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About

A collection of various classic video game consoles at a game presentin 2010.

A video game console is an electronic device that outputs a video signal or phototo display a video game that shouldbe played with a game controller. These may be home consoles which are generally territory in a permanent areaconnected to a television or other display device and controlled with a separate game controller, or handheld consoles that containtheir own display unit and controller functions built into the unit and shouldbe played anywhere. Hybrid consoles combine elements of both home and handheld consoles.

Video game consoles are a specialized form of a home computer geared towards video game playing, plannedwith affordability and accessibility to the general public in mind, but lacking in raw computing power and customization. Simplicity is achieved in part through the utilizeof game cartridges or other simplified method of distribution, easing the effort of launching a game. However, this leads to ubiquitous proprietary formats that creates tournamentfor market share. More lastestconsoles have present further confluence with home computers, making it simplefor developers to release games on multiple platforms. Further, modern consoles shouldserve as replacements for media players with capabilities to playback movie and melodyfrom optical media or streaming media services.

Video game consoles are usually sold on a 5-7 year cycle called a generation, with consoles angry with similar techcapabilities or angry around the same time period grouped into the generations. The industry has developed a razorblade model for selling consoles at low profit or at a loss while making revenue on the licensing fees for each game sold, with designedobsolescence to draw consumers into the next console generation. While numerous manufacturers have come and gone in the history of the console market, there have always been two or three dominant leaders in the market, with the current market led by Sony (with their PlayStation brand), Microsoft (with their Xbox brand), and Nintendo (currently producing the Switch console and its lightweight derivative).

History

The first video game consoles emerged in the early 1970s. Ralph H. Baer devised the concept of playing easyspot-based games on a television screen in 1966, which later became the basis of the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. Inspired by the table tennis game on the Odyssey, Nolan Bushnell, Ted Dabney, and Allan Alcorn at Atari, Inc. developed the first successful arcade game, Pong, and looked to develop that into a home version, which was released in 1975. The first consoles were dedicated to only a set group of games built into the hardware. Programmable consoles using swappable ROM cartridges were introduced with the Fairchild Channel F in 1976 though popularized with the Atari 2600 released in 1977.

Handheld consoles emerged from technology improvements in handheld electronic games as these shifted from mechanical to electronic/digital logic, and away from light-emitting diode (LED) indicators to liquid-crystal displays (LCD) that resembled video screens more closely, with the Microvision in 1979 and Game & Watch in 1980 being early examples, and fully realized by the Game Boy in 1989.

Since the 1970s, both home and handheld consoles became more advanced following global modify in technology, including improved electronic and computer chip manufacturing to increase computational power at lower costs and size, the introduction of 3D graphics and hardware-based graphic processors for real-time rendering, digital communications such as the Internet, wireless networking and Bluetooth, and huge and denser media formats as well as digital distribution. Following the same kindof Moore's law progression, home consoles were grouped into generations, each lasting approximately five years, with consoles within each sharing similar technology specifications and features such as processor word size. While there is no standard definition or breakdown of home consoles by generation, the definition of these generations utilize by Wikipedia including representative consoles is present below.


Overview of the console generations, including generation overlaps. Major consoles of each generation are given for each.


Kind

There are primarily three kind of video game consoles: Home consoles, handhelds, and hybrid consoles.

  • Home video game consoles are devices that are generally meant to be connected to a television or other kindof monitor, and with power supplied through an outlet, thus requiring the unit to be utilize in fixed area, typically at home in one's living room. Separate game controllers, connected through wired or wireless connections, are utilize to provide input to the game. Early examples containthe Atari 2600, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Sega Genesis, while newer examples containthe Wii U, the PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One. Specific kind of home consoles include:
    • Microconsoles, home consoles which lack comparable computing power of home consoles released at the same period, and thus are generally less expensive. A common form of microconsole are based on Android or iOS mobile software, allowing the consoles to admissionthe respective library of games for those platforms, as well as features such as cloud gaming. These consoles also typically containassistancefor other application accessiblefor the underlying operating system, including those that supported video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, making microconsoles also compete in the same zoneas "over-the-top" media providers that aimed to serve materialdirectly to the living room television. Such consoles containthe Ouya, the Nvidia Shield and Apple TV.
    • Plug and play consoles, specialized versions of microconsoles that come with a fixed selection of games on the system and do not give the consumer any ability to add more games. These are considered dedicated consoles for this reason, though tech-savvy consumers often have found method to hack the console to install additional functionality onto it, voiding the manufacturers' warranty. The units usually come with the console unit, one or more controllers, and the neededcomponents for power and video hookup. Many of the lastestreleases have been for distributing a number of retro games for a specific console platform. Examples of these containthe Atari Flashback series, the NES Classic Edition, and the Sega Genesis Mini.
    • Handheld TV games, specialized plug-and-play consoles where the console unit itself serves as its own controller so that the consumer simply connects the device to their television and to a power source, or in some cases, are battery-powered. According to video game historian Frank Cifaldi, these systems gained popularity around 2003 as they were cheap to manufacture and were relatively inexpensive at US$20−30 each by manufacturers such as Jakks Pacific. However, they also led to a surge of models that utilize counterfeit Nintendo chips manufactured in China, creating too many clones that could easily be tracked.
  • Handheld video game consoles are devices that typically containa built-in screen and game controller features into its case, and includea rechargeable battery or battery compartment. This let the unit to be carried around and shouldbe played anywhere. Examples of such containthe Game Boy, the PlayStation Portable, and the Nintendo 3DS.
  • Hybrid video game consoles are devices which shouldbe utilize either as a handheld or as a home console, with either a wired connection or docking station that connects the console unit to a television screen and fixed power source, and the potential to utilizea separate controller. While prior handhelds like the Sega Nomad and PlayStation Portable, or home consoles such as the Wii U, have had these features, some consider the Nintendo Switch to be the first true hybrid console.
The PlayStation 2 home console
The Apple TV microconsole and its controller
The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) Mini plug and play console and its two controllers
The Sony PlayStation Portable handheld console
The Nintendo Switch hybrid console in its dock (right)

