5th Generation

1993-2001: The 3D Era

The 3D era introduced both 32-bit and 64-bit graphics, and CD based games. It began with the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer in October of 1993. However, it was the PlayStation who would be king.

Home consoles:

  • 1993, October 4: 3DO Interactive Multiplayer
    Company: The 3DO Company
    Original price: $699.99
    2019 price: $1209.31
    Sales: 2 million
    Number of Games: 286 (214 in Japan, 162 in NA, 30 in EU)
    Best-selling game:
     Gex (over one million)
    Media: CD-ROM
    Main controller(s): standard d-pad controller
    Other peripherals: 
    light gun

Enter 3DO: 3DO…

The 3DO Interactive player…

  • 1993, November 23: Atari Jaguar
    Company: Atari Corporation
    Original price: $249.99
    2019 price: $431.59
    Sales: Under 250,000
    Number of Games: 50 (6 after discontinued)
    Best-selling game: Alien vs Predator (over 50,000)
    Media: ROM cartridge, CD-ROM via Jaguar CD add-on
    Main controller(s): Pro controller (large d-pad)
    Other peripherals: 
    Atari Jaguar CD add-on, Jaguar VR, JagLink (network play), and unlicensed peripherals

About a month later the Atari Jaguar came out…

  • 1994, November 22 (JP): Sega Saturn
    1995, May 11 (NA): Sega Saturn
    Company: Sega
    Original price: $399.99
    2019 price: $661.51
    Sales: 9.26 million
    Number of Games: 1019 (not including software programs)
    Best-selling game: Virtua Fighter 2 (1.7 million in Japan)

    Media: CD-Rom
    Main controller(s): standard d-pad controller
    Other peripherals: 3D pad, Saturn multitap, RAM backup cartridge

A year later in 1994 the Sega Saturn debuted in Japan. Sega began to feel the heat from Sony and the upcoming PlayStation. After announcing to American audiences the price would be $399, Sony president infamously took the stage, dropped his scripted speech for one simple word, “$299.” By undercutting Sega by $100, and offering a similar product, Sony won over many fans before the launch of their initial console. Sega scrambled to launch its console, and the rest is history. Sega’s paranoia resulted in many of its games being rushed to production, hence, hurting its quality.

Sega didn’t go down without a fight, Sinking a lot of money into its advertising campaign. This resulted in Sega continuing its “hatarade” marketing campaign…

  • 1994, December 3 (JP): PlayStation
    1995,  September 9 (NA): PlayStation
    Company: Sony
    Original price: $299.99
    2019 price: $492.89
    Sales: 102.49 million
    Number of Games: 7,978 worldwide
    Best-selling game: Gran Tourismo (10.85 million)

    Media: CD-Rom
    Main controller(s): PlayStation Controller (four directional buttons rather than d-pad), Dual Analog Controller, DualShock Controller
    Other peripherals: PlayStation Link Cable (PlayStation to PlayStation), PlayStation Memory Card, PocketStation (Japan)

Enter Sony: Sony…

In December of 1994 the Sony PlayStation was released in Japan. During the development of the SNES, Sony was working on a CD attachment for the SNES. Long story short, Nintendo became paranoid over this relationship with Sony and left Sony at the altar. Sony appealed to…, who also left them at the altar. By doing so, Nintendo created its greatest nightmare, Sony decided to launch the PlayStation on their own. The PlayStation would go on to set a new sales record, breaking the previous sales record of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Boasting 32-bit graphics, the PlayStation could achieve some of the earlier 3D graphics, but more importantly developed a host of great games, both first and third party. Frustrated with Nintendo’s Draconian restrictions on third party developers, many developers switched their focus to the PlayStation.

The PlayStation was also a CD based console, which made it cheaper to develop for, and the medium provided more storage for games, and thus gave developers more freedom. A typical CD held 700 megabytes of memory, much larger than any disk-based game before it.

  • 1996, June 23 (JP): Nintendo 64
    1996, September 29 (NA): Nintendo 64
    Company: Nintendo
    Original price: $199.99
    2019 price: $319.01
    Sales: 32.93 million
    Number of Games: 389 (296 in North America, 242 in Europe, 196 in Japan)
    Best-selling game: Mario 64 (11.62 million)

    Media: ROM cartridge (Nintendo 64 Game Pak), Proprietary Magnetic Disk via Nintendo 64 DD
    Main controller(s): Nintendo 64 controller (d-pad and analog stick)
    Other peripherals: Nintendo 64 DD (released on in Japan)

In 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released first in Japan, and later in the US. The Nintendo 64 was a quality system with quality games, many of these games which live on in the hearts of gamers today. However, this will be the first Nintendo home console which failed to win the console war for its respective generation. The major mistake Nintendo made with this system was sticking to the older and antiquated technology of a cartridge-based system. The Sega Saturn and the Sony PlayStation switched to disk-based systems, which were cheaper to produce and gave developers more storage for creating their games.

