A game console (also called video game console , colloquially mostly just console ) is an electronic device that, unlike general-purpose computers, is intended exclusively or primarily for playing video games . Some consoles can also be used for other purposes such as video and music streaming , or they can be retrofitted accordingly.
Stationary consoles usually consist of a base unit with one or more controllers to control the game. Commercially available televisions and monitors are used to output the audio and video content. Portable consoles, on the other hand, combine the base unit, controller and display in a single handy device, which is why they are also known as handheld consoles (from English handheld , in German handheld).
History of stationary game consoles
These can be roughly divided into several sections or so-called console generations (see literature), whereby the allocation and counting method often varies from source to source. For example, some data ignore the beginnings before the so-called " Video Game Crash " in 1983 and include the third generation among the first.
The first game console in the world was the Brown Box developed by Ralph Baer in 1968 or the licensed version called Magnavox Odyssey that appeared in 1972 . Since the devices of the first generation are intended exclusively for connection to standard television sets , they were mostly called video games or tele-games in Germany . Pong was one of the very first console games . The first generation consoles only offer predefined game variants; there were no interchangeable game modules . These devices are not actually computers ; there are no programs because the individual games are generated directly by hard-wired electronic circuits . In addition, they do not yet have a microprocessor . The first generation consoles include the Home Pong consoles from Atari and the Coleco Telstar consoles from Coleco .
8-bit era up to the video game crash (November 1976 to 1982)
The consoles of the second generation of consoles could display simple 2D graphics, offer very few colors in comparison to later consoles, have no graphics acceleration and only very limited memory. Technically speaking, they are real computers. As a CPU (apart from the Intellivision ) 8-bit processors (initially also 4-bit processors) were used, and plug-in modules were already used as storage media.
In 1983 the video game market collapsed and the void in game console history was filled with home computers ; see history of video games . The end of the game console era was predicted, until new consoles, such as. B. the Nintendo Entertainment System , recaptured part of the market.
8-bit post-video game crash era (1982-1987)
The third generation offered improved 2D graphics capabilities, more colors, graphics acceleration and a slightly larger memory compared to the second. 8-bit processors were also used here.
16-bit era (1988 to 1993)
The fourth generation mostly had 16-bit processors, extensive 2D graphics, rudimentary 3D graphics capabilities and options for larger memory modules and expansions. For the first time, the CD was also used as a storage medium.
Breakthrough of the 3D consoles (1993 to 1999)
The fifth generation offered 3D graphics capability, rendered video sequences and better sound chips. Most consoles from this generation onwards used CDs as a storage medium instead of modules. For the first time, vibration functions on controllers, memory cards for saving scores, playing audio CDs and, in exceptional cases, online access were used.
Extended multimedia functions (1998 to 2005)
The sixth generation offered partly expanded multimedia capabilities (video DVDs playable, online access, multi-channel sound, remote control optional), partly optical audio outputs, USB and network connections, improved 3D graphics and the optional installation of hard drives.
Extended online functionalities and motion control (November 2004 to 2010)
The seventh generation consoles can be used online via dial-up , Ethernet or WLAN and offer enhanced multimedia capabilities. Even more important in this generation, however, was the increased use or the permanent establishment of game controls by means of movements. The manufacturers' various concepts for implementing motion control differ enormously.
Microsoft and Sony continued to develop their consoles with Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consistently in the direction of increasing computing power and graphics capabilities as well as the playback of DVD successor formats. Sony also used a wireless motion-sensitive controller ( Sixaxis ) that matches the original exterior design of the PS2 controller . Since July 2008, controllers with dual shock function known from previous models have also been available.
Nintendo, on the other hand, clearly set itself apart from its two competitors and relied on innovative controllers ( Wiimote ) with motion sensors and a built-in infrared-sensitive camera with its Wii console with barely improved graphics performance . This enables position and acceleration detection as well as precise detection of the targeted point on the television picture, similar to a mouse on a PC. An attempt was made to appeal to additional groups of buyers with a comparatively low price and accessible game design. The power consumption is below that of the two competitors.