Most consoles are considered programmable consoles and have means for the player to switch between different games: this most often shouldbe through a physical game cartridge or game vehicle or through optical media, or with the onset of digital distribution, via internal or external digital storage device with programdownloaded via the Internet through a dedicated storefront supported by the manufacturer of the console. Some consoles are considered dedicated consoles, in which games accessiblefor the console are "baked" onto the hardware, either by being programmed via the circuitry or set in the read-only flash memory of the console, and cannot be added to or modify directly by the utilize. The utilize shouldtypically switch between games on dedicated consoles using hardware switches on the console, or through in-game menus. Dedicated consoles were common in the first generation of home consoles, such as the Magnavox Odyssey and the home console version of Pong, and more recently have been utilize for retro-consoles such as the NES Classic Edition and Sega Genesis Mini.

Components

Console unit

Early console hardware was plannedas customized printed circuit boards (PCB)s, selecting existing integrated circuit chips that performed known functions, or programmable chips like erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM) chips that could perform certain functions. Persistent computer memory was expensive, so dedicated consoles were generally limited to the utilizeof processor registers for storage of the state of a game, thus limiting the complexities of such titles. Pong in both its arcade and home format had a handful of logic and calculation chips that utilize the current input of the players' paddles and resisters storing the ball's position to update the game's state and sent to the display device. Even with more advanced integrated circuits (IC)s of the time, designers were limited to what could be done through the electrical process rather than through programming as normally relatedwith video game development.

Improvements in console hardware followed with improvements in microprocessor technology and semiconductor device fabrication. Manufacturing processes have been able to reduce the feature size on chips (typically measured in nanometers), allowing more transistors and other components to fit on a chip, and at the same time increasing the circuit speeds and the potential frequency the chip shouldrun at, as well as reducing thermal dissipation. Chips were able to be angry on huge dies, further increasing the number of features and effective processing power. Random-admissionmemory became more practical with the higher density of transistors per chip, but to address the correct blocks of memory, processors requiredto be updated to utilizehuge word sizes and allot for huge bandwidth in chip communications. All these improvements did increase the cost of manufacturing but at a rate far less than the gains in overall processing power, which helped to make home computers and consoles inexpensive for the consumer, all associatedto Moore's law of technological improvements.

For the consoles of the 1980s to 1990s, these improvements were evident in the marketing in the late 1980s to 1990s during the "bit wars", where console manufacturers had focused on their console's processor's word size as a selling point. Consoles since the 2000s are more similar to privatecomputers, building in memory, storage features, and networking capabilities to avoid the limitations of the past. The confluence with privatecomputers eased programdevelopment for both computer and console games, allowing developers to target both platforms. However, consoles differ from computers as most of the hardware components are preselected and customized between the console manufacturer and hardware component provider to assure a consistent performance target for developers. Whereas privatecomputer motherboards are plannedwith the needs for allowing consumers to add their desired selection of hardware components, the fixed set of hardware for consoles enables console manufacturers to optimize the size and design of the motherboard and hardware, often integrating key hardware components into the motherboard circuitry itself. Often, multiple components such as the central processing unit and graphics processing unit shouldbe combined into a single chip, otherwise known as a system on a chip (SoC), which is a further reduction in size and cost. In addition, consoles tend to focus on components that give the unit high game performance such as the CPU and GPU, and as a tradeoff to holdtheir prices in expected ranges, utilizeless memory and storage zonecompared to typical privatecomputers.

In comparison to the early years of the industry, where most consoles were angry directly by the organizationselling the console, many consoles of today are generally constructed through a value chain that contain component suppliers, such as AMD and NVidia for CPU and GPU functions, and contract manufacturers including electronics manufacturing services, factories which assemble those components into the final consoles such as Foxconn and Flextronics. Completed consoles are then usually tested, distributed, and repaired by the organizationitself. Microsoft and Nintendo both utilizethis approach to their consoles, while Sony maintains all production in-house with exception of their component suppliers.

