I Tried Writing A History Of Video Games (1972-2020)

I wrote this piece last year as part of a school project (don't question it), and now I am publishing it here.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Entertainment has existed for a long time. It began as a means of telling stories, to pass down culture, traditions, and ideas from one generation to the next. This concept of telling stories as a form of entertainment has evolved over prolonged periods of time. Jesters in a royal court, theatre plays, music, sports, games, and others, made evident that entertainment doesn’t need to be centred around the conveying of philosophical or narrative ideas. It can be done for the sheer value of joy and as a pastime.

When the world truly went electronic in the mid-to-late 1900s, entertainment went along with it. The film industry began to use computer software as means of enhancing the immersion and production value of their craft. Over the last decade or so, Music and film have transitioned quickly to the emerging digital forms that now streaming services are the most popular way to consume this form of entertainment.

Source: Statista

Not to be usurped by its brothers and sisters, the world of games (think pen and paper roleplaying games, and board games) also made the next step onto computers, and by doing so, completely revolutionized the form of entertainment and created an entirely new one: video games.

The rise of the video game has been astronomical, to say the least, to a point where the video game industry is now bigger than film, music, and sports in terms of annual revenue. Steam, the largest digital video game marketplace on the PC, saw nearly 11,000 titles released in 2020 alone. And to think that this number could’ve been even higher if not for the global pandemic impacting development timelines and funding, shows just how fast the industry is growing.

But to learn how the video games and the video game industry reached where it is today, we must go back to the start, to little before the year 1972. To a man named Ralph H. Baer, a plastic box with wires called the Magnavox Odyssey, and a little unknown game called Pong.

Chapter 2: Building Blocks

Ralph H. Baer. Source: Time Magazine

Ralph H. Baer was born in the west German town of Pirmasens in 1922, but it wasn’t until 50 years and 6,000 km later that he would create the first video game console. Baer’s family fled Germany for the US at the onset of the second world war, back when he was still a young man. After serving a stint in the American war effort, he found his way into electronics. In 1966, Baer was working at an engineering company called Sanders Associates in the town of Nashua, New Hampshire, which notably featured on the hit sitcom The Office US.

Baer eventually ended up with the idea of playing games on a television screen. With support from his fellow developers, he and his team worked on several prototypes over the next three years. Their seventh prototype, dubbed the ‘Brown Box’, was their finest yet. It was shown to several manufacturers before a home electronics company from Napa, California called Magnavox showed interest in producing these machines.

The Magnavox Odyssey, as it was called, came with the console box itself and two wired rectangular controllers. It was only capable and powerful enough to display three square dots and a single line on the screen in black and white. However, these dots could be programmed to react and behave differently depending on what game was being played.

Magnavox Odyssey. Source: Digital Spy

The console was released in the United States in September of 1972 for the price of $99.95. This translates to roughly $650 in 2021 with inflation factored in, showing just how cheap video games are now. The console eventually made its way into the European market two years later. 28 games were made for this ground-breaking console, out of which one was a simple recreation of the well-known ping pong/table tennis sport. This game would be credited as being the first console video game and would go on to influence Atari’s massively successful and influential 1972 arcade game called Pong.

The Magnavox Odyssey sold an estimated 350,000 units and spawned a long line of successors in the series. Along with Pong, these two pieces of hardware and software are credited for bringing video games to the mainstream and proving to the world that these childlike games played on television screens have real commercial potential.

Chapter 3: Processing Colour

Atari 2600. Source: Wikipedia

Atari was founded in 1972 in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. The company’s first endeavour was the massively successful arcade game Pong, which launched the same year as the company’s founding. What would follow was a decade of growth for Atari, in both the arcade and home console space.

When Intel released the first ever microprocessor in 1971, it was ground-breaking. But the microprocessor didn’t come into play in the video game industry until MOS Technologies made the first inexpensive microprocessor in 1975. Atari was running along smoothly with arcade games, but their short lifespan and expensive costs meant that a switch to a more affordable system was necessary. They capitalized on the feasibility of using this new technology, and in 1977, they released the Atari 2600.