Later, in 2010, Sony and Microsoft also released improved motion controls as extensions to their consoles. While Sony's PlayStation Move contains both a motion-sensitive controller and a camera (PlayStation Eye) that recognizes it, Microsoft's Kinect does without a controller and is controlled by body movements using a depth sensor and color camera.
|Wii||Xbox 360||PlayStation 3|
|Initial release||November 19, 2006 (USA)||November 22, 2005 (USA)||November 11, 2006 (Japan)|
|processor||IBM Broadway (729 MHz)||IBM Xenon (3 × 3.2 GHz)||Sony / Toshiba / IBM Cell Broadband Engine (8 × 3.2 GHz)|
|Random Access Memory||24 MB 1T SRAM + 64 MB GDDR3
SDRAM + 3 MB GPU texture memory
|512 MB GDDR3 RAM with 22.4 GByte / s
+ 10 MB eDRAM with 32 GByte / s
|256 MB XDR-DRAM with 25.6 GByte / s
+ 256 MB GDDR3- VRAM with 20.8 GByte / s
|Internal memory||512 MB internal flash memory||up to 320 GB HDD||up to 750 GB HDD|
|Graphics chip||ATI Hollywood (243 MHz)||ATI Xenos (500 MHz)||Nvidia RSX (500 MHz)|
|optical drive||own formats (GameCube and Wii):
"DOL-006" (8 cm) and "RVL-006" (12 cm)
( HD DVD with external drive)
|CD, DVD, SACD , Blu-ray|
|maximum video quality||SDTV = 480p (NTSC) or 576i (PAL / SECAM), 480i (HDTV, component cable required)||HDTV = 480p - 720p - 1080i / p
(HDMI support since Zephyr )
|HDTV = 480p - 720p - 1080i / p (supports HDMI)|
|Price upon introduction ( RRP )||249.99 euros (including game)
94.99 euros ( Wii Mini , without network capabilities)
|299.99 euros (core)
399.99 euros (premium)
249.99 euros (slim version with 250 GB hard drive)
199.99 euros (slim version with 4 GB flash memory)
|599.99 euros (1st generation)
249.99 euros (super slim version with 12 GB internal flash memory)
Entertainment and entry-level consoles (2010 to date)
The first globally released eighth generation console was Nintendo's Wii U , which was released in North America on November 18, 2012. Sales in Europe and Australia began on November 30, 2012 and in Japan on December 8, 2012. The console is backwards compatible with both the software and accessories of the previous Wii . Technically, the device is about the same as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The main feature is a game controller with a touch-sensitive, integrated second screen called the Wii U GamePad , which can be used among other things. a. can be used in conjunction with the game on the monitor / television to display additional content.
The PlayStation 4 was presented to the public by Sony on February 20, 2013. For the first time, it is based on an x86 micro-architecture, the AMD Jaguar , and was implemented as an APU ( Accelerated Processing Unit ). The processor and graphics unit are therefore on a common chip . The console was delivered from November 2013.
The Xbox One from Microsoft was presented on May 21, 2013 and also shipped from November 2013.
In addition, several providers presented new console concepts, which are often based on the Android operating system for mobile devices. In an article that was published on both the US industry website Gamasutra and the British game magazine Edge , author and game developer Tadgh Kelly referred to these as microcomputers for low-cost home computers such as the BBC Micro , the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair Spectrum or the Amiga as microconsoles (microconsoles). These are not particularly large and less powerful devices compared to previous providers, which are much smaller and cheaper and whose games are also published at a far lower price via the integrated online shop. According to the US game magazine 1UP, none of these consoles aim to compete with other providers for position as the sole game machine.
One of the best-known representatives of these micro-consoles is Ouya, financed with the help of a crowdfunding campaign via Kickstarter . The delivery of the Ouya began in April 2013. An Android version is used as the operating system . Equipped with an Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC (quad core with 1.4 GHz), the console has 1 GB of RAM and supports HDMI 1080p.
