Join

Enter Details

Comment on stories, receive email newsletters & alerts.

@
This is your permanent identity for Gizmodo, Kotaku, Lifehacker and Business Insider Australia
Your email must be valid for account activation
Minimum of 8 standard keyboard characters

Subscribe

Great discounts, competitions and special offers from our partners.
Email newsletters aren't ready to go out just yet, but will contain a brief summary of our top stories, news alerts, plus details of competitions and reader events.
Having issues creating your account? Contact Support

Forgotten Password

Enter Details


Back to log in

TIMELINE: The 40-Year Evolution Of Video Game Consoles

angry birds

Photo: Johan Larsson on flickr

Microsoft’s Xbox 720 is rumoured to be released in 18 months, perfectly timed for 2013′s holiday season. But the year-and-a-half delay has gotten industry execs flustered—because the year-and-a-half delay is actually an eight-year delay between the release of the last Xbox and the new Xbox. Decades in the world of technology. 

The delay is so drastic it has some people, including Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, claiming that the age of video game consoles has finally run its course, giving way to the faster, more convenient mode of online and mobile games.

So from Atari to the Xbox, we’re honouring the major consoles of past—the iconic machines that paved the way for Angry Birds and other highly addictive mobile and online games.

Atari Pong

Release Date: 1972

The Console: This early console was certainly not the first of its kind (both the 'Brown Box' and 'Odyssey' pre-dated the Atari) but Nolan Bushnell's Pong single-handedly defined the video game industry (and its future) with his ping-pong themed arcade game. Named after the sound the ball made on the paddle ('Ping-Pong' had already been taken), Pong marked the beginning of Atari's legacy as a video game legend.

Sega Master System (SMS)

Release Date: 1986

The Console: The original SMS was released as competition to the NES and was superior in many ways, including technologically. The console had better graphics and better sound than the Nintendo console, and could also play game cartridges and credit card-sized 'Sega cards.' Sales eventually fizzled out after Nintendo took over the console market. Sega released a series of consoles following the Master System, including the Genesis (1989), Mega-CD (1992), Multi-Mega 'Genesis CDX' (1994), Saturn (1995), and their very last console, the Dreamcast (1999).

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Release Date: 1985

The Console: Designed to look like a household appliance (and not like a video game console), the NES was the first console released post 1984-tech crash. The console was sold in the USA with the classic games, Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, along with the accompanying lightgun, robotic operation buddy (R.O.B.), and original controllers. Reaching its height of popularity during the '80s, the NES paved the way for the Japanese gaming giant.

GameBoy

Release Date: 1989

The Console: When Nintendo's GameBoy first hit American markets, it came pre-loaded with a relatively unknown PC game called 'Tetris.' During the first holiday season post-launch, Nintendo went on to sell over one million GameBoy consoles. Today Nintendo has sold nearly 120 million GameBoys worldwide, making GameBoy and GameFreak's beloved 'Pokemon' franchise for GameBoy an icon in the handheld market. The next two followups were the GameBoy colour in 1998 and the GameBoy Advance in 2001.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Release Date: 1991

The Console: The Super NES was Nintendo's response to a decline in NES sales in the early '90s following the arrival of the Sega Genesis in 1989. The 16-bit machine boasted 32K colours, and could also support special effects, including scaling, rotating, and transparency. Super Mario World was included as a pack-in game, much to the delight of fans. This console continued to sell for another eight years--a lifetime in console years!

PlayStation

Release Date: 1995

The Console: Nearing the end of Super NES's run, console manufacturers and designers were attempting to integrate discs into the hardware. The result was Sony's PlayStation, where, for the first time ever, CDs were used instead of game cartridges. The most detrimental effect of this switch however, was an increase in piracy, as discs were much easy to copy than the traditional cartridge.