The Atari 2600 motherboard, with primaryIC chips identified
The Sega Dreamcast motherboard, incorporating more complex IC circuitry
The PlayStation 3 motherboard, showing the utilizeof System-on-a-Chip (SoC) via the Cell processor (silver chip, just right-of-center)
An opened first-generation Xbox console and without the hard disc drive and optical drive, showing components like the power supply (far right), cooling fins, cooling fan, and case features

Some of the commons elements that shouldbe found within console hardware include:

Motherboard
The basicPCB that all of the main chips, including the CPU, are mounted on.
Daughterboard
A secondary PCB that connects to the motherboard that would be utilize for additional functions. These may containcomponents that shouldbe easily replaced later without having to replace the full motherboard.
Central processing unit (CPU)
The main processing chip on the console that performs most of the computational workload.
The consoles' CPU is generally defined by its word size (such as 8-bit or 64-bit), and its clock speed or frequency in hertz. For some CPUs, the clock speed shouldbe variable in response to programneeds. In general, huge word sizes and faster clock sizes indicate better performance, but other factors will impact the actual speed.
Another distinguishing feature for a console's CPU is the instruction set architecture. The instruction set defines low-level machine code to be sent to the CPU to achieve specific effect on the chip. Differences in the instruction set architecture of CPU of consoles of a given generation shouldmake for difficulty in programportability. This had been utilize by manufacturers to holdprogramtitles exclusive to their platform as one means to compete with others. Consoles prior to the sixth generation typically utilize chips that the hardware and programdevelopers were most familiar with, but as privatecomputers stabilized on the x86 architecture, console manufacturers followed suit as to assisteasily port games between computer and console.
Newer CPUs may also feature multiple processing cores, which are also identified in their specification. Multi-core CPUs letfor multithreading and parallel computing in modern games, such as one thread for managing the game's rendering engine, one for the game's physics engine, and another for evaluating the player's input.
Graphical processing unit (GPU)
The processing unit that performs rendering of data from the CPU to the video output of the console.
In the earlier console generations, this was generally limited to easygraphic processing routines, such as bitmapped graphics and manipulation of sprites, all otherwise involving integer mathematics while minimizing the amount of neededmemory requiredto complete these routines, as memo. For example, the Atari 2600 utilize its own Television Interface Adaptor that handled video and audio, while the Nintendo Entertainment System utilize the Picture Processing Unit. For consoles, these GPUs were also plannedto send the signal in the proper analog formation to a cathode ray television, NTSC (utilize in Japan and North America) or PAL (mostly utilize in Europe). These two formats differed by their refresh rates, 60 against50 Hertz, and consoles and games that were manufactured for PAL markets utilize the CPU and GPU at lower frequencies.
The introduction of real-time polygonal 3D graphics rendering in the early 1990s—not just an innovation in video games for consoles but in arcade and privatecomputer games—led to the development of GPUs that were capable of performing the floating-point calculations requiredfor real-time 3D rendering. In contrast to the CPU, modern GPUs for consoles and computers, principally angry by AMD and NVidia, are highly parallel computing devices with a number of compute units/streaming multiprocessors (depending on vendor, respectively) within a single chip. Each compute unit/microprocessor include a scheduler, a number of subprocessing units, memory cashes and buffers, and dispatching and collecting units which also may be highly parallel in nature. Modern console GPUs shouldbe run at a different frequency from the CPU, even at variable frequencies to increases its processing power at the cost of higher energy draw. The performance of GPUs in consoles shouldbe estimated through floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) and more commonly as in teraflops (TFLOPS = 1012 FLOPS). However, particularly for consoles, this is considered a rough number as several other factors such as the CPU, memory bandwidth, and console architecture shouldimpact the GPU's true performance.
Coprocessors
Additional processors utilize to handle other dedicated functions on the console. Many early consoles feature an audio coprocessor for example.
Northbridge
The processor unit that, outside of the CPU and GPU, typically manages the fastest processing elements on the computer. Typically this involves communication of data between the CPU, the GPU, and the on-board RAM, and subsequently sending and receiving infowith the southbridge.
Southbridge
The counterpart of the northbridge, the southbridge is the processing unit that handles slower processing components of the console, typically those of input/output (I/O) with some internal storage and other connected devices like controllers.
BIOS
The console's BIOS (PrimaryInput/Output System) is the fundamental instruction set baked into a firmware chip on the console circuit board that the console utilize when it is first turned on to direct operations. In older consoles, prior to the introduction of onboard storage, the BIOS effectively served as the console's operating system, while in modern consoles, the BIOS is utilize to direct loading of the console's operating system off internal memory.
Random-admissionmemory (RAM)
Memory storage that is plannedfor quickreading and writing, often utilize in consoles to shophugeamounts of data about a game while it is being played to avoid reading from the slower game media. RAM memory typically does not sustain itself after the console is powered off. Besides the amount of RAM available, a key measurement of performance for consoles is the RAM's bandwidth, how quickin rulesof bytes per second that the RAM shouldbe written and read from. This is data that must be transferred to and from the CPU and GPU quickly as requiredwithout requiring these chips to need high memory caches themselves.
Internal storage
Newer consoles have contain internal storage devices, such as flash memory, hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD), to save data persistently. Early appof internal storage was for saving game states, and more recently shouldbe utilize to shopthe console's operating system, game patches and updates, games downloaded through the Internet, additional materialfor those games, and additional media such as purchased film and music. Most consoles provide the means to manage the data on this storage while respecting the copyrights on the system. Newer consoles, such as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, utilizehigh-speed SSD's not only for storage but to augment the console's RAM, as the combination of their I/O speeds and the utilizeof decompression routines build into the system programgive overall read speeds that approach that of the onboard RAM.
Power supply
Besides converting AC power from a wall socket to the DC power requiredby the console electronics, the power supply also assist to regulate that power in cases of power surges. Some consoles power supplies are built into the unit, so that the consumer plugs the unit directly to a wall socket, but more often, the console ships with an AC adapter, colloquially known as a "power brick", that converts the power outside of the unit. On handheld units the power supply will either be from a battery compartment, or optionally from a direct power connection from an AC adapter, or from a rechargeable battery packagebuilt into the unit.
Cooling systems
More advanced computing systems generate heat, and require active cooling systems to holdthe hardware at safe operating temperatures. Many newer consoles are plannedwith cooling fans, engineered cooling fins, internal layouts, and strategically-territory vents on the casing to assure good convective heat transfer for keeping the internal components cool.
Media reader
Since the introduction of game cartridges, nearly all consoles have a cartridge port/reader or an optical drive for game media. In the latter console generations, some console revisions have offered options without a media reader as a means to reduce the console's cost and letting the consumer rely on digital distribution for game acquisition, such as with the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition or the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition.
Case
All consoles are enclosed in a case to protect the electronics from damage and to constrain the air flow for cooling.
Input/output ports
Ports for connecting power, controllers, televisions or video monitors, external storage devices, Internet connectivity, and other features are territory in strategic area on the console. Controller connections are typically offered on the front of the console, while power and most other connections are usually found on the back to holdcables out of the way.

Controllers

All game consoles require player input through a game controller to provide a wayto move the player heroin a specific direction and a variation of buttons to perform other in-game actions such as jumping or interacting with the game world. Though controllers have become more featured over the years, they still provide less control over a game compared to privatecomputers or mobile gaming. The kindof controller accessibleto a game shouldfundamentally modifythe style of how a console game will or shouldbe played. However, this has also inspired modify in game design to create games that accommodate for the comparatively limited controls accessibleon consoles.

Controllers have come in a variety of styles over the history of consoles. Some common kind include:

Paddle
A unit with a single knob or dial and usually one or two buttons. Turning the knob typically let one to move an on-screen object along one axis (such as the paddle in a table tennis game), while the buttons shouldhave additional features.
Joystick
A unit that has a long handle that shouldpivot freely along multiple directions along with one or more buttons. The unit senses the direction that the joystick is pushed, allowing for simultaneous movement in two directions within a game.
Gamepad
A unit that include a variety of buttons, triggers, and directional controls - either D-pads or analog sticks or both. These have become the most common kindof controller since the third generation of console hardware, with designs becoming more detailed to give a huge array of buttons and directional controls to player's while maintaining ergonomic features.

Numerous other controller kind exist, including those that support motion controls, touchscreen assistanceon handhelds and some consoles, and specialized controllers for specific kind of games, such as racing wheels for racing games, light guns for shooting games, and musical instrument controllers for rhythm games. Some newer consoles also containoptional assistancefor mouse and keyboard devices.

A controller may be attached through a wired connection onto the console itself, or in some unique cases like the Famicom hardwired to the console, or with a wireless connection. Controllers require power, either deliveredby the console via the wired connection, or from batteries or a rechargeable battery packagefor wireless connections. Controllers are nominally built into a handheld unit, though some newer ones letfor separate wireless controllers to also be utilize.

The Magnavox Odyssey dual-paddle controller
The Atari CX40 joystick
The Nintendo Entertainment System gamepad with a single D-pad and two buttons
A modern controller, the DualSense for the Sony PlayStation 5, with multiple directional controls and buttons

Game media

While the first game consoles were dedicated game systems, with the games programmed into the console's hardware, the Fairchild Channel F introduced the ability to shopgames in a form separate from the console's internal circuitry, thus allowing the consumer to purchase freshgames to play on the system. Since the Channel F, nearly all game consoles have featured the ability to purchase and swap games through some form, through those forms have modify with improvements in technology.