The Atari 2600 came with two joystick controllers, two paddle controllers, and a game. It popularized the microprocessor in game consoles and brought colour to the screen. The console came bundled with a game called Combat, which was a conversion of two of Atari’s earlier arcade games. Combat would later be switched out for Pac-Man, a game whose legacy stills live on today, more than 40 years and 8 million original sold copies later.

Atari made its mark with conversions of popular arcade games to the home console. Asteroids and Space Invaders are two notable examples. The main selling point of the 2600 was its killer apps: games that were considered a reason to buy the console itself. When Space Invaders launched on the 2600 in 1980, it quadrupled the sales of a console that was already three years old. Atari remained dominant through 1982 but it looked like there was a fire burning on the horizon.

Pac-Man. Source: RetroGames.cz

To further solidify their grasp on the market, Atari began investing in licensed games, starting with Pac-Man and E.T. Even though Pac-Man was a commercial success, the poor quality of the port ruined consumers’ confidence in the company. E.T’s development was rushed to get the game out for the lucrative holiday season. The result: critical backlash and commercial failure. Atari had lost its high ground. Instead, they, and the rest of the industry, went sliding downhill.

In 1983, the video game market crashed. From a peak of $3.2 billion in 1983, video game revenue dropped to around $100 million by 1985. This 97% drop was majorly accredited to a rise in shovelware titles (low-quality games pumped out at a high frequency), Atari’s failure to keep its streak going, and a newfound public interest in the personal computer.

Chapter 4: From the Land of the Rising Sun

The years following the video game crash of 1983 saw the arrival of a new competitor in the American and global video game market. Nintendo was founded 132 years ago in 1889. The Kyoto-based company started off in the Japanese playing cards market, before expanding into the toy business in the late 1960s. In fact, the Magnavox Odyssey’s light gun controller was made by Nintendo. The company continued its pivot into the electronics market and acquired the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan in 1974.

Nintendo opened its first American department in New York in 1979, with a special focus on creating arcade games. A year later, Nintendo would release its first handheld video game system called the Game & Watch. The unique console would go on to sell over 40 million units.

Nintendo’s arcade initiative got off to a rocky start. Radar Scope released in 1980, and while it was successful in Nintendo’s backyard, it failed to make a mark in the west. But Nintendo persevered and came back stronger with 1981’s Donkey Kong. This game was one of the earliest that allowed players to jump, and was a huge success for Nintendo, both in Japan and outside. The game’s playable character, Jumpman, would eventually become Mario, arguably the most recognizable character in video game history and the face of Nintendo.

Nintendo Entertainment System. Source: Wikipedia

Two years later in 1983, Nintendo made its first steps into the home console market with the release of the Family Computer (Famicom) in Japan. Alongside the console came the ports of three Nintendo arcade games: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, and Popeye. The Famicom was a great success. To make sure that the console maintained its popularity and demand, Nintendo set up a few guidelines developers would have to follow if they wanted their games on Nintendo’s new system, including keeping their games exclusively on the Famicom for at least two years after launch.

As would any company with such a success on their hands, Nintendo wanted to capitalise on this and planned to do so by bringing the console to western markets. But the video game market crash of 1983 heavily derailed their plans. With the industry in such a decline, simply launching the console in the west wasn’t going to be enough. Nintendo would have to enter with a bang, and that’s exactly what they did.

Nintendo opted to redesign and market the Famicom as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The NES would play games through cartridges known as “Game Paks” and had a look very similar to a common VCR. Nintendo also added lockout chips to these Gam Paks, which ensured Nintendo had complete control over all games released for the console.

Super Mario Bros. Source: The Verge
The NES launched in 1885 and was a watershed moment for Nintendo, as they made their mark on video games outside of Japan. The NES would go on to see revolutionary and notable releases such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid — all of which spawned franchises that still carry on strong to this day.

