Every 10 years we get new consoles and new games to entertain us like never before.

The VR experience is just superb. You live in a different world and you are very engaged with your experience. Even though you are in your room in front of a television, it feels like you are thousand miles away.

From Pong games to VR experience, 45 years of progress, research and technology is simply amazing. I am so pleased to have experience such an evolution.

What are your guesses for the 9th generation in terms of technology and timing? Feel free to let me know.