ROM cartridge or game cartridge
The Read-only Memory (ROM) cartridge was introduced with the Fairchild Channel F. A ROM cartridge consist of a printed circuit board (PCB) housed inside of a plastic casing, with a connector allowing the device to interface with the console. The circuit board shouldincludea wide variety of components, at the minimum, the read-only memory with the programwritten on it. Later cartridges were able to introduce additional components onto the circuit board like coprocessors, such as Nintendo's SuperFX chip, to enhance the performance of the console. Some consoles such as the Turbografx-16 utilize a smart vehicle-like technology to flatten the cartridge to a credit-vehicle-sized system, which helped to reduce production costs, but limited additional features that could be contain onto the circuitry. PCB-based cartridges waned with the introduction of optical media during the fifth generation of consoles. More recently, ROM cartridges have been based on high memory density, low cost flash memory, which let for easier mass production of games. Sony utilize this approach for the PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo continues to utilizeROM cartridges for its 3DS and Switch products.
Optical media
Optical media, such as CD-ROM, DVD, and Blu-ray, became the basicformat for retail distribution with the fifth generation. The CD-ROM format had gained popularity in the 1990s, in the midst of the fourth generation, and as a game media, CD-ROMs were cheaper and faster to produce, offered much more storage zoneand permittedfor the potential of full-motion video. Several console manufacturers attempted to offer CD-ROM add-ons to fourth generation consoles, but these were nearly as expensive as the consoles themselves and did not fare well. Instead, the CD-ROM format became integrated into consoles of the fifth generation, with the DVD format showacross most by the seventh generation and Blu-ray by the eighth. Console manufacturers have also utilize proprietary disc formats for copy protection as well, such as the Nintendo optical disc utilize on the GameCube, and Sony's Universal Media Disc on the PlayStation Portable.
Digital distribution
Since the seventh generation of consoles, most consoles containintegrated connectivity to the Internet and both internal and external storage for the console, allowing for players to acquire freshgames without game media. All three of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft offer an integrated storefront for consumers to purchase freshgames and download them to their console, retaining the consumers' purchases across different consoles, and offering sales and incentives at times.
Cloud gaming
As Internet admissionspeeds improved throughout the eighth generation of consoles, cloud gaming had gained further attention as a media format. Instead of downloading games, the consumer plays them directly from a cloud gaming service with inputs performed on the local console sent through the Internet to the server with the rendered graphics and audio sent back. Latency in network transmission remains a core limitation for cloud gaming at the showtime.

While magnetic storage, such as tape drives and floppy disks, had been famousfor programdistribution with early privatecomputers in the 1980s and 1990s, this format did not see much utilizein console system. There were some attempts, such as the Bally Astrocade and APF-M1000 using tape drives, as well as the Disk System for the Nintendo Famicom, and the Nintendo 64DD for the Nintendo 64, but these had limited app, as magnetic media was more fragile and volatile than game cartridges.

A Fairchild Channel F cartridge, exposing the circuit contacts on the PCB
A Nintendo Wii optical disc
Mobile device running cloud game on Stadia with official controller

External storage

A PlayStation memory vehicle

In addition to built-in internal storage, newer consoles often give the consumer the ability to utilizeexternal storage media to save game date, downloaded games, or other media files from the console. Early iterations of external storage were achieved through the utilizeof flash-based memory cards, first utilize by the Neo Geo but popularized with the PlayStation. Nintendo continues to assistancethis approach with extending the storage capabilities of the 3DS and Switch, standardizing on the current SD vehicle format. As consoles began incorporating the utilizeof USB ports, assistancefor USB external hard drives was also added, such as with the Xbox 360.

Online services

With Internet-enabled consoles, console manufacturers offer both free and paid-subscription services that provide value-added services atop the primaryfunctions of the console. Free services generally offer utilize identity services and admissionto a digital storefront, while paid services letplayers to play online games, interact with other utilize through social networking, utilizecloud saves for supported games, and gain admissionto free titles on a rotating basis. Examples of such services containthe Xbox network, PlayStation Network, and Nintendo Switch Online.

Console add-ons

Certain consoles saw various add-ons or accessories that were plannedto attach to the existing console to extend its functionality. The best example of this was through the various CD-ROM add-ons for consoles of the fourth generation such as the TurboGrafx CD, Atari Jaguar CD, and the Sega CD. Other examples of add-ons containthe 32X for the Sega Genesis intended to letregistrant of the aging console to play newer games but has several techfaults, and the Game Boy Player for the GameCube to letit to play Game Boy games.

Accessories

Consumers shouldoften purchase a range of accessories for consoles outside of the above categories. These shouldinclude:

Video camera
While these shouldbe utilize with Internet-connected consoles like webcams for communication with other mate as they would be utilize on privatecomputers, video camera app on consoles are more commonly utilize in augmented reality/mixed reality and motion sensing games. Devices like the EyeToy for PlayStation consoles and the Kinect for Xbox consoles were center-points for a range of games to assistancethese devices on their respective systems.
Standard Headsets
Headsets provide a combination of headphones and a microphone for chatting with other players without disturbing others nearby in the same room.
Virtual reality headsets
Some virtual reality (VR) headsets shouldoperate independently of consoles or utilizeprivatecomputers for their main processing system. As of 2020, the only direct VR assistanceon consoles is the PlayStation VR, though assistancefor VR on other consoles is designedby the other manufacturers.
Docking station
For handheld systems as well as hybrids such as the Nintendo Switch, the docking station makes it simpleto insert a handheld to recharge its battery, and if supported, for connecting the handheld to a television screen.
Kinect for Xbox One
PlayStation Wireless Stereo Headset
Virtual reality headset PlayStation VR
Docking station for Nintendo Switch

