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A video game console is an electronic device that
output Output may refer to: * The information produced by a computer, see Input/output In computing, input/output (I/O, or informally io or IO) is the communication between an information processing system, such as a computer, and the outside world, pos ...
s a
video signal Video is an electronic medium for the recording, copying, playback, broadcasting Broadcasting is the distribution of sound, audio or video content to a dispersed audience via any electronic medium (communication), mass communications med ...
or image to display a
video game#REDIRECT Video game A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device to generate visual f ...
that can be played with a
game controller A game controller, gaming controller, or simply controller, is an input device used with video games or entertainment systems to provide input to a video game, typically to control an object or character in the game. Before the seventh generati ...

game controller
. These may be
home console A home video game console is a video game console A video game console is an electronic or computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game A video game is an electronic game that involves interactio ...
s which are generally placed in a permanent location connected to a television or other display device and controlled with a separate game controller, or
handheld consoles
handheld consoles
that include their own display unit and controller functions built into the unit and can be played anywhere. Hybrid consoles combine elements of both home and handheld consoles. Video game consoles are a specialized form of a
home computer Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a si ...

home computer
geared towards video game playing, designed with affordability and
accessibility Accessibility in the sense considered here refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design and practice of accessible development ensures bo ...
to the
general public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people A people is a plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, moralit ...
in mind, but lacking in raw computing power and customization. Simplicity is achieved in part through the use of
game cartridge A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory card containing ROM designed to be connected to a consumer electronics Consumer electronics or home electronics are electronic ( analog or digita ...
s or other simplified ways of distribution, easing the effort of launching a game. However, this leads to ubiquitous
proprietary formatA proprietary format is a file format ogg-file: 154 kilobytes. A file format is a standard way that information is encoded for storage in a computer file. It specifies how bits are used to encode information in a digital storage medium. File ...
s that creates competition for market share. More recent consoles have shown further confluence with home computers, making it easy for developers to release games on multiple platforms. Further, modern consoles can serve as replacements for media players with capabilities to playback films and music from optical media or streaming media services. Video game consoles are usually sold on a 5-7 year cycle called a generation, with consoles made with similar technical capabilities or made 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
planned obsolescence In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of good ...
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 , commonly known as Sony and stylized as SONY, is a Japanese multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multi ...
(with their
PlayStation is a video game A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device to generate visua ...

PlayStation
brand),
Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company with headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It develops, manufactures, licenses, supports, and sells Software, computer software, consumer electroni ...

Microsoft
(with their
Xbox Xbox is a video gaming brand created and owned by Microsoft. The brand consists of five video game consoles, as well as application software, applications (games), streaming media, streaming services, an online service by the name of Xbox Live, ...

Xbox
brand), and
Nintendo is a Japanese multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a sovereign s ...

Nintendo
(currently producing the
Switch In electrical engineering, a switch is an electrical component An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields. Electronic components are m ...
console and its lightweight derivative).


History

The first video game consoles emerged in the early 1970s. Ralph H. Baer devised the concept of playing simple spot-based games on a television screen in 1966, which later became the basis of the
Magnavox Odyssey The Magnavox Odyssey is the first commercial home video game console. The hardware was designed by a small team led by Ralph H. Baer at Sanders Associates, while Magnavox completed development and released it in the United States in September 1972 ...

Magnavox Odyssey
in 1972. Inspired by the table tennis game on the Odyssey,
Nolan Bushnell Nolan Kay Bushnell (born February 5, 1943) is an American businessman and electrical engineer. He established Atari, Inc. and the Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre chain. Bushnell has been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the C ...

Nolan Bushnell
,
Ted Dabney Samuel Frederick Dabney Jr. (usually Ted; May 2, 1937 – May 26, 2018) was an American electrical engineer, and the co-founder, alongside Nolan Bushnell, of Atari, Inc. He is recognized as developing the basics of video circuitry principles ...
, and
Allan Alcorn Allan Alcorn (born January 1, 1948) is an American pioneering engineer Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are Professional, professionals who Invention, invent, design, analyze, build and test Machine, machines, complex systems, arch ...
at Atari, Inc. developed the first successful
arcade game An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are presented as primarily game of skill, games of skill and in ...
, ''
Pong ''Pong'' is a table tennis–themed Arcade game#Arcade video games, arcade video game, featuring simple two-dimensional graphics, manufactured by Atari, Inc, Atari and originally released in 1972. It was one of the earliest arcade video games; i ...

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 cartridge A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory cardImage:Memory-card-comparison.jpg, 300px, Miniaturization is evident in memory card creation; over time, the physical card sizes grow smaller. A memor ...
s were introduced with the
Fairchild Channel F The Fairchild Channel F, short for "Channel Fun", was the first video game console to use ROM cartridges, instead of having games built-in, and the first console to use a microprocessor. It was released by Fairchild Camera and Instrument in Novemb ...
in 1976 though popularized with the
Atari 2600 The Atari 2600, originally branded as the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS) until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it popularized the use of microprocessor-bas ...
released in 1977. Handheld consoles emerged from technology improvements in
handheld electronic game Handheld electronic games are very small, portable devices for playing interactive electronic games, often miniaturized versions of video games A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input ...
s as these shifted from mechanical to electronic/digital logic, and away from
light-emitting diode with E27 screw in base, A bulb-shaped modern retrofit LED lamp File:Chip-On-Board COB LED Module.JPG, An 80W Light emitting diode#Chip-on-board arrays, Chips on board (COB) LED module from an industrial light luminaire, thermally bon ...
(LED) indicators to
liquid-crystal display display. A liquid-crystal display (LCD) is a flat panel display, flat-panel display or other Electro-optic modulator, electronically modulated optical device that uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals combined with polarizers. ...

liquid-crystal display
s (LCD) that resembled video screens more closely, with the
Microvision The Microvision (aka Milton Bradley Microvision or MB Microvision) is the first handheld game console that used interchangeable cartridges and in that sense therefore is reprogrammable. It was released by the Milton Bradley Company in November ...

Microvision
in 1979 and
Game & Watch The Game & Watch brand ( ''Gēmu & Uotchi''; called ''Tricotronic'' in West Germany and Austria, abbreviated as ''G&W'') is a series of handheld electronic games developed, manufactured, released and marketed by Nintendo from 1980 in video gamin ...

Game & Watch
in 1980 being early examples, and fully realized by the
Game Boy The is an 8-bit computing, 8-bit handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. The first handheld in the Game Boy family, it was first released in Japan on April 21, 1989. The console was released in North America later the same ...

Game Boy
in 1989. Since the 1970s, both home and handheld consoles became more advanced following global changes 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 larger and denser media formats as well as digital distribution. Following the same type of
Moore's law Moore's law is the observation that Transistor count, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (IC) doubles about every two years. Moore's law is an observation and Forecasting, projection of a historical trend. Rather than a phy ...
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 used by Wikipedia including representative consoles is shown below.


Types

There are primarily three types of video game consoles: Home consoles, handhelds, and hybrid consoles. *
Home video game console A home video game console is a video game console that is designed to be connected to a display device, such as a television, and an external power source as to play video games. Home consoles are generally less powerful and customizable than pe ...
s are devices that are generally meant to be connected to a television or other type of monitor, and with power supplied through an outlet, thus requiring the unit to be used in fixed locations, typically at home in one's living room. Separate game controllers, connected through wired or wireless connections, are used to provide input to the game. Early examples include the
Atari 2600 The Atari 2600, originally branded as the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS) until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc. Released on September 11, 1977, it popularized the use of microprocessor-bas ...
, the
Nintendo Entertainment System The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is an 8-bit In computer architecture, 8-bit integer (computer science), integers or other data#Uses of data in computing, data units are those that are 8 bits wide (1 octet). Also, 8-bit centra ...

Nintendo Entertainment System
, and the
Sega Genesis The Sega Genesis, known as the outside North America, is a 16-bit History of video game consoles (fourth generation), fourth-generation home video game console developed and sold by Sega. The Genesis was Sega's third console and the successor ...
, while newer examples include the
Wii U The Wii U ( ) is a home video game console A home video game console is a video game console that is designed to be connected to a display device, such as a television, and an external power source as to play video games. Home consoles are ...
, the
PlayStation 4 The PlayStation 4 (PS4) is a home video game console developed by Sony Computer Entertainment. Announced as the successor to the PlayStation 3 in February 2013, it was launched on November 15, 2013, in North America, November 29, 2013 in Europ ...

PlayStation 4
, and the
Xbox One The Xbox One is a line of home video game consoles developed by Microsoft. Announced in May 2013, it is the successor to Xbox 360 and the third base console in the Xbox#Consoles, Xbox series of video game consoles. It was first released in Nor ...

Xbox One
. Specific types of home consoles include: **
Microconsole A microconsole is a home video game console that is typically powered by low-cost computing hardware, making the console at a lower cost compared to other home consoles on the market. Many of them are low-cost Android (operating system), Andro ...
s, 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 Android may refer to: Science and technology * Android (robot), a humanoid robot or synthetic organism designed to imitate a human * Android (operating system), Google's mobile operating system ** Android (operating system)#Mascot, Unnamed Androi ...
or
iOS iOS (formerly iPhone OS) is a mobile operating system created and developed by Apple Inc. exclusively for its hardware. It is the operating system that powers many of the company's mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPod Touch; the t ...

iOS
mobile software, allowing the consoles to access the respective library of games for those platforms, as well as features such as
cloud gaming Cloud gaming, sometimes called gaming on demand or gaming-as-a-service, is a type of Online game, online gaming that runs video games on remote Server (computing), servers and Streaming media, streams them directly to a user's device, or more coll ...
. These consoles also typically include support for other apps available for the underlying operating system, including those that supported
video streaming service Streaming media is multimedia Multimedia is a form of communication that combines different content forms such as text, audio, images, animations, or video into a single presentation, in contrast to traditional mass media, such as printed ...
s like
Netflix Netflix, Inc. is an American subscription The subscription business model is a business model in which a customer must pay a recurring price at regular intervals for access to a product. The model was pioneered by publishers of books and ...

Netflix
and
Hulu Hulu () (stylized in all lowercase) is an American subscription video on demand service fully controlled and majority-owned by The Walt Disney Company, with Comcast's NBCUniversal as an Equity (finance), equity stakeholder. The service was init ...

Hulu
, making microconsoles also compete in the same space as "over-the-top" media providers that aimed to serve content directly to the living room television. Such consoles include the
Ouya The Ouya ( ), stylized as OUYA, is an Android (operating system), Android-based microconsole developed by Ouya Inc. Julie Uhrman founded the project in 2012, bringing in designer Yves Béhar to collaborate on its design and Muffi Ghadiali as VP ...
, the
Nvidia Shield The Nvidia Shield Portable (Nvidia Shield or NSP) is a handheld game console developed by Nvidia, released on July 31, 2013. Shield Portable runs on Android Lollipop 5.1, featuring a flip 130mm (5-inch) touchscreen display with 1280×720 res ...
and
Apple TV Apple TV is a digital media player and microconsole that is developed and marketed by Apple Inc., Apple. It is a small networking hardware, network appliance hardware that plays received media datas such as video and audio to a television set o ...
. ** 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 ways to
hack Hack may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Games * ''Hack'' (Unix video game), a 1984 roguelike video game * ''.hack'' (video game series), a series of video games by the multimedia franchise ''.hack'' Music * ''Hack'' (album), a 1990 ...

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 required components for power and video hookup. Many of the recent releases have been for distributing a number of retro games for a specific console platform. Examples of these include the
Atari Flashback series Atari Flashback is the name of a series of dedicated console, dedicated video game consoles designed, produced, published and marketed by Atari, Inc. (Atari, SA subsidiary), Atari, Inc. from 2004 to 2011. Since 2011, the consoles have been designed ...
, the
NES Classic Edition Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, known as Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and Australia and in Japan, is a dedicated home video game console A home video game console is a video game console ...
, and the
Sega Genesis Mini The Sega Genesis Mini, known as the Mega Drive Mini in regions outside of North America, is a dedicated console modeled on Sega is a Japanese multinational video game developer and publisher headquartered in Shinagawa, Tokyo. Its int ...
. ** 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 Frank Cifaldi is a video game preservationist, historian, and developer. He is the director of the Video Game History Foundation and has assisted in projects including Digital Eclipse's ''Mega Man Legacy Collection'' and ''The Disney Afternoon ...
, these systems gained popularity around 2003 as they were cheap to manufacture and were relatively inexpensive at each by manufacturers such as
Jakks Pacific Jakks Pacific, Inc. is an American company that designs and markets toys and consumer products, with a range of products that feature numerous children's toy licenses. The company is named after its founder, Jack Friedman, who had previously found ...
. However, they also led to a surge of models that used counterfeit Nintendo chips manufactured in China, creating too many clones that could easily be tracked. *
Handheld video game console A handheld game console, or simply handheld console, is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls and speakers. Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game console A home video game ...
s are devices that typically include a built-in screen and game controller features into its case, and contain a rechargeable battery or battery compartment. This allows the unit to be carried around and can be played anywhere. Examples of such include the
Game Boy The is an 8-bit computing, 8-bit handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. The first handheld in the Game Boy family, it was first released in Japan on April 21, 1989. The console was released in North America later the same ...

Game Boy
, the
PlayStation Portable The PlayStation Portable (PSP) is a handheld game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was first released in Japan on December 12, 2004, in North America on March 24, 2005, and in PAL regions on September 1, 2005, a ...

PlayStation Portable
, and the
Nintendo 3DS The is a handheld game console produced by Nintendo is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. The company was founded in 1889 as by craftsman Fusajiro Ya ...
. * Hybrid video game consoles are devices which can be used either as a handheld or as a home console, with either a wired connection or
docking station In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and soft ...
that connects the console unit to a television screen and fixed power source, and the potential to use a separate controller. While prior handhelds like the Sega Nomad and
PlayStation Portable The PlayStation Portable (PSP) is a handheld game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was first released in Japan on December 12, 2004, in North America on March 24, 2005, and in PAL regions on September 1, 2005, a ...

PlayStation Portable
, or home consoles such as the
Wii U The Wii U ( ) is a home video game console A home video game console is a video game console that is designed to be connected to a display device, such as a television, and an external power source as to play video games. Home consoles are ...
, have had these features, some consider the
Nintendo Switch The is a video game console A video game console is an electronic device that output Output may refer to: * The information produced by a computer, see Input/output In computing, input/output (I/O, or informally io or IO) is the commun ...
to be the first true hybrid console. Most consoles are considered programmable consoles and have means for the player to switch between different games: this most often can be through a physical game cartridge or game card or through optical media, or with the onset of
digital distribution Digital distribution (also referred to as content delivery, online distribution, or electronic software distribution (ESD), among others) is the delivery or distribution of digital media Digital media means any media (communication), media th ...
, via internal or external digital storage device with software downloaded via the Internet through a dedicated storefront supported by the manufacturer of the console. Some consoles are considered
dedicated console A dedicated console is a video game console A video game console is an electronic or computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a ...
s, in which
game with separate sliding drawer, from 1390 to 1353 BC, made of glazed faience, dimensions: 5.5 × 7.7 × 21 cm, in the Brooklyn Museum (New York City) '', 1560, Pieter Bruegel the Elder File:Paul Cézanne, 1892-95, Les joueurs de cart ...

game
s available for 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 changed directly by the user. The user can typically 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 The Magnavox Odyssey is the first commercial home video game console. The hardware was designed by a small team led by Ralph H. Baer at Sanders Associates, while Magnavox completed development and released it in the United States in September 1972 ...

Magnavox Odyssey
and the home console version of ''Pong'', and more recently have been used for retro-consoles such as the
NES Classic Edition Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, known as Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe and Australia and in Japan, is a dedicated home video game console A home video game console is a video game console ...
and
Sega Genesis Mini The Sega Genesis Mini, known as the Mega Drive Mini in regions outside of North America, is a dedicated console modeled on Sega is a Japanese multinational video game developer and publisher headquartered in Shinagawa, Tokyo. Its int ...
.


Components


Console unit

Early console hardware was designed as customized
printed circuit board A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electrical or electronic components using Electrical conductor, conductive tracks, pads and other features industrial etching, etched from one or more sheet layers o ...

printed circuit board
s (PCB)s, selecting existing
integrated circuit An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, usually silicon. Transistor count, Larg ...

integrated circuit
chips that performed known functions, or programmable chips like
erasable programmable read-only memory An EPROM (rarely EROM), or erasable programmable read-only memory, is a type of programmable read-only memory A programmable read-only memory (PROM) is a form of digital memory where the setting of each bit is locked by a fuse or antifuse. (eFU ...

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 use of
processor register A processor register is a quickly accessible location available to a computer's processor. Registers usually consist of a small amount of fast storage, although some registers have specific hardware functions, and may be read-only or write-only. ...
s 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 used 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 circuit An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, usually silicon. Transistor count, Larg ...

integrated circuit
s (IC)s of the time, designers were limited to what could be done through the electrical process rather than through programming as normally associated with
video game development Video game development is the process A process is a series or set of Action (philosophy), activities that interact to produce a result; it may occur once-only or be recurrent or periodic. Things called a process include: Business and manageme ...
. Improvements in console hardware followed with improvements in microprocessor technology and
semiconductor device fabrication Semiconductor device fabrication is the process used to manufacture semiconductor devices, typically the metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) devices used in the integrated circuit An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circu ...
. Manufacturing processes have been able to reduce the feature size on chips (typically measured in
nanometers The nanometre (international spelling as used by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures; SI symbol: nm) or nanometer (American and British English spelling differences#-re, -er, American spelling) is a units of measurement, unit of leng ...
), allowing more
transistor file:MOSFET Structure.png, upright=1.4, Metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), showing Metal gate, gate (G), body (B), source (S) and drain (D) terminals. The gate is separated from the body by an insulating layer (pink). A ...

transistor
s and other components to fit on a chip, and at the same time increasing the circuit speeds and the potential
frequency Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit of time A unit of time is any particular time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparent ...
the chip can run at, as well as reducing thermal dissipation. Chips were able to be made on larger dies, further increasing the number of features and effective processing power.
Random-access memory File:Random Access Memory HyperX.jpg, 8GB DDR3 RAM stick with a white Heat sink, heatsink Random-access memory (RAM; ) is a form of computer memory that can be read and changed in any order, typically used to store working Data (computing), d ...
became more practical with the higher density of transistors per chip, but to address the correct blocks of memory, processors needed to be updated to use larger word sizes and allot for larger
bandwidth Bandwidth commonly refers to: * Bandwidth (signal processing) or ''analog bandwidth'', ''frequency bandwidth'', or ''radio bandwidth'', a measure of the width of a frequency range * Bandwidth (computing), the rate of data transfer, bit rate or thro ...
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 related to 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 personal computers, building in memory, storage features, and networking capabilities to avoid the limitations of the past. The confluence with personal computers eased software development 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 personal computer motherboards are designed with 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 can be combined into a single chip, otherwise known as a
system on a chip A system on a chip (SoC; or This article uses the convention that SoC is pronounced . Therefore, it uses the convention "an" for the indefinite article Indefinite may refer to: * the opposite of definite in grammar ** indefinite article * ...
(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 keep their prices in expected ranges, use less memory and storage space compared to typical personal computers. In comparison to the early years of the industry, where most consoles were made directly by the company selling the console, many consoles of today are generally constructed through a
value chain A value chain is a set of activities that a firm operating in a specific industry performs in order to deliver a valuable product (i.e., good 175px, In many religions, angels are considered to be good beings. In most contexts, the concept of g ...

value chain
that includes component suppliers, such as
AMD Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) is an American multinational semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States. With over 39.3million residents across a total area ...
and
NVidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 199 ...
for CPU and GPU functions, and
contract manufacturerA contract manufacturer ("CM") is a manufacturer that contracts with a firm for components or products (in which case it is a turnkey supplier). It is a form of outsourcing Outsourcing is an agreement in which one company hires another company to be ...
s including
electronics manufacturing servicesElectronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) is a term used for companies that design, manufacture, test, distribute, and provide return/repair services for electronic component An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity ...
, factories which assemble those components into the final consoles such as
Foxconn Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., Trade name, trading as Foxconn Technology Group and better known as Foxconn, is a Taiwanese multinational corporation, multinational electronics contract manufacturer with its headquarters in Tucheng Distri ...

Foxconn
and
Flextronics Flex Ltd. (previously known as Flextronics International Ltd. or Flextronics) is an American Singaporean-domiciled multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * ...
. Completed consoles are then usually tested, distributed, and repaired by the company itself. Microsoft and Nintendo both use this approach to their consoles, while Sony maintains all production in-house with exception of their component suppliers. Some of the commons elements that can be found within console hardware include: ;
Motherboard A motherboard (also called mainboard, main circuit board, system board, baseboard, planar board, logic board, or mobo) is the main printed circuit board A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electrica ...

Motherboard
:The primary PCB that all of the main chips, including the CPU, are mounted on. ;
Daughterboard Modern EEPROM chip suitable for storing expansion card configuration electronically In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentati ...
:A secondary PCB that connects to the motherboard that would be used for additional functions. These may include components that can be easily replaced later without having to replace the full motherboard. ;
Central processing unit A central processing unit (CPU), also called a central processor, main processor or just Processor (computing), processor, is the electronic circuitry that executes Instruction (computing), instructions comprising a computer program. The CPU per ...
(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 In computing, a word is the natural unit of data used by a particular Central processing unit, processor design. A word is a fixed-sized Data (computing), piece of data handled as a unit by the instruction set or the hardware of the processor. The ...
(such as
8-bit In computer architecture, 8-bit integer (computer science), integers or other data#Uses of data in computing, data units are those that are 8 bits wide (1 octet). Also, 8-bit central processing unit, CPU and arithmetic logic unit, ALU archi ...
or
64-bit In computer architecture, 64-bit integers, memory addresses, or other data units are those that are 64 bits (8 octets) wide. Also, 64-bit central processing unit A central processing unit (CPU), also called a central processor, main p ...
), and its clock speed or frequency in
hertz The hertz (symbol: Hz) is the unit Unit may refer to: Arts and entertainment * UNIT, a fictional military organization in the science fiction television series ''Doctor Who'' * Unit of action, a discrete piece of action (or beat) in a theatric ...

hertz
. For some CPUs, the clock speed can be variable in response to software needs. In general, larger 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 In computer science, an instruction set architecture (ISA), also called computer architecture, is an abstract model of a computer. A device that executes instructions described by that ISA, such as a central processing unit (CPU), is called an '' ...
. The instruction set defines low-level
machine code In computer programming Computer programming is the process of designing and building an executable computer program to accomplish a specific computing result or to perform a specific task. Programming involves tasks such as: analysis, gene ...
to be sent to the CPU to achieve specific results on the chip. Differences in the instruction set architecture of CPU of consoles of a given generation can make for difficulty in
software portability Portability in high-level computer programming is the usability of the same software in different environments. The prerequirement for portability is the generalized abstraction between the application logic and system interfaces. When softwar ...
. This had been used by manufacturers to keep software titles exclusive to their platform as one means to compete with others. Consoles prior to the sixth generation typically used chips that the hardware and software developers were most familiar with, but as personal computers stabilized on the
x86 x86 is a family of instruction set architectures initially developed by Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California, in S ...

x86
architecture, console manufacturers followed suit as to help easily port games between computer and console. :Newer CPUs may also feature multiple processing cores, which are also identified in their specification. Multi-core CPUs allow for multithreading and
parallel computing Parallel computing is a type of computing, computation in which many calculations or Process (computing), processes are carried out simultaneously. Large problems can often be divided into smaller ones, which can then be solved at the same time. ...
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 A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory (computing), memory to accelerate the creation of Digital image, images in a frame buffer intended for output to a display device ...
(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 simple graphic processing routines, such as bitmapped graphics and manipulation of sprites, all otherwise involving integer mathematics while minimizing the amount of required memory needed to complete these routines, as memo. For example, the Atari 2600 used its own
Television Interface Adaptor The Television Interface Adaptor (TIA) is the custom computer chip that is the heart of the Atari 2600 game console, generating the screen display, sound effects, and reading input controllers. Its design was widely affected by an attempt to re ...
that handled video and audio, while the Nintendo Entertainment System used the
Picture Processing Unit The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is an 8-bit In computer architecture, 8-bit integer An integer (from the Latin wikt:integer#Latin, ''integer'' meaning "whole") is colloquially defined as a number that can be written with ...
. For consoles, these GPUs were also designed to send the signal in the proper analog formation to a
cathode ray Cathode rays (electron beam or e-beam) are streams of electron The electron is a subatomic particle In physical sciences, subatomic particles are smaller than atom An atom is the smallest unit of ordinary matter In classical ...
television,
NTSC The abbreviation NTSC can refer to the National Television System Committee,National Television System Committee (1951–1953), eport and Reports of Panel No. 11, 11-A, 12-19, with Some supplementary references cited in the Reports, and the Pet ...
(used in Japan and North America) or PAL (mostly used in Europe). These two formats differed by their refresh rates, 60 versus 50 Hertz, and consoles and games that were manufactured for PAL markets used 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 personal computer games—led to the development of GPUs that were capable of performing the
floating-point In computing, floating-point arithmetic (FP) is arithmetic using formulaic representation of real numbers as an approximation to support a trade-off between range and precision. For this reason, floating-point computation is often used in system ...
calculations needed for real-time 3D rendering. In contrast to the CPU, modern GPUs for consoles and computers, principally made by
AMD Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) is an American multinational semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States. With over 39.3million residents across a total area ...
and
NVidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 199 ...
, are highly
parallel computing Parallel computing is a type of computing, computation in which many calculations or Process (computing), processes are carried out simultaneously. Large problems can often be divided into smaller ones, which can then be solved at the same time. ...
devices with a number of compute units/streaming multiprocessors (depending on vendor, respectively) within a single chip. Each compute unit/microprocessor contains 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 can be 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 can be estimated through (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 can impact the GPU's true performance. ; Coprocessors :Additional processors used 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 information with 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 In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and softwa ...
(I/O) with some internal storage and other connected devices like controllers. ;
BIOS In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and softw ...