Together, the NES and Famicon sold a grand total of 61.91 million units. It helped revolutionize gaming, lift the industry after the 1983 market crash, and make Nintendo a household name. But just like Atari, Nintendo’s honeymoon period with the industry wasn’t everlasting. Competition had begun to brew back in Japan. It was coming for Nintendo’s undisputed crown, and it was coming fast.

Chapter 5: Red vs Blue

Sega as a company had existed since 1960, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that they took their first steps into the video game console market. The company had previously existed in various forms, providing coin-operated arcade machines for entertainment on military bases, starting in the US and then moving to Japan when the government banned such machines.

Sega released Pong-Tron — its first video game — in 1973. The game was a recreation of Atari’s landmark 1972 title but adapted for the Japanese market and audience. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Sega would go on to become a prominent player in the arcade market with games like Head On, Frogger, and Zaxxon.

Following the downturn of the arcade market in the early 1980s, Sega decided to try its hand at the home console business. The Master System was released in North America in 1986 and was an adapted version of the Sega Mark III. It was modelled as a competitor to the NES and eventually made its way to Japan in 1987. While the Master System performed fairly well, it failed to hold a candle to the NES’ success.

The Master System was in-par with Nintendo’s system in terms of hardware. They were both 8-bit machines, with the Master System even being slightly stronger in terms of raw computing power. But Nintendo’s shrewd strategy of preventing games from being available on other consoles ensured that Nintendo held an overwhelming majority of the market share.

But Sega, not to be put down by the Master System’s relative failure, came back stronger. In 1988 they released the 16-bit Mega Drive in Japan. A year later, the console made its way to North American markets as the Sega Genesis. It was heavily marketed against the NES, which was starting to show its age as an 8-bit console. But still, the Genesis failed to crack open Nintendo’s stronghold, especially in Japan where the Master System lagged behind the Famicom.

Even though Sega was slow off the start, Nintendo was wary of the Genesis’ capabilities. In 1990, the Super Famicom was released in Japan, and in 1991, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was released in North America. The two were essentially follow-ups to the Famicom and NES, but with different names. The market now had two equally balanced systems on store shelves, from the industry’s two most prominent names: Nintendo and Sega.

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991). Source: Wikipedia

Both companies had very different marketing strategies for their latest systems. Nintendo continued with its family-friendly image, while Sega targeted an older audience with a console that they claimed was “cooler”. But the biggest differentiator between the two forces were their mascots: Mario and Sonic. Mario was the old guard. It had made its name from the original Donkey Kong on arcades and continued with immense growth throughout the NES’ lifespan. Sonic was the new kid on the block, attempting to dethrone the master with his speed and novelty.

Super Mario Bros. 3. Source: Mario Wiki

Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. 3 in 1990. The game swayed people away from buying the cheaper Sega Genesis due to the appeal of a new Mario game. Sega came back swinging only a year later with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, a fast-paced game that would appeal to the largely teenage audience and give Sega its mascot. Sonic was an immense success and allowed Sega to outsell Nintendo that Christmas season.

With the SNES on the back foot heading into 1992, Nintendo decided to lower the system’s price. Sega responded with a price cut of their own, neither willing to seed any ground that they had gained. The exclusive release of Street Fighter II on the SNES in 1992 allowed Nintendo to swing the war back in its favour. But the allure of Sonic was still too strong, and the Genesis outsold the SNES for a second year running.

The success of Street Fighter only helped bring the fighting game genre to the mainstream. A fighting game called Mortal Kombat was released in arcades in 1992, but it caught the attention of the masses due to its more mature nature, not afraid to display blood and gore with its action. Sega reacted by getting the developer to port to game to its Genesis console, but Nintendo, afraid of ruining the family-friendly image it had built up over time, got a special version of the game ported over to the SNES, this time without all of its mature content.