Game development for consoles

Console development kits

Console or game development kits are specialized hardware units that typically containthe same components as the console and additional chips and components to letthe unit to be connected to a computer or other monitoring device for debugging purposes. A console manufacturer will make the console's dev kit accessibleto registered developers months ahead of the console's designedbeginto give developers time to prepare their games for the freshsystem. These initial kits will usually be offered under special confidentiality clauses to protect trade secrets of the console's design, and will be sold at a high cost to the developer as part of keeping this confidentiality. Newer consoles that share features in common with privatecomputers may no longer utilizespecialized dev kits, though developers are still expected to register and purchase admissionto programdevelopment kits from the manufacturer. For example, any consumer Xbox One shouldbe utilize for game development after paying a fee to Microsoft to register one intent to do so.

Licensing

Since the release of the Nintendo Famicom / Nintendo Entertainment System, most video game console manufacturers employ a strict licensing scheme that limit what games shouldbe developed for it. Developers and their publishers must pay a fee, typically based on royalty per unit sold, back to the manufacturer. The cost varies by manufacturer but was estimated to be about US$3−10 per unit in 2012. With additional fees, such as branding rights, this has generally worked out to be an industry-wide 30% royalty rate paid to the console manufacturer for every game sold. This is in addition to the cost of acquiring the dev kit to develop for the system.

The licensing fee may be collected in a few different method. In the case of Nintendo, the organizationgenerally has controlled the production of game cartridges with its lockout chips and optical media for its systems, and thus charges the developer or publisher for each copy it makes as an upfront fee. This also let Nintendo to review the game's materialprior to release and veto games it does not trustappropriate to containon its system. This had led to over 700 unlicensed games for the NES, and numerous others on other Nintendo cartridge-based systems that had found method to bypass the hardware lockout chips and sell without paying any royalties to Nintendo, such as by Atari in its subsidiary company Tengen. This licensing approach was similarly utilize by most other cartridge-based console manufacturers using lockout chip technology.

With optical media, where the console manufacturer may not have direct control on the production of the media, the developer or publisher typically must establish a licensing agreement to gain admissionto the console's proprietary storage format for the media as well as to utilizethe console and manufacturer's logos and branding for the game's packaging, paid back through royalties on sales. In the transition to digital distribution, where now the console manufacturer runs digital storefronts for games, licenses fees apply to registering a game for distribution on the storefront - again gaining admissionto the console's branding and logo - with the manufacturer taking its cut of each sale as its royalty. In both cases, this still gives console manufacturers the ability to review and reject games it trust unsuitable for the system and deny licensing rights.

With the rise of indie game development, the major console manufacturers have all developed entry level routes for these smaller developers to be able to publish onto consoles at far lower costs and reduced royalty rates. Software like Microsoft's [email protected] give developers most of the requiredtools for free after validating the tinydevelopment size and needs of the team.

Similar licensing concepts apply for third-party accessory manufacturers.

Emulation and backward compatibility

Consoles like most consumer electronic devices have limited lifespans. There is amazinginterest in preservation of older console hardware for archival and historical purposes, but games from older consoles, as well as arcade and privatecomputers, remain of interest. Computer programmers and hackers have developed emulators that shouldbe run on privatecomputers or other consoles that simulate the hardware of older consoles that letgames from that console to be run. The development of programemulators of console hardware is established to be legal, but there are unanswered legal questions surrounding copyrights, including acquiring a console's firmware and copies of a game's ROM image, which laws such as the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act make illegal save for certain archival purposes. Even though emulation itself is legal, Nintendo is recognized to be highly protective of any attempts to emulate its systems and has taken early legal actions to shut down such projects.

To assistassistanceolder games and console transitions, manufacturers started to assistancebackward compatibility on consoles in the same family. Sony was the first to do this on a home console with the PlayStation 2 which was able to play original PlayStation content, and subsequently became a sought-after feature across many consoles that followed. Backward compatibility functionality has contain direct assistancefor previous console games on the newer consoles such as within the Xbox console family, the distribution of emulated games such as Nintendo's Virtual Console, or using cloud gaming services for these older games as with the PlayStation Now service.

Market

Distribution

Consoles may be shipped in a variety of configurations, but typically will containone base configuration that containthe console, one controller, and sometimes a pack-in game. Manufacturers may offer alternate stock keeping unit (SKUs) options that containadditional controllers and accessories or different pack-in games. Special console editions may feature unique cases or faceplates with art dedicated to a specific video game or series and are bundled with that game as a special incentive for its fans. Pack-in games are typically first-party games, often featuring the console's primary mascot hero.