Classic home consoles
|Wii U||PlayStation 4||Xbox One|
|Initial release||November 18, 2012 (USA)
November 30, 2012 (Europe)
|November 15, 2013 (US)
November 29, 2013 (Europe)
|November 22, 2013 (USA / Europe, 13 other countries)|
|processor||IBM Espresso PowerPC (3 × 1.2 GHz)||AMD Jaguar-based x86 processor (8 × 1.6 GHz)||AMD Jaguar-based x86 processor (8 × 1.75 GHz)|
|Random Access Memory||2 GB DDR3 -1600 RAM of 12.8 GB / s
(including 1 GByte for games)
32 MB eDRAM 256 GByte / s
|8 GB GDDR5 RAM with 176 GByte / s ( hUMA )
256 MB DDR3 RAM
|8 GB DDR3-2133 RAM with 68.3 GByte / s
32 MB eSRAM with 2 × 109 GByte / s
(of which 3 GByte reserved for the system)
|Internal memory||8 GB (32 GB with Premium Set)
flash memory (can be upgraded via USB with up to 2 TB or SD cards (the latter only in Wii mode))
|Optionally 500 GB or 1 TB HDD (exchangeable)||Optionally 500 GB, 1 TB SSHD or 1 TB HDD
(not exchangeable, additional external hard drives can be connected via USB)
|Graphics chip||AMD Radeon Latte (550 MHz)||
Custom -AMD-Radeon (800 MHz) with:
1152 shaders (1.84 T FLOP / s )
72 TMUs (57.6 G Texel / s)
32 ROPs (25.6 G pixels / s)
|Custom AMD-Radeon (853 MHz) with:
768 Shader (1.31 TFLOP / s)
48 TMUs (40.944 GTexel / s)
16 ROPs (13.648 GPixel / s)
|optical drive||Own formats (Wii and Wii U):
"RVL-006" (12 cm) and proprietary Wii-U disc
|DVD, Blu-ray||DVD, Blu-ray|
|Maximum video quality||HDTV = 480p, 720p, 1080i / p
|HDTV = 480p, 720p, 1080i / p, 2160p ( 4K / Ultra HD )
|HDTV = 1080p - 4K
|Price upon introduction ( RRP )||Basic version: 299.99 euros
Premium version: 349.99 euros
|399.99 euros (without PSMove camera)
439.99 euros (with PSMove camera)
399.99 euros (slim)
|399.99 euros (in a later bundle without Kinect camera)
499.99 euros (to release with Kinect camera)
Micro consoles and others
|Surname||Manufacturer||Publication date||operating system||CPU||GPU||Price upon introduction|
|Steam machine||Valve Corporation||from 2015||SteamOS||depending on model||depending on model||depending on model|
|GameStick||PlayJam||October 29, 2013||Android 4.2||Amlogic 8726-MX||Mali-400 MP GPU||unknown|
|MOJO||Mad Catz||December 10, 2013||Android 4.2.2||Tegra 4||Tegra 4 (APU)||159.99 euros|
|Ouya||Ouya Inc.||March 2013 (USA); November 15, 2013 (D, A, CH)||Android 4.1||Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC (ARM)||Nvidia GeForce GPU (520 MHz)||109.99 euros|
|NES Classic Mini||Nintendo||November 10, 2016 (J, AUS); November 11, 2016 (PH, NA, EU); November 23, 2016 (RUS)||own||Cortex-A7||Mali-400 MP2||69.99 euros|
|SNES Classic Mini||Nintendo||October 5, 2017 (J); September 29, 2017 (EU, USA); September 30, 2017 (AUS)||own||Cortex-A7||Mali-400 MP2|
|Nvidia Shield TV||Nvidia||May 2015 (USA); October 2015 (D, A, CH)||Android 5||Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC (ARM)||Nvidia Maxwell GPU (1000 MHz)||199.99 euros|
|PlayStation Classic||Sony||3rd December 2018||own||Cortex-A35||MediaTek 8167a|
|Sega Mega Drive Mini||Sega||September 19, 2019 (J, USA); October 4, 2019 (EU)||Linux||ZUIKI Z 7213|
Nintendo reacted to the lack of success of the Wii U by developing a new console. The Nintendo Switch was officially unveiled for the first time on October 20, 2016 on YouTube and the official Nintendo website. The specialty of the switch is its hybrid technology , which makes it usable both on the go as a handheld console and at home on the monitor as a more powerful home console. The Switch was not only considered the successor to the Wii U, but also to the handheld console Nintendo 3DS . On the hardware side, Nintendo turned away from IBM's PowerPC architecture, which had been built into the company's consoles since the Gamecube. However, the modified Tegra X1 processor from Nvidia used instead remained behind the performance of the competing consoles from Sony and Microsoft. The Switch was released for sale on March 3, 2017.
For their part, Sony and Microsoft reacted to the increasing popularity of VR technology in games (including PlayStation VR and Nintendo Labo VR , released on October 12, 2016) as well as the emerging demand for HDR graphics , 4K screen resolution and more stable frame rates with more powerful intermediate generations of theirs established consoles, namely the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X (project name Xbox Scorpio ). These high-end versions were brought on sale in parallel to the previous models. All game releases remained compatible with both the old and new console versions, but could potentially perform better on an intermediate-generation model. The PlayStation 4 Pro was released on November 10, 2016, the Xbox One X on November 7, 2017. The Xbox One X was generally rated as the most powerful console in this constellation.
|Nintendo Switch||Xbox One X||PlayStation 4 Pro|
|Initial release||March 3, 2017||7th November 2017||November 10, 2016|
|processor||NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor||2 × 4 core AMD Jaguar x86 64-bit CPU with 2.3 GHz||2 × 4 core AMD Jaguar x86 64-bit CPU with 2.1 GHz|
|Random Access Memory||4 GB LPDDR4- RAM + VRAM||12 GB GDDR5 (384 bit - 326 GB / s)||8 GB GDDR5 (256 bit - 218 GB / s)|
|Internal memory||32 GB flash memory (can be upgraded via USB or SD cards)||1 TB HDD (not exchangeable)||1 TB HDD (exchangeable)|
|Graphics chip||1 TFLOPS , Custom Nvidia Tegra - processor||6 TFLOPS, 40 AMD Radeon Compute Units, 2560 shader units||4,198 TFLOPS, 36 AMD Radeon Compute Units, 2304 Shader Units|
|Disk||Plug-in module||UHD Blu-ray disc||Blu-ray disc|
|Maximum video quality||In the dock (HD-TV) = 720p, 900p, 1080p Portable: HDTV = 720p||UHD TV = 720p, 1080p, 2160p / UHD HDR||UHD TV = 720p, 1080p, 2160p / UHD HDR|
|Price upon introduction ( RRP )||329.99 euros||499.99 euros||399.99 euros|
Future of game consoles (from 2020)
Under the name Xbox Series X , Microsoft announced on June 9, 2019 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles , back then with the project name Project Scarlett, that it should appear in 2020. Sony officially announced the successor console to the PlayStation 4, the PlayStation 5 , on October 8, 2019 in an article on the US PlayStation Blog for the end of 2020. So far, the following specifications are known about the two new consoles:
|Xbox Series X||PlayStation 5|
|processor||8 cores of the Zen-2-Cores series with 3.8 GHz each (3.6 GHz for SMT)||8 cores of the Zen-2-Cores series with variable frequency up to 3.5 GHz|
|Random Access Memory||16 GB GDDR6 (10 GB at 560 GB / s, 6 GB at 336 GB / s)||16 GB GDDR6 (448 GB / s)|
|Internal memory||1 TB Custom NVME SSD||825 GB custom SSD|
|IO throughput||2.4 GB / s (Raw), 4.8 GB / s (Compressed)||5.5 GB / s (Raw), 8-9 GB / s (Compressed)|
|Graphics chip||Custom RDNA 2 with 12 TFLOPS , 52 CUs at 1.825 GHz||Custom RDNA 2 with 10.28 TFLOPS , 36 CUs at 2.23 GHz (variable frequency)|
|Expandable storage||Proprietary SSD plug-in card||NVME SSD|
|External media||USB 3.2 HDD||USB HDD|
|optical drive||Ultra HD Blu-ray||Ultra HD Blu-ray (except PlayStation 5 Digital Edition )|
Trends in consoles of this generation include faster loading times through the use of solid-state drives (SSDs), support for ray tracing , the increasing number of games that support frame rates of over 60 frames per second, larger housings with better cooling and Ventilation systems and soundproofing as well as alternative, cheaper console models that no longer have drives (see e.g. PlayStation 5 Digital Edition ).
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