The marketing of such mature games to children across America led to a string of congressional hearings in 1993. This eventually led to the founding of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) in 1994. This allowed the video game industry to continue without government intervention.

As has become routine so far, a new face emerged with the start of a new console generation, built upon new technology. Just like Nintendo arrived to crash Atari’s party, and just like Sega rocked-up uninvited to Nintendo’s clubhouse, it was Sony’s turn to make its mark on this growing industry. And make its mark it did.

Chapter 6: A Third Dimension

The 5th video game generation was defined by leaps in technology. For the first time in history, video game consoles adopted CD-ROM technology, as they moved away from cartridge-based games. In addition, games began to make use of polygons to create 3D characters and worlds, a far cry from the sprite-based 2D models and environments that had been a mainstay since the Magnavox Odyssey.

Just as a third dimension was added to our games, a third dimension was added to the rapidly growing video game market: Sony. In 1988, Sony and Nintendo decided to collaborate to create a CD-ROM extension to the SNES. This would allow disc-based games to be played on the machine. The terms of the contract ensured that Sony would maintain rights to all games published on these CDs.

Nintendo, who sensed a threat to their dominance from Sony, decided to cut all ties. During the morning before the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991, the same day this collaborative project was supposed to be revealed to the world, Nintendo announced that they would be stopping work on the project and siding with Sony’s Dutch rival Phillips.

Sony’s initiative, now separate from Nintendo, decided to continue work on the project after much deliberation. Sony was going to enter the console space, with or without Nintendo. While work on the hardware was going along smoothly, Sony was struggling on the software side. With no prior experience developing games, Sony was forced to rely on third-party developers. In 1993, Sony purchased Liverpool-based studio Psygnosis. They now had a team working directly underneath them to create launch titles for the upcoming console.

PlayStation. Source: Wikipedia

The PlayStation was released in Japan on 3rd December 1993. Only a week before, Sega had released the Sega Saturn. Both consoles sold well off the line, but the Saturn managed to edge out the PlayStation in its initial days, spurred on by the popularity of Virtua Fighter. Sega would lead PlayStation in terms of raw sales by the end of 1994, but the consoles’ launches in North America would signal a turning point in the battle.

Both consoles were released into the North American market in 1995, but Sony gained the upper hand by undercutting the Saturn’s price point by $100 with the PlayStation. At $299, it was the more affordable console, which allowed it to tap into a larger audience. The Sega Saturn also stumbled by being shadow-dropped, which means no one, including the retailers, was aware of its launch before the launch took place.

On the other hand, the PlayStation launched prepared. Wielding its lower price point in one hand and the Saturn’s misfortune in the other, PlayStation come out all guns blazing. With impressive launch titles such as Ridge Racer, which held its own against Sega giant Daytona USA, the PlayStation sold more in two days than the Saturn had done in the five months since its release. Even though the PlayStation was convincingly outplaying the Saturn in North America, the Japanese market was still almost a near equal split.

In 1996, the sleeping giant awoke. Nintendo released their long-awaited follow-up to the SNES. It was called the Nintendo 64 (N64), and it ensured a three-way fight for dominance over market share and audience in the video game space. The N64 sold very well at launch and came to North America only a year later.

Super Mario 64. Source: VentureBeat

Each console was defined by its games. The N64 launched with Super Mario 64, a ground-breaking title in the way it took Mario and friends into a 3D world for the first time, and the console’s best-selling piece of software. Other notable titles included GoldenEye 007 and the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, both of which are credited as genre-defining games in the first-person shooter and action-adventure genres. The Sega Saturn mostly relied on ports of Sega arcade games. Titles such as Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter were adapted from their earlier arcade versions, while a multitude of Sonic titles were built for the new console.