Nintendo 64 (N64)

Release Date: 1996

The Console: Unlike Sony, Nintendo's next instalment of its console still relied on the more expensive game cartridges. The decision, it was rumoured, was so that Nintendo could enforce its licensing hold over all games. The console went on to sell millions of copies, thanks to the help of Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, and The Legend of Zelda franchise. Five years later, Nintendo would release their optical disc-based GameCube console but would be knocked out by competition from the Xbox and PS2.

PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Release Date: 2000

The Console: As the followup to PlayStation's revolutionary disc-based console, the PS2 continued to revolutionise gaming technology. This time however, the PS2 boasted the Emotion Engine, a unique CPU customised by Sony and Toshiba allowing players to run old PlayStation games on the console, as well as modern DVDs.

Xbox

Release Date: 2001

The Console: Some called it the 'Death Star' and 'the PC in a black box' but Microsoft's Xbox crept onto the scene as 'the black horse' of consoles. A year before its release, Bill Gates asserted at a game developers conference that the Xbox 'would transform the way we consume electronic equipment' and boy, was he right. Touting a relatively unknown game, Halo: Combat Evolved (now synonymous with the Xbox itself), the Xbox quickly beat out the Nintendo GameCube and PS2 as the consumer's console of choice.

Nintendo Dual Screen (DS)

Release Date: 2004

The Console: The Japanese giant once again wowed fans with its revolutionary dual screen handheld console, the DS. The DS also possessed voice recognition capabilities, allowing players to input commands instead of the traditional manual method. In addition, Nintendo DS players could compete via central hub thanks to the console's LAN connection. The slimmer, more lightweight version (DS Lite) was released in 2006 and the larger DSi XL came out three years later. In 2011 they released the Nintendo 3DS that featured backwards technology and stereoscopic 3D effects. The larger screened 3DS XL was released this year.

Xbox 360

Release Date: 2005

The Console: The successor to Microsoft's massively successful Xbox, the 360 model gave fans a chance to play in high definition due to the 360 internal Core system, while providing wireless controller support. Three versions of the 360 were available: Core (the entry-level model), Premium (with a 20GB detachable hard disc drive), and Elite (HDMI output, 120GB hard drive, and a cool matte black finish). Two years after its release, Microsoft had sold over 11.6 million units worldwide Five years later Microsoft would release the Kinect--an add-on that allowed players to issue commands vocally. Guinness World Records confirmed that the Kinect was the fastest selling electronic device ever.

PlayStation Portable (PSP) 1000

Release Date: 2005

The Console: The original PSP was a powerful machine--it possessed the same capabilities as the PS2 (it could support music, photos, and movies, as well as games) but was a much smaller model. A couple years later, Sony released the PSP 2000. The same machine but 19 per cent slimmer and 33 per cent lighter than its predecessor, it is no surprise that the PSP (both versions) sold over 25.5 million units worldwide.

Nintendo Wii

Release Date: 2006

The Console: This interactive game console offered a revolutionary wireless remote giving players a new approach to gaming. Most interestingly, however, was the 'Wii-mote'--the motion sensors in the remote that captured the player's movement as they swung the controller in a mock game of tennis. Paying homage to its roots, it also had an infrared light at the end of the controller (à la Duck Hunt) so players could point and shoot at the screen.

PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Release Date: 2006

The Console: A seventh generation game console, the PS3 was released as Sony's response to the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360. Boasting a slick unified online gaming service, the PS3 allowed players to stream videos, music, and movies. The console was also Blu-ray disc-friendly and had ample storage space (the base model had a 20GB hard drive).

PlayStation Vita

Release Date: 2011

The console: Equipped with two analogue sticks, a nifty touch screen, and built-in cameras, the PS Vita was a sexy update to the heftier PlayStation Portable. The refurbished handheld console also boasted some of the most impressive and fun-to-play games ever, including EA Sports FIFA Soccer, Touch My Katamari, and Unchartered: Golden Abyss.

Now check out a store that sells all these old school consoles

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn