Every week the EFG staff will be defining a gaming term that is either confusing or ill-defined. Please leave a comment with any terms you are confused by and we will try to include them in future editions!
This week we are going to define the term “Generation” with regards to how it is used in the video game space.
Video game consoles have been around since the late 70s and have increased in power exponentially as time has passed. One inescapable problem with home consoles is that you can’t really upgrade them over time. Some companies have tried to circumvent it (the Nintendo 64 released a RAM expansion pack that you could plug into it), but it has never really been successful.
As a result, console manufacturers will release a new system and then throw all of their support behind it for a number of years before moving on to a new piece of technology and forcing consumers to upgrade.
This pattern has been playing out for decades. At this point, consumers generally understand that their systems will only last a certain number of years before a console manufacturer will replace it with something new and more powerful that they will need to buy in order to play the latest and greatest games. (This wasn’t always the case though. There was a great deal of outcry against the Super Nintendo because people did not originally understand that it wasn’t just a slightly different Nintendo Entertainment System.)
Console manufacturers tend to release new consoles all at once (or at least over a short span of time). This behavior has lasted almost as long as consoles have. So gamers and game historians have taken to referring to the time that a set of consoles is available as a “generation.”
There have been eight generations of video game consoles so far (and we are about to step into the ninth). The list below includes the major consoles included in each generation. Game historians may argue some of the finer points regarding what might be included in each generation, but this list is generally accepted as accurate.
- First Generation: Magnavox Odyssey, Pong, etc.
- Second Generation: Colecovision, Atari 2600, Atari 5600
- Third Generation: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
- Fourth Generation: Nintendo SNES, Sega Genesis
- Fifth Generation: Nintendo N64, Sony PlayStation , Sega Saturn
- Sixth Generation: Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, Sega Dreamcast
- Seventh Generation: Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360
- Eighth Generation : Nintendo WiiU, Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One
- Ninth Generation: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X
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- Video Games for kids on Xbox One
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