1998-2009: The 128-bit Generation
The sixth generation began in 1998 in Japan with the Sega Dreamcast, but this would be the last console for the video game giant. The video game tides shifted in a new direction, introducing a new console power; the original Xbox. Although Xbox would be the most powerful console of this generation, it was the PlayStation 2 that would be king.
The sixth generation of gaming, also known as the era of consoles, was a period of intense competition and innovation in the gaming industry. It marked the transition from 2D to 3D gaming, with a focus on graphics and processing power. The sixth generation consoles included the Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Microsoft Xbox, which were released between 2000 and 2001.
The sixth generation of gaming was also marked by the rise of portable gaming, with the release of the Nintendo Game Boy Advance in 2001. The Game Boy Advance was a major upgrade from its predecessor, with better graphics and more processing power. It also had a wide range of games, from classic Nintendo franchises like Super Mario Bros. to third-party titles like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
Overall, the sixth generation of gaming was a transformative period for the industry. It saw the emergence of new technologies and innovations that would shape the future of gaming, while also introducing new franchises and games that are still beloved by fans today. Whether you’re a fan of classic PlayStation games, Nintendo favorites, or Xbox exclusives, the sixth generation of gaming had something for everyone.
- 1998, November 27 (JP): Sega Dreamcast
1999, September 9 (NA): Sega Dreamcast
Original price: $199.99
2019 price: $299.82
Sales: 9.13 million
Number of Games: 636
Best-selling game: Sonic Adventure (2.5 million)
Media: CD-ROM (1.2 gigabytes)
Main controller(s): Dreamcast controller
Other peripherals: VMU (Visual Memory Unit), Dreamcast mouse and keyboard, Fishing rod, Microphone, Light Gun, Dreameye, Sambas de Amigo Macaras (controller)
The Sega Dreamcast paved the way for sixth-generation consoles. The Sega Dreamcast was the last console produced by Sega before the company withdrew from the hardware market. Released in 1998 in Japan and 1999 in North America, the Dreamcast was a technologically advanced console with 128-bit graphics, an embedded modem for online gaming, and a unique controller design with a built-in memory card. Its launch library included several critically acclaimed games, including “Sonic Adventure” and “Soulcalibur”.
Despite its innovative features and solid launch, the Dreamcast struggled to gain traction in the marketplace, facing stiff competition from Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox consoles. Additionally, the Dreamcast was released during a time of financial turmoil for Sega, which led to poor marketing and distribution strategies. These factors ultimately led to the Dreamcast’s commercial failure and Sega’s exit from the hardware market, although the console retains a devoted following among retro gaming enthusiasts.
Despite its commercial failure, the Sega Dreamcast had a significant impact on the gaming industry. It was the first console with a built-in modem for online gaming, paving the way for online console gaming in future generations. Additionally, the Dreamcast’s controller design and graphics capabilities influenced subsequent console designs, such as the Xbox and PlayStation 2. The Dreamcast’s library of games, while small, was notable for its quality, featuring several iconic titles that have endured in popularity to this day. Overall, the Dreamcast represents a landmark in gaming history and a testament to Sega’s innovative spirit.
- 2000, March 4 (JP): PlayStation 2
2000, October 26 (NA): PlayStation 2
Original price: $299.99
2019 price: $433.97
Sales: 158 million
Number of Games: 3909 (7978 for PS1)
Best-selling game: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (17.3 million)
Media: DVD, CD (games, movies, and music)
Main controller(s): DualShock 2, DualShock, PlayStation controller
Other peripherals: PlayStation 2 Memory Card, EyeToy, PlayStation 2 DVD Remote Control, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2 HDD, Network Adapter, Guitar/drum/microphone controllers, Dance Mats/Pads, Arcade sticks, Logitech cordless controllers, Sega Saturn Ps2 controller
In the year 2000, Sony released the highly anticipated follow-up to its successful PlayStation console, the PlayStation 2. The PS2 was not only a significant improvement in terms of graphics and processing power, but it also marked a shift in how people interacted with their video games. The PS2 had built-in support for online gaming and the ability to play DVDs, which made it an attractive all-in-one entertainment device for many consumers.
One of the key features of the PS2 was its backward compatibility with the original PlayStation, meaning gamers could still enjoy their old games on the new console. The PS2 also boasted a massive game library with many critically acclaimed titles such as Grand Theft Auto III, God of War, and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The console was known for its longevity, with Sony continuing to support the system with new games and accessories for over a decade after its release.
The PlayStation 2 was a huge commercial success, selling over 155 million units worldwide and becoming the best-selling video game console of all time. Its impact on the gaming industry was significant, paving the way for the continued evolution of video games as a form of entertainment and solidifying Sony’s position as a major player in the gaming world.