Final Fantasy VII. Source: Polygon

But while Nintendo had its exclusives and Sega had its arcade games, the PlayStation had by far the most diverse and well-regarded library of games. Gran Turismo sold 10 million copies on the console, while other racers like Ridge Racer and Wipeout were successes too. Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon were pretty good attempts at dethroning Nintendo from the top of the 3D-platformers pyramid. Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, and Tekken all became mainstays of their genres. Final Fantasy VII helped popularize the Japanese role-playing game out of Japan itself. The fact that Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy VII were only surpassed in sales by Super Mario 64 shows just how fast Sony and the PlayStation brand established themselves in the industry.

The PlayStation would also go on to more than triple the sales of its nearest rival, with 102 million units sold against the N64’s 33 million, both a far cry from the Sega Saturn’s 10 million. The end of the 5th console generation was the downfall of Sega, as it struggled to keep up with its competitors. Against all odds, PlayStation had come out of this generation on top, leaving even Nintendo scrambling to keep up. Just like global conglomerate Sony had stepped into the video game industry at the start of the 5th generation, this time an even bigger conglomerate would join the party.

Chapter 7: Going Online

Sega was the first of the big three to release its 6th generation console. Called the Sega Dreamcast, the console was released in 1998 in Japan and the following year in North America. Despite its early release compared to its competitors, the Dreamcast failed to get off the ground well. Limited stock and delayed launch exclusives from the Sonic and Rally Championship franchises.

PlayStation 2. Source: NDTV Gadgets 360

Sony launched its newest console, the PlayStation 2 (PS2) in Japan in March 2000, and then brought the system to North America in October of the same year. Due to the sheer number of original PlayStations out there, Sony decided, and correctly so, to make the PS2 backwards compatible with almost all original PlayStation games. This meant that gamers could simply insert their original PlayStation discs onto their new system and continue to play their games on that. The console almost sold an astonishing 1 million units only a day after launch.

In September 2001, Nintendo released the GameCube in Japan and then in North America only a few months later. The GameCube, although hindered by supply constraints which forced a delayed launch, sold well at launch. The console was, however, criticized for its lack of exclusives at launch, most notably the lack of a 3D Mario title. But unlike the GameCube, launch exclusives were no problem for the other console launching that same year.

Xbox. Source: Wikipedia

In November 2001, the world got a console from perhaps the most unlikely source: Microsoft. Before the dawn of the new century, Microsoft had been making steady money from publishing games on its Windows PCs. These included well-known franchises such as Microsoft Flight Simulator and Age of Empires. The Xbox launched on the 11th of November 2001 to much fanfare. Bungie’s Sci-fi FPS Halo: Combat Evolved was the console’s killer app at launch and help sell the new machine.

Halo: Combat Evolved. Source: IMDb
The Dreamcast went on to be the lowest selling of the bunch, tapping in at around 10 million units sold. The GameCube clocked in at 21 million units, with the Xbox not far ahead at 25 million. The PS2 was a far cry ahead from the rest of the bunch, selling 155 million units, making it the best-selling home video game console of all time.

But the 6th generation wasn’t defined by its machines, but rather by the introduction of online play. Previously, people were able to play games with each other, on both consoles and PC, by connecting the machines using cables or over the LAN. But the idea of “online play” was revolutionized and brought to the forefront with the introduction of Xbox Live on the 15th of November 2002. This allowed Xbox gamers to play their favourite titles with their friends and other people living halfway around the world through the internet. Xbox Live hit 100,000 subscriptions within the first week, and over the following years would see exponential growth. 2 years after its release, the subscription reaches 1 million subscribers, a number which doubled within the next year.

The PS2 also had online play, but instead of basing it around a paid subscription service, gamers needed a network adapter to attach to the console which allowed them to connect to a game’s server for free. Nintendo followed along the lines of Sony’s system, required a network adapter to play online on the GameCube, and did not have any centralized servers. Instead, third-party developers and publishers would need their own servers to support their game’s online functionality.

Chapter 8: Game Downloading

The 7th console generation would see a lot of changes to the industry landscape. Sega, after suffering through Dreamcast’s struggles, decided to pull out of the home console space, instead focusing on creating third-party games for other consoles and PC. Nintendo would continue onwards alongside PlayStation and Xbox but would side-step its colleagues and attempt something truly bold and innovative with its newest console: the Wii.