The more lastestconsole generations have also seen multiple versions of the same base console system either offered at beginor presented as a mid-generation refresh. In some cases, these simply replace some parts of the hardware with cheaper or more efficient parts, or otherwise streamline the console's design for production going forward; the PlayStation 3 underwent several such hardware refreshes during its lifetime due to technological improvements such as significant reduction of the process node size for the CPU and GPU. In these cases, the hardware revision model will be marked on packaging so that consumers shouldconfirmwhich version they are acquiring.

In other cases, the hardware modify create multiple lines within the same console family. The base console unit in all revisions share fundamental hardware, but options like internal storage zoneand RAM size may be different. Those systems with more storage and RAM would be marked as a higher performance variant accessibleat a higher cost, while the original unit would remain as a budget option. For example, within the Xbox One family, Microsoft released the mid-generation Xbox One X as a higher performance console, the Xbox One S as the lower-cost base console, and a special Xbox One S All-Digital Edition revision that removed the optical drive on the basis that users could download all games digitally, offered at even a lower cost than the Xbox One S. In these cases, developers shouldoften optimize games to work better on the higher-performance console with patches to the retail version of the game. In the case of the Nintendo 3DS, the FreshNintendo 3DS, featured modernize memory and processors, with freshgames that could only be run on the modernize units and cannot be run on an older base unit. There have also been a number of "slimmed-down" console options with significantly reduced hardware components that significantly reduced the price they could sell the console to the consumer, but either leaving certain features off the console, such as the Wii Mini that lacked any online components compared to the Wii, or that neededthe consumer to purchase additional accessories and wiring if they did not already own it, such as the New-Style NES that was not bundled with the neededRF hardware to connect to a television.

Pricing

Console release prices (in U.S. Dollars) and total sales
Console Release year (U.S.) Introductory price (U.S.) Global Sales (Units)
Originally 2020 inflation
First generation
Magnavox Odyssey 1972 $100 $553 350,000
Second generation
Atari 2600 1977 $200 $882 30,000,000
Intellivision 1979 $300 $996 3,000,000
Atari 5200 1982 $270 $740 1,400,000
Colecovision 1982 $175 $480 2,000,000
Third generation
NES 1985 $200 $490 61,900,000
Atari 7800 1984 $150 $380 3,770,000
Master System 1986 $200 $470 13,000,000
Game Boy 1989 $110 $234 118,690,000
Fourth generation
TurboGrafx-16 1989 $200 $426 5,800,000
Genesis 1989 $190 $405 30,750,000
SNES 1991 $200 $384 49,100,000
CD-I 1991 $400 $768 1,000,000
Neo Geo 1991 $650 $1248 980,000
Sega CD 1992 $300 $561 2,240,000
Fifth generation
Atari Jaguar 1993 $250 $453 250,000
3DO 1993 $700 $1267 2,000,000
32X 1994 $160 $282 665,000
PlayStation 1995 $300 $516 102,490,000
Sega Saturn 1995 $400 $688 9,260,000
Nintendo 64 1996 $200 $334 32,390,000
Sixth generation
Dreamcast 1999 $200 $314 9,130,000
PlayStation 2 2000 $300 $459 155,000,000
GameCube 2001 $200 $294 21,740,000
Xbox 2001 $300 $441 24,000,000
Game Boy Advance 2001 $100 $147 118,690,000
N-Gage 2003 $300 $416 3,000,000
Seventh generation
Nintendo DS 2004 $200 $278 154,020,000
PlayStation Portable 2004 $250 $348 82,000,000
Xbox 360 2005 $400 $540 84,700,000
PlayStation 3 2006 $500 $780 87,400,000
Wii 2006 $250 $326 101,630,000
Eighth generation
Nintendo 3DS 2011 $250 $293 75,280,000
PlayStation Vita 2012 $250 $293 15,900,000
Wii U 2012 $350 $399 13,560,000
PlayStation 4 2013 $400 $448 112,300,000
Xbox One 2013 $500 $560 51,000,000
Nintendo Switch 2017 $300 $318 92,870,000
Current
PlayStation 5 2020 $400 / $500 $400 / $500 10,000,000
Xbox Series X/S 2020 $300 / $500 $300 / $500 6,500,000
Handheld units are present in blue.

Consoles when originally launched in the 1970s and 1980s were about US$200−300, and with the introduction of the ROM cartridge, each game averaged about US$30−40. Over time the beginprice of base consoles units has generally risen to about US$400−500, with the average game costing US$60. Exceptionally, the period of transition from ROM cartridges to optical media in the early 1990s saw several consoles with high price points exceeding US$400 and going as high as US$700. Resultingly, sales of these first optical media consoles were generally poor.

When adjusted for inflation, the price of consoles has generally followed a downward trend, from US$800−1,000 from the early generations down to US$500−600 for current consoles. This is typical for any computer technology, with the improvements in computing performance and capabilities outpacing the additional costs to achieve those gains. Further, within the United States, the price of consoles has generally remained consistent, being within 0.8% to 1% of the median household income, based on the United States Census data for the console's beginyear.

