The evolution of video games systems over the past few decades is stunning. Current gaming consoles are nothing short of powerhouses. If you compare them to the machines that passed as video-game consoles half a decade ago you can clearly see how far human technology has come. Digital gaming before the 1960s could only be found in select laboratories and accessible to a lucky few.
The video gaming community of today spans across cultures and genders from across the world. The culture started out among teenage boys but now the average age of gamers is 30 and almost half of them are female.
The first working prototype of a video game console was a rectangular box with fake wood paneling known as the Brown Box. It was created by Ralph Baer and came out in 1967. He designed to be connected to TV sets that were available at the time and featured six simple games including ping-pong.
The Brown Box paved the way for the evolution of video games systems. The next console to be released was the Magnavox Odyssey which came out in 1972. It was such a success that two new versions came out over the following years followed by Atari’s PONG in 1975.
Atari and Magnavox’ battle for supremacy in the console gaming market led to new consoles coming out one after the other, each one featuring only slightly better graphics than their predecessors. Other producers such as RCA and Coleco’s Telstar joined in as well and was the first gaming console to feature color and a difficulty curve.
Nintendo dipped their toe into the market at the end of 70s and is the only company from that era to still have success in the video gaming market.
This is the decade that video-game consoles made an impact on the world.
Developments in gaming technology meant that for the first time, the world was able to play RPG, fighting and adventure games. This was the time when classics such as Final Fantasy, Super Mario and Pac-Man made their first appearances.
Sega and Nintendo dominated this era. Sega’s first console, the SG-100 came out in 1983. This model only had an impact in Asia however their follow-up console, the Sega Master System gained worldwide success. Sega experienced tough competition from Atari and ColecoVision however the Nintendo Entertainment System was the console to come out on top as Coleco was forced to stop producing consoles when the video-gaming bubble burst.
The only external storage device for games during the 80s were cartridges. Compact discs started to phase cartridges out in the early 90s as they boasted superior storage capacity which enabled game developers to make the shift from 2D side-scrollers to games with 3D graphics. The first console to feature CDs was the Phillips CD-i but it did not last long in the market.
Sega once again established its dominance with the release of the Sega Genesis, their first console to use CDs. Atari released the Atari Jaguar in attempt to keep up with Sega however this proved to be Atari’s last console as they bowed out of the console wars in the face of stiff competition from Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation which were far more advanced.
While the rest of the console producers were struggling to produce the best CD-based console, Nintendo decided to stick to cartridges and released the Nintendo 64.
Sega started to struggle at the turn of the century. The Sega Saturn fell short of expectations and although the Sega Dreamcast was the first console to feature an in-built modem for online play, PlayStation’s ever-increasing popularity meant that the Dreamcast became Sega’s curtain-call.
This left Nintendo as PlayStation’s main rival. They released their GameCube which ran on DVDs in the same year that Microsoft entered the industry with a console that would go on to be Sony’s main competitor; the Xbox.
It took three decades for the gaming industry to achieve stability as three major companies remained in the console making business; PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo. PlayStation and Xbox in particular battled it out for top spot with new versions coming out over the next decade that appealed to hardcore gamers. PlayStation currently holds the crown in terms of number of consoles sold however Xbox is not far behind.
Nintendo decided not to compete directly with Microsoft and Nintendo. They chose instead to ride on the success of their Mario Bros. titles, which is considered to be the most successful video game franchise of all time, and appeal to casual gamers with their more interactive games available on the Wii.
Very few companies were brave enough to challenge the market dominance of these three companies during this period. Mattel and Envision tried however their consoles were short-lived and quickly forgotten.