Console add-ons:

  • 1994, November 21: 32X
    Company: Sega
    Original price: $159.99
    2019 price: $269.01
    Sales: 665,000
    Number of Games: 40 (36 in North America, 27 in Europe, 18 in Japan, one in Brazil)
    Best-selling game:
    Media: ROM cartridge

Cool idea, poor timing and execution. The 32X was a peripheral to the Sega Genesis that plugged into the top of the console, and upgraded the graphics from 16 to 32 bits. The problem was timing and a lack of game library.

  • 1995, September 21: Atari Jaguar CD
    Company: Atari
    Original price: $149.95
    2019 price: $246.37
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 11
    Best-selling game:
    Media: CD-ROM, (cartridge slot for regular Atari Jaguar games)

The Atari Jaguar CD…

  • 1999, December 1 (JP): Nintendo 64DD
    Company: Nintendo
    Original price: N/A
    2019 price: N/A
    Sales: 15,000
    Number of Games: 4 (23 canceled)
    Best-selling game:
    Media: Disks (36 megabyte ROM drive)

The lowest selling console in Nintendo’s history…

Second tier consoles:

  • 1993, February 23: Fujitsu FM Towns Marty (Fujitsu)
  • 1993, September 17: Amiga CD32 (Commodore)
  • 1994: September 9: Neo Geo CD (SNK)
  • 1994, September 23 (JP): Playdia (Bandai)
  • 1994, December 23: NEC PC-FX (NEC)
  • 1994: CPS Changer (Capcom)
  • 1995, March 28: Apple Bandai Pippin (Bandai)
  • 1995, September 21: Atari Jaguar CD (Atari)
  • 1995, October (JP): Casio Loopy (Casio)

Portable consoles:

  • 1995, Orctober: Sega Nomad
    Company: Sega
    Original price: $180
    2019 price: $294.78
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 897 from the Sega Genesis (13 games have issues)
    Best-selling game:
    Sonic the Hedgehog (for Sega Genesis)
    Media: ROM cartridge

Great idea in theory, but poor timing. I wish I had this thing as a kid, I imagined doing the same thing with NES games. The first true fifth generation handheld system was the Sega Nomad was another innovative concept, abstructed by poor timing and a high price point. Like the Turbografx Xpress, it played console games on the go. Like the Turbografx Xpress, it had a high price point that priced itself out of the market.

  • 1995: R-Zone
    Company: Tiger Electronics
    Original price: $29.99
    2019 price: $50.23 (approximately, release month unknown)
    Number of Games: N/A
    Best-selling game:
    Media: N/A

Enter Tiger Electronics: Tiger Electronics…

The R-Zone…

  • 1995, July 21 (JP): Virtual Boy
    1995, August 14 (N/A): Virtual Boy
    Company: Nintendo
    Original price: $179.95
    2019 price: $296.24
    Sales: 770,000
    Number of Games: 22 (19 in Japan, 14 in North America)
    Best-selling game:
    ROM cartridge

The fifth generation of handheld consoles had an interesting array. The Nintendo Virtual Boy shows Nintendo’s willingness to experiment. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. This time it didn’t work, the Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s second worse selling console of all time.

  • 1997, August: Game.com
    Company: Tiger Electronics
    Original price: $69.95
    2019 price: $109.50
    Sales: Less than 300,000
    Number of Games: 17 (6 canceled)
    Best-selling game:
    Lights Out
    ROM cartridge

Game.com was a handheld console released by Tiger Electronics. It had a touch screen and a stylus, features relatively new in 1997. Tiger Electronics was known for making individual, handheld video games.

  • 1998, October 21 (JP): Game Boy Color (GBC)
    1998, November 18 (N/A): Game Boy Color (GBC)
    Company: Nintendo
    Original price: $69.99
    2019 price: $107.42
    Sales: 14.51 million
    Number of Games:
    882 exclusives (1049 backwards compatible Game Boy games)
    Best-selling game: 
    Pokémon Gold and Silver (Tetris if counting backward compatible Game Boy games)
    ROM cartridge

Nintendo released several incarnations of the Game Boy, including the Game Boy Color.

  • 1998: October 28 (JP): Neo Geo Pocket
    Company: SNK
    Original price: N/A
    2019 price: N/A
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 82 worldwide (9 monochrome games designed for this system)
    Best-selling game: 
    Media: ROM cartridge

Released in the Asian markets, the Neo Geo Pocket was never released in the West. Interestingly enough the Neo Geo Pocket is forward compatible with most games from the Neo Geo Pocket Color, although the games do play in monochrome. It featured portable versions of classic SNK games such as Baseball Stars. However, the conception of this system was poor timing. A week before this monochrome system came out, Nintendo rolled out the Game Boy Color. The system was discontinued within a year to make way for its successor, the Neo Geo Pocket Color.

  • 1999, March 4 (JP): WonderSwan
    2000, December 9 (JP): WonderSwan Color
    2002, July 12 (JP): SwanCrystal
    Company: Bandai
    Original price: ¥4,800, ¥6800, ¥7800
    2019 price: ¥4,853.83, ¥6,952.43, ¥8,105.45
    Sales:  3.5 million (1.55 million, 1.2 million, 750,000)
    Number of Games: 102
    Best-selling game: 
    ROM cartridge

Enter Bandai: Bandai

The WonderSwan had some decent third party support, bringing over Final Fantasy games and arcade classics such as Space