BIOS
:The console's BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is the fundamental instruction set baked into a firmware chip on the console circuit board that the console uses 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 used to direct loading of the console's operating system off internal memory. ;
Random-access memory File:Random Access Memory HyperX.jpg, 8GB DDR3 RAM stick with a white Heat sink, heatsink Random-access memory (RAM; ) is a form of computer memory that can be read and changed in any order, typically used to store working Data (computing), d ...
(RAM) :Memory storage that is designed for fast reading and writing, often used in consoles to store large amounts 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 fast in terms of bytes per second that the RAM can be written and read from. This is data that must be transferred to and from the CPU and GPU quickly as needed without requiring these chips to need high memory caches themselves. ;Internal storage :Newer consoles have included internal storage devices, such as
flash memory Flash memory is an electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. It uses acti ...
,
hard disk drive A hard disk drive (HDD), hard disk, hard drive, or fixed disk is an electro-mechanical data storage device File:Reel-to-reel recorder tc-630.jpg, On a reel-to-reel tape recorder (Sony TC-630), the recorder is data storage equipment an ...

hard disk drive
s (HDD) and
solid-state drive A solid-state drive (SSD) is a solid-state storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies to store data Persistence (computer science), persistently, typically using flash memory, and functioning as secondary storage in the Computer ...
s (SSD), to save data persistently. Early application of internal storage was for saving game states, and more recently can be used to store the console's operating system, game patches and updates, games downloaded through the Internet, additional content for those games, and additional media such as purchased movies 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 The PlayStation 5 (PS5) is a home video game console A home video game console is a video game console that is designed to be connected to a display device, such as a television, and an external power source as to play video games. Home co ...
and
Xbox Series X The Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S (collectively, the Xbox Series X/S) are home video game consoles developed by Microsoft. They were both released on November 10, 2020 as the fourth generation of the Xbox console family, succeeding the ...
, use high-speed SSD's not only for storage but to augment the console's RAM, as the combination of their I/O speeds and the use of decompression routines build into the system software give overall read speeds that approach that of the onboard RAM. ;
Power supply#REDIRECT Power supply A power supply is an electrical device that supplies electric power to an electrical load. The primary function of a power supply is to convert electric current from a source to the correct voltage, electric current, current ...

Power supply
:Besides converting
AC power Instantaneous power in an electric circuit is the rate of flow of energy past a given point of the circuit. In alternating current Alternating current (AC) is an electric current which periodically reverses direction and changes its magnitude ...
from a wall socket to the DC power needed by the console electronics, the power supply also helps 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 An AC adapter, AC/DC adapter, or AC/DC converter is a type of external power supply A power supply is an electrical device that supplies electric power to an electrical load. The primary function of a power supply is to convert electric cur ...
, 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 pack built into the unit. ;Cooling systems :More advanced computing systems generate heat, and require active cooling systems to keep the hardware at safe operating temperatures. Many newer consoles are designed with
cooling fan Sounds from a household fan. A fan is a powered machine A machine is a man-made device that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an action. Machines can be driven by animals and people A people is a plural ...
s, engineered cooling fins, internal layouts, and strategically-placed 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 placed in strategic locations 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 keep cables out of the way.


Controllers

All game consoles require player input through a game controller to provide a method to move the player character in 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 personal computers or mobile gaming. The type of controller available to a game can fundamentally change the style of how a console game will or can be played. However, this has also inspired changes in game design to create games that accommodate for the comparatively limited controls available on consoles. Controllers have come in a variety of styles over the history of consoles. Some common types include: ;Paddle (game controller), Paddle :A unit with a single knob or dial and usually one or two buttons. Turning the knob typically allows one to move an on-screen object along one axis (such as the paddle in a table tennis game), while the buttons can have additional features. ;Joystick :A unit that has a long handle that can pivot 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 contains a variety of buttons, triggers, and directional controls - either D-pads or analog sticks or both. These have become the most common type of controller since the third generation of console hardware, with designs becoming more detailed to give a larger array of buttons and directional controls to player's while maintaining ergonomic features. Numerous other controller types exist, including those that support motion controls, touchscreen support on handhelds and some consoles, and specialized controllers for specific types of games, such as racing wheels for racing games, light guns for shooting games, and Rhythm game accessories, musical instrument controllers for rhythm games. Some newer consoles also include optional support for Computer mouse, mouse and Computer keyboard, 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 provided by the console via the wired connection, or from batteries or a rechargeable battery pack for wireless connections. Controllers are nominally built into a handheld unit, though some newer ones allow for separate wireless controllers to also be used.