- 2001, September 14 (JP): GameCube
2001, November 18 (NA): GameCube
Original price: $199.99
2019 price: $283.76
Sales: 22 million
Number of Games: 552
Best-selling game: Super Smash Bros. Melee (7 million)
Media: GameCube game disk
Main controller(s): GameCube Controller (built-in rumble)
Other peripherals: WaveBird, GameCube – GBA Link, Nintendo GameCube Broadband and Modem Adapter, Game Boy Player, DK Bongos, Dance pad, Nintendo GameCube Microphone.
The Nintendo GameCube was released in 2001 and featured a unique, cube-shaped design. While the GameCube wasn’t as popular as its competitors, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, it still managed to hold its own and carve out a dedicated fanbase. The GameCube introduced several new features, such as a built-in handle for portability, and the use of mini-discs instead of traditional DVDs or CDs.
The Nintendo GameCube is Nintendo’s first disk-based console. Nintendo was hesitant to use disks in the previous generation because of its perpetual fear of piracy. However, the disks the GameCube used were a different size from the standard CD and DVD.
One of the standout features of the GameCube was its library of first-party games, which included fan favorites like Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Super Mario Sunshine. The console also had a reputation for being family-friendly, with many of its games suitable for players of all ages. Additionally, the GameCube offered a unique controller design, with a comfortable grip and a button layout that would eventually become a standard for Nintendo consoles. Despite its relative lack of commercial success, the GameCube remains a beloved console for many gamers.
- 2001, November 15 (NA): Xbox
2002, February 22 (JP): Xbox
Original price: $299.99
2019 price: $425.65
Sales: 24 million
Number of Games: 1047
Best-selling game: Halo 2 (8 million)
Media: DVD, CD (games, movies, and music)
Main controller(s): Xbox controller (the Duke), Controller S (smaller revision)
Other peripherals: Xbox Live Starter Kit, Xbox Media Center Extender, DVD Playback Kit, Xbox Music Mixer, Memory Unit (8MB), Logitech Wireless Controller (2.4 GHz), Xbox Light Gun
Microsoft: Before entering the video game market, Microsoft was known for its software products, including the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office productivity suite. In 2001, Microsoft entered the video game market with the release of the Xbox, its first console. The Xbox was a powerful system that boasted an impressive game library and online capabilities, thanks to the launch of Xbox Live. Although the Xbox faced stiff competition from the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube, it managed to carve out a significant market share and laid the foundation for Microsoft’s future success in the video game industry; establishing itself as one of the three big consoles.
The Xbox utilized DVDs, a medium that could hold 4.7 gigs of data. Aside from that, the Xbox could play DVD movies, making it a true entertainment system. It was powered by a custom 733 MHz Intel Pentium III processor, with an NVIDIA graphics processing unit that provided support for up to 480p resolution. It also featured an internal hard drive, which was the first for a console at the time, providing up to 8GB of storage for game saves, downloadable content, and music. The console also included an Ethernet port, allowing for online gaming and internet connectivity
The Microsoft Xbox was a newcomer to the console market, but it made a big impact with its online capabilities and focus on first-person shooters. The Xbox Live service allowed players to connect with each other online and play games together, which was a major innovation at the time. The Xbox also had a number of exclusive titles, such as Halo: Combat Evolved and Fable, which helped it establish a foothold in the industry. The original Xbox was a powerful and innovative system that laid the foundation for Microsoft’s continued success in the video game industry.
- 2000 (Early): Nuon (VM Labs)
- 2003, November 17 (CN): IQue Player (IQue)
- 2004, August 4: V.Smile (VTech)
- 2004: Atari Flashback (Atari)
- 2001, March 21 (JP): Game Boy Advance
2001, June 11 (NA): Game Boy Advance
2003, February 14 (JP): Game Boy Advance SP
2005, September 13 (JP): Game Boy Advance Micro
Original price: ¥9800-¥12,500 (JP), $99.99 (US)
2019 price: $144.36
Sales: 81.51 million
Number of Games: 1510 (1,931 backward compatible original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games)
Best-selling game: Pokémon Ruby and Saphire (13 million combined)
Released in 2001, the Game Boy Advance was the long-awaited successor to the Game Boy Color. The GBA brought with it several improvements, such as a larger and brighter screen, longer battery life, and superior graphics and sound capabilities. The system’s 32-bit processor also allowed for faster and more complex gameplay. Additionally, the GBA featured a wider range of games compared to previous Game Boy consoles, with popular titles such as Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, and Super Mario Advance.
One of the most significant features of the Game Boy Advance was its compatibility with earlier Game Boy titles. Users could play Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on the GBA thanks to its backward compatibility, making it an attractive option for those who wanted to play classic games. The GBA also introduced new accessories, including the Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter, which allowed players to connect and play with each other wirelessly, as well as the e-Reader, which let players scan cards to unlock content in compatible games. The Game Boy Advance enjoyed widespread popularity, with over 81 million units sold worldwide.