Wii. Source: Ubuy India

Nintendo came into the generation with a clear plan. It wasn’t going to try and compete with PlayStation and Xbox in terms of a system with power. Rather, it would try and beat them with its gameplay features. The Wii didn’t have traditional dual-stick controllers. It had motion-controlled remotes. The Wii wasn’t even in HD, and the Wii’s graphical power was the size of a rat compared to the elephants that were the new PlayStation and Xbox machines.

But the Wii had games, and so it prospered. Bundled launch title Wii Sports became the console’s first killer app, and went on to sell a whopping 82 million copies. No other game came even close, with Mario Kart Wii clocking in at a relatively low 37 million copies. Other notable first-party Wii games included The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario Galaxy 2. By doing its own thing, the Wii prospered, selling 101 million units.

Xbox 360. Source: Amazon
Microsoft and Sony would have their own little battle on the side, with the American company getting a decent head start with the Xbox 360’s release in 2005, a year before the PlayStation 3 (PS3) was released. The console was placed as a multimedia machine, but Xbox made sure not to leave the video game aspect of it too far behind. Games like Halo 3, Gears of War, and The Elder Scrolls V: Oblivion would define this generation for Xbox. In addition, Xbox began to get support from Japanese developers, with JRPGs Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey launching as console exclusives. Bioshock and Mass Effect were also massive third-party exclusive gets for Xbox. The console’s online play subscription service was also growing rapidly. By 2011, Xbox Live had 30 million subscribers.

PlayStation 3. Source: Wikipedia

The PS3 launched in November 2006. While it sold well off the line, it struggled in comparison to the Xbox 360 in its initial years. This was mainly down to the PS3’s exorbitant price tag. For $599 for the launch model, the console was $200 more expensive than the Xbox 360. The console was also extremely big and bulky, and its revised versions lacked the backwards compatibly found in the launch edition. 

But just like the Wii, the PS3 picked up momentum towards the end of the generation due to its catalogue of games. Launch title Resistance: Fall of Man was a breakout success in the West, with Ridge Racer 7 holding down the fort during the console’s Japanese launch. Sony-owned studio NaughtyDog made a name for itself, leaving behind its 3D-platformer roots and finding success in the 3rd-person action-adventure genre with more mature titles like Uncharted and The Last of Us.

The generation was also defined by the introduction of online storefronts. With the PS Store and Xbox Live Marketplace, games no longer had to be bought from brick-and-mortar retail stores. Instead, gamers could buy their games directly from Sony and Microsoft’s online stores and download them to their console. This revolutionised video game publishing because small developers no longer had to find publishers who were willing to print and distribute their games.

Chapter 9: Different Directions

The 7th generation of consoles dragged on for much longer than it was supposed to. Due to the 2011 recession in the US, gaming’s biggest market, console manufacturers were forced to shelf their plans for new systems until the economy recovered. Thus the extended lifespans of the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. It wasn’t until 2012, 7 years after the launch of the first 7th generation console, that we got our first 8th generation console.

Wii U. Source: Gamereactor

But Nintendo’s Wii U wasn’t the start of the usual console rat race that we had seen for decades prior because it was so different and disconnected from what Sony and Microsoft were doing. If the Wii was Nintendo moving across town, then the Wii U was Nintendo moving out of town. It took everything that made the Wii so unique and welt ballistic with it. Complete backwards compatibility, a GamePad controller with sticks, buttons, a screen, and motion control. On paper, the Wii U looked solid. But it wasn’t very practical.

Poor user experience and the GamePad’s limited battery life plagued the console. Coupled with a lack of exclusives and almost non-existent third-party support, meant the Wii U failed to get going. While the console did have stellar titles such as Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, and Super Smash Bros, it failed to gain the popularity needed to sustain it in the long term. The Wii U sold just 13 million copies and was dubbed a failure by many.