Since the Nintendo Entertainment System, console pricing has stabilized on the razorblade model, where the consoles are sold at little to no profit for the manufacturer, but they gain revenue from each game sold due to console licensing fees and other value-added services around the console (such as Xbox Live). Console manufacturers have even been known to take losses on the sale of consoles at the start of a console's beginwith expectation to recover with revenue sharing and later price recovery on the console as they switch to less expensive components and manufacturing processes without changing the retail price. Consoles have been generally plannedto have a five-year product lifetime, though manufacturers have considered their entries in the more lastestgenerations to have longer lifetimes of seven to potentially ten years.

Competition

The tournamentwithin the video game console market as subset of the video game industry is an locationof interest to economics with its relatively modern history, its rapid growth to rival that of the movieindustry, and frequent modify compared to other sectors.

Result of unregulated tournamenton the market were twice seen early in the industry. The industry had its first crash in 1977 following the release of the Magnavox Odyssey, Atari's home versions of Pong and the Coleco Telstar, which led other third-party manufacturers, using inexpensive General Instruments processor chips, to make their own home consoles which flooded the market by 1977.: 81–89  The video game crash of 1983 was fueled by multiple factors including tournamentfrom lower-cost privatecomputers, but unregulated tournamentwas also a factor, as numerous third-party game developers, attempting to follow on the success of Activision in developing third-party games for the Atari 2600 and Intellivision, flooded the market with badquality games, and angry it difficult for even quality games to sell. Nintendo implemented a lockout chip, the Checking Integrated Circuit, on releasing the Nintendo Entertainment System in Western territories, as a means to control which games were published for the console. As part of their licensing agreements, Nintendo further prevented developers from releasing the same game on a different console for a period of two years. This served as one of the first means of securing console exclusivity for games that existed beyond techlimitation of console development.

The Nintendo Entertainment System also brought the concept of a video game mascot as the representation of a console system as a means to sell and promote the unit, and for the NES was Mario. The utilizeof mascots in businesses had been a tradition in Japan, and this had already proven successful in arcade games like Pac-Man. Mario was utilize to serve as an identity for the NES as a humor-filled, playful console. Mario caught on quickly when the NES released in the West, and when the next generation of consoles arrived, other manufacturers pushed their own mascots to the forefront of their marketing, most notably Sega with the utilizeof Sonic the Hedgehog. The Nintendo and Sega rivalry that involved their mascot's flagship games served as part of the fourth console generation's "console wars". Since then, manufacturers have typically positioned their mascot and other first-party games as key titles in console bundles utilize to drive sales of consoles at beginor at key sales periods such as near Christmas.

Another kindof competitive edge utilize by console manufacturers around the same time was the notion of "bits" or the size of the word utilize by the main CPU. The TurboGrafx-16 was the first console to push on its bit-size, advertising itself as a "16-bit" console, though this only referred to part of its architecture while its CPU was still an 8-bit unit. Despite this, manufacturers found consumers became fixated on the notion of bits as a console selling point, and over the fourth, fifth and sixth generation, these "bit wars" played heavily into console advertising. The utilizeof bits waned as CPU architectures no longer requiredto increase their word size and instead had other means to improve performance such as through multicore CPUs.

Generally, increased console numbers gives rise to more consumer options and better competition, but the exclusivity of titles angry the choice of console for consumers an "all-or-nothing" decision for most. Further, with the number of accessibleconsoles growing with the fifth and sixth generations, game developers became pressured to which systems to focus on, and ultimately narrowed their target choice of platforms to those that were the best-selling. This cased a contraction in the market, with major players like Sega leaving the hardware business after the Dreamcast but continuing in the programarea. Effectively, each console generation was present to have two or three dominant players.

Tournamentin the console market in the 2010s and 2020s is considered an oligarchy between three main manufacturers: Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. The three utilizea combination of first-party games exclusive to their console and negotiate exclusive agreements with third-party developers to have their games be exclusive for at least an initial period of time to drive consumers to their console. They also worked with CPU and GPU manufacturers to tune and customize hardware for computers to make it more amenable and effective for video games, leading to lower-cost hardware requiredfor video game consoles. Finally, console manufacturers also work with retailers to assistwith promotion of consoles, games, and accessories. While there is little difference in pricing on the console hardware from the manufacturer's recommendedretail price for the retailer to profit from, these details with the manufacturers shouldsecure better profits on sales of game and accessory bundles for premier product placement. These all form network result, with each manufacturer seeking to maximize the size of their network of partners to increase their overall position in the competition.

Of the three, Microsoft and Sony, both with their own hardware manufacturing capabilities, remain at a leading edge approach, attempting to gain a first-mover advantage over the other with adaption of freshconsole technology. Nintendo is more reliant on its suppliers and thus instead of trying to compete feature for feature with Microsoft and Sony, had instead taken a "blue ocean" strategy since the Nintendo DS and Wii.

See also

Further reading

  • Forster, Winnie (2005). . Gameplan. ISBN 3-00-015359-4. Archived from on March 7, 2007.


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