Game media

While the first game consoles were dedicated game systems, with the games programmed into the console's hardware, the
Fairchild Channel F The Fairchild Channel F, short for "Channel Fun", was the first video game console to use ROM cartridges, instead of having games built-in, and the first console to use a microprocessor. It was released by Fairchild Camera and Instrument in Novemb ...
introduced the ability to store games in a form separate from the console's internal circuitry, thus allowing the consumer to purchase new games 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 changes with improvements in technology. ;
ROM cartridge A ROM cartridge, usually referred to simply as a cartridge or cart, is a removable memory cardImage:Memory-card-comparison.jpg, 300px, Miniaturization is evident in memory card creation; over time, the physical card sizes grow smaller. A memor ...
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 A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electrical or electronic components using Electrical conductor, conductive tracks, pads and other features industrial etching, etched from one or more sheet layers o ...

printed circuit board
(PCB) housed inside of a plastic casing, with a connector allowing the device to interface with the console. The circuit board can contain a wide variety of components, at the minimum, the read-only memory with the software written 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 used a smart card-like technology to flatten the cartridge to a credit-card-sized system, which helped to reduce production costs, but limited additional features that could be included 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 Flash memory is an electronic Electronic may refer to: *Electronics Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. It uses acti ...
, which allows for easier mass production of games. Sony used this approach for the PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo continues to use ROM cartridges for its 3DS and Switch products. ;Optical media :Optical media, such as CD-ROM, DVD, and Blu-ray, became the primary format 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 space and allowed for 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 present across most by the seventh generation and Blu-ray by the eighth. Console manufacturers have also used proprietary disc formats for copy protection as well, such as the Nintendo optical disc used on the GameCube, and Sony's Universal Media Disc on the PlayStation Portable. ;Digital distribution :Since the seventh generation of consoles, most consoles include integrated connectivity to the Internet and both internal and external storage for the console, allowing for players to acquire new games without game media. All three of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft offer an integrated storefront for consumers to purchase new games and download them to their console, retaining the consumers' purchases across different consoles, and offering sales and incentives at times. ;Cloud gaming :As Internet access speeds 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. Network delay, Latency in network transmission remains a core limitation for cloud gaming at the present time. While magnetic storage, such as tape drives and floppy disks, had been popular for software distribution with early personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s, this format did not see much use in console system. There were some attempts, such as the Bally Astrocade and APF-M1000 using tape drives, as well as the Family Computer Disk System, Disk System for the Nintendo Famicom, and the Nintendo 64DD for the Nintendo 64, but these had limited applications, as magnetic media was more fragile and volatile than game cartridges.


External storage

In addition to built-in internal storage, newer consoles often give the consumer the ability to use external storage media to save game date, downloaded games, or other media files from the console. Early iterations of external storage were achieved through the use of flash-based memory cards, first used by the Neo Geo (system), Neo Geo but popularized with the PlayStation. Nintendo continues to support this approach with extending the storage capabilities of the 3DS and Switch, standardizing on the current SD card format. As consoles began incorporating the use of USB ports, support for 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 basic functions of the console. Free services generally offer user identity services and access to a digital storefront, while paid services allow players to play online games, interact with other uses through social networking, use cloud saves for supported games, and gain access to free titles on a rotating basis. Examples of such services include the Xbox network, PlayStation Network, and Nintendo Switch Online.


Console add-ons

Certain consoles saw various add-ons or accessories that were designed to 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 include the 32X for the
Sega Genesis The Sega Genesis, known as the outside North America, is a 16-bit History of video game consoles (fourth generation), fourth-generation home video game console developed and sold by Sega. The Genesis was Sega's third console and the successor ...
intended to allow owners of the aging console to play newer games but has several technical faults, and the Game Boy Player for the GameCube to allow it to play Game Boy games.


Accessories

Consumers can often purchase a range of accessories for consoles outside of the above categories. These can include: ;Video camera :While these can be used with Internet-connected consoles like webcams for communication with other friends as they would be used on personal computers, video camera applications on consoles are more commonly used 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 support these devices on their respective systems. ;Standard Headset (audio), 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 can operate independently of consoles or use personal computers for their main processing system. , the only direct VR support on consoles is the PlayStation VR, though support for VR on other consoles is planned by the other manufacturers. ;Docking station :For handheld systems as well as hybrids such as the Nintendo Switch, the docking station makes it easy to insert a handheld to recharge its battery, and if supported, for connecting the handheld to a television screen.


Game development for consoles


Console development kits

Console or game development kits are specialized hardware units that typically include the same components as the console and additional chips and components to allow the unit to be connected to a computer or other monitoring device for debugging purposes. A console manufacturer will make the console's dev kit available to registered developers months ahead of the console's planned launch to give developers time to prepare their games for the new system. 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 personal computers may no longer use specialized dev kits, though developers are still expected to register and purchase access to software development kits from the manufacturer. For example, any consumer
Xbox One The Xbox One is a line of home video game consoles developed by Microsoft. Announced in May 2013, it is the successor to Xbox 360 and the third base console in the Xbox#Consoles, Xbox series of video game consoles. It was first released in Nor ...