Xbox One. Source: Wikipedia

While Nintendo stared down a dark path after the Wii U’s slow launch, Sony and Microsoft looked ahead to greener pastures with the launch of their new consoles. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were very similar machines in terms of raw power. However, Microsoft pitched its console as an all-in-one entertainment machine, while Sony pitched its console as a gaming machine.

PS4 launch night. Source: Los Angeles Times

Even before the consoles launched, there was a clear slide in popularity towards the PS4. Before launch, it had been revealed that the Xbox One would always require an internet connection to play games. Furthermore, game trading and second-hand games would not work on the machine. While these problems would eventually be rectified, the Xbox One launched with a fanbase that was against everything it stood for.

The PS4 and Xbox One launched in November 2013, with the PS4 a solid $100 cheaper in stores. This advantage Sony held would carry on for the entire generation. The Xbox One lacked a suite of first-party exclusives that would push console sales. There were a few, like a new Halo, a new Gears of War, and new Forzas, but nothing different and exciting like Sony would put out. The PS4 had heavy hitters like Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, God of War, Spider-Man, and Ghost of Tsushima to name a few, which helped it cements its lofty heights over Xbox.

As a result, Xbox dived into an acquisition spree, purchasing 13 studios from 2018 to 2020. These acquisitions were done to bolster Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service that offered a large catalogue of Xbox One games, from third-party to indie. The service also offered all first-party games on launch day, making it objectively the best deal in gaming. Going into the 9th console generation in late 2020, PlayStation held all the momentum, but Xbox’s new deals and a steal of a subscription service were set to ensure an entertaining new console generation.

Nintendo Switch. Source: Daily Express

Remember when Nintendo’s Wii U failed? Well, I doubt it, because a Nintendo console has consistently been the best-selling console every month for a few years now. In 2017, Nintendo release the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console that had detachable joy cons and could be docked to a monitor. The Switch was a breakout success with its flexibility and ease of use. Its simple design rectified all the flaws of the Wii U, taking the fight to the immensely successful PS4 — even with a huge power deficit — with exclusives such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and Metroid Dread.

The Xbox One sold an estimated 51 million units, with the PS4 at a landmark 116 million units, making it the second best-selling home console of all time. The Nintendo Switch, despite having a 4-year market deficit to the Xbox and PlayStation, has sold a total of 92 million units. With no signs of Nintendo taking a generation step any time soon — instead focusing on smaller upgrades through revised Switch editions — and the Switch already having passed the PS4’s lifetime sales, it now has its eyes set on the PS2’s 155 million units sold. And there is every chance it breaks that record.

.  .  .



  1. Came here from reddit (did you delete the post?), read it up until PS1 and it's not bad though it bothers me how the west and US is used interchangeably while you're basically ignoring PC games and the european market.
    I noticed some typos like Famicon and 1885 instead of 1985.

    "But still, the Genesis failed to crack open Nintendo’s stronghold"
    While that's not a specific statement I would say they did succeed since they even hade more of the market for a while in the US, which was the most important market at the time.
    "The market now had two equally balanced systems on store shelves"
    Also vague but it implies they had the same hardware and library when they were pretty different really.

    "But the allure of Sonic was still too strong, and the Genesis outsold the SNES for a second year running."
    I was under the impression that the sports games like Madden and NHL also played a big part here, and Streets of Rage also sold really well. Besides the aggressive marketing which was a success in the US.

    "The 5th video game generation was defined by leaps in technology. For the first time in history, video game consoles adopted CD-ROM technology, as they moved away from cartridge-based games. In addition, games began to make use of polygons to create 3D characters and worlds, a far cry from the sprite-based 2D models and environments that had been a mainstay since the Magnavox Odyssey."
    It sounds overly simplified considering the addons for MD/GEN and TG16, and the use of polygons in games like Star Fox and Virtua Fighter. And that's just on consoles.


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