- 2001, November 23: GP32
Company: Game Park
Original price: €199
2019 price: €268.22
Number of Games: 28 commercial titles (open to homebrew and emulation)
Best-selling game: N/A
Game Park: Game Park was a Korean company that specialized in designing and manufacturing handheld devices before entering the video game market. They launched their first handheld gaming console, the GP32, in 2001. The GP32 was designed to be an open-source platform, allowing developers to create games and applications using a freely available software development kit (SDK). The console was popular with indie developers due to its low cost and easy-to-use development environment, which led to a vibrant homebrew community. Despite receiving critical acclaim, the GP32 struggled to gain widespread commercial success, as it was mainly marketed in South Korea and Europe and faced stiff competition from established handheld consoles such as the Game Boy Advance.
The GP32, released by GamePark Holdings in 2001, was a handheld gaming console that offered a unique approach to portable gaming. Unlike other handheld consoles, the GP32 was designed to be an open platform that allowed users to create and distribute their own games, music, and other multimedia content using freely available development tools. This made it a popular choice for independent game developers and hobbyists, who were attracted to the system’s flexibility and ease of use.
In addition to its open platform approach, the GP32 also boasted impressive hardware specifications for its time, including a 32-bit ARM CPU, 8 MB of RAM, and a large 320×240 color LCD screen. It also featured a built-in MP3 player and support for external storage devices, such as SmartMedia cards, which allowed users to store and play back their favorite music and movies on the go. While the GP32 was never as popular as other handheld consoles like the Game Boy Advance, it earned a dedicated following among enthusiasts who appreciated its unique features and capabilities.
- 2003, October 7: Nokia N-Gage
2004: Nokia N-Gage QD
Original price: $299
2019 price: $415.27
Sales: 3 million
Number of Games: N/A
Best-selling game: N/A
Media: Digital downloads
Enter Nokia: Nokia was known primarily for its mobile phones and other communication technology before entering the video game market. In 2003, Nokia released the N-Gage, a hybrid device that combined the functionality of a mobile phone with that of a handheld gaming console. While the N-Gage was innovative, it was ultimately unsuccessful due to its high price point and design flaws, such as the awkward placement of the game cartridges and the fact that users had to remove the battery to change games. Despite its shortcomings, the N-Gage paved the way for Nokia to continue to experiment in the gaming space, and the company has since released several other gaming-focused devices.
The Nokia N-Gage was a hybrid gaming console and mobile phone first released in 2003. It was the first of its kind to integrate phone features into a gaming device, allowing players to make calls, send messages, and access the internet. However, the design was widely criticized for being awkward to use as a phone, with users having to hold the device on its side and speak into the edge. Despite this, the N-Gage had some unique features, such as the ability to download and play games, as well as online multiplayer capabilities via Bluetooth or GPRS. The game library featured titles from popular franchises such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider, and Tony Hawk, but the overall library was limited compared to other gaming consoles. Despite efforts to rebrand and relaunch the N-Gage, it ultimately failed to gain traction in the market and was discontinued in 2005.
- 2003: Tapwave Zodiac
Original price: $299 (32 MB), $399 (128 MB)
2019 price: $415.27 (32 MB), $554.15 (128 MB)
Number of Games: N/A
Best-selling game: N/A
Media: Digital downloads (SD cards or internal memory)
Tapwave: Tapwave was a tech company that specialized in developing software and hardware for mobile devices. Before entering the video game market, they produced various software for mobile phones and handheld devices. Their initial entry into the video game market was with the Tapwave Zodiac, a handheld device that was designed to play both video games and multimedia. The Zodiac was released in 2003 and was marketed as a high-end PDA and gaming device, featuring a 3.8-inch color touch screen, a built-in joystick, and a 200 MHz processor. The device ran on a customized version of Palm OS and had access to a library of games and applications developed specifically for the Zodiac. Despite its impressive specs, the Zodiac was not successful, and Tapwave went out of business in 2005.
The Tapwave Zodiac was a handheld game console released in 2003 by Tapwave Corporation, a company focused on producing mobile entertainment devices. The Zodiac was one of the first handhelds to feature both gaming and PDA functionality in one device. It was powered by a 200MHz ARM processor and ran on the Palm OS, with a 3.8-inch touchscreen display and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The console also featured Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, along with a built-in digital camera, MP3 player, and video playback capabilities.
Despite its innovative features, the Zodiac failed to gain significant traction in the market and Tapwave Corporation ceased operations in 2005. However, the device has developed a cult following among gaming enthusiasts for its unique features and library of games, including ports of popular titles such as Doom and Quake.