Xbox One
can be used 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 can be developed for it. Developers and their publishers must pay a fee, typically based on Royalty payment, royalty per unit sold, back to the manufacturer. The cost varies by manufacturer but was estimated to be about 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 ways. In the case of Nintendo, the company generally 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 allows Nintendo to review the game's content prior to release and veto games it does not believe appropriate to include on 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 ways to bypass the hardware lockout chips and sell without paying any royalties to Nintendo, such as by Atari in its subsidiary company Tengen (company), Tengen. This licensing approach was similarly used 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 access to the console's proprietary storage format for the media as well as to use the 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 access to 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 believes 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. Programs like Microsoft's ID@Xbox give developers most of the needed tools for free after validating the small development 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 great interest in video game preservation, preservation of older console hardware for archival and historical purposes, but games from older consoles, as well as arcade and personal computers, remain of interest. Computer programmers and hackers have developed emulators that can be run on personal computers or other consoles that simulate the hardware of older consoles that allow games from that console to be run. The development of software emulators 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 help support older games and console transitions, manufacturers started to support backward 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 (console), PlayStation content, and subsequently became a sought-after feature across many consoles that followed. Backward compatibility functionality has included direct support for previous console games on the newer consoles such as within the
Xbox Xbox is a video gaming brand created and owned by Microsoft. The brand consists of five video game consoles, as well as application software, applications (games), streaming media, streaming services, an online service by the name of Xbox Live, ...

Xbox
console family, the distribution of emulated games such as
Nintendo is a Japanese multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational force, a military body from multiple countries * Multinational state, a sovereign s ...

Nintendo
's Virtual Console, or using
cloud gaming Cloud gaming, sometimes called gaming on demand or gaming-as-a-service, is a type of Online game, online gaming that runs video games on remote Server (computing), servers and Streaming media, streams them directly to a user's device, or more coll ...
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 include one base configuration that include the console, one controller, and sometimes a pack-in game. Manufacturers may offer alternate stock keeping unit (SKUs) options that include additional 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 video game mascot, mascot characters. The more recent console generations have also seen multiple versions of the same base console system either offered at launch or 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 technical specifications, PlayStation 3 underwent several such hardware refreshes during its lifetime due to technological improvements such as significant reduction of the Semiconductor device fabrication, process node size for the CPU and GPU. In these cases, the hardware revision model will be marked on packaging so that consumers can verify which version they are acquiring. In other cases, the hardware changes create multiple lines within the same console family. The base console unit in all revisions share fundamental hardware, but options like internal storage space and RAM size may be different. Those systems with more storage and RAM would be marked as a higher performance variant available at a higher cost, while the original unit would remain as a budget option. For example, within the
Xbox One The Xbox One is a line of home video game consoles developed by Microsoft. Announced in May 2013, it is the successor to Xbox 360 and the third base console in the Xbox#Consoles, Xbox series of video game consoles. It was first released in Nor ...

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 can often 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 is a handheld game console produced by Nintendo is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. The company was founded in 1889 as by craftsman Fusajiro Ya ...
, the New Nintendo 3DS, featured upgraded memory and processors, with new games that could only be run on the upgraded 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 required the 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 required RF hardware to connect to a television.


Pricing

Consoles when originally launched in the 1970s and 1980s were about , and with the introduction of the ROM cartridge, each game averaged about . Over time the launch price of base consoles units has generally risen to about , with the average game costing . Exceptionally, the period of transition from ROM cartridges to optical media in the early 1990s saw several consoles with high price points exceeding and going as high as . 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 from the early generations down to 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 launch year. Since the Nintendo Entertainment System, console pricing has stabilized on the Razor and blades model, 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 launch with 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 designed to have a five-year product lifetime, though manufacturers have considered their entries in the more recent generations to have longer lifetimes of seven to potentially ten years.


Competition

The competition within the video game console market as subset of the video game industry is an area of interest to economics with its relatively modern history, its rapid growth to rival that of the film industry, and frequent changes compared to other sectors. Effects of unregulated competition on 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 Coleco Telstar series, 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. The video game crash of 1983 was fueled by multiple factors including competition from lower-cost personal computers, but unregulated competition was 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 poor quality games, and made it difficult for even quality games to sell. Nintendo implemented a lockout chip, the CIC (Nintendo), 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 platform exclusivity, console exclusivity for games that existed beyond technical limitation of console development. The Nintendo Entertainment System also brought the concept of a List of video game mascots, 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 use of mascots in businesses had been a tradition in Japan, and this had already proven successful in arcade games like ''Pac-Man''. Mario was used 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 use of Sonic the Hedgehog (character), 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 used to drive sales of consoles at launch or at key sales periods such as near Christmas. Another type of competitive edge used by console manufacturers around the same time was the notion of "bits" or the size of the word (computer architecture), word used 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 use of bits waned as CPU architectures no longer needed to 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 made the choice of console for consumers an "all-or-nothing" decision for most. Further, with the number of available consoles 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 software area. Effectively, each console generation was shown to have two or three dominant players. Competition in the console market in the 2010s and 2020s is considered an oligarchy between three main manufacturers: Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. The three use a 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 needed for video game consoles. Finally, console manufacturers also work with retailers to help with promotion of consoles, games, and accessories. While there is little difference in pricing on the console hardware from the manufacturer's suggested retail price for the retailer to profit from, these details with the manufacturers can secure better profits on sales of game and accessory bundles for premier product placement. These all form network effects, 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 new console 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, "blue ocean" strategy since the Nintendo DS and Wii.


See also

* Unlockable game * Video game clone


Further reading

*


References


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Video Game Console American inventions Bundled products or services Video game consoles, Video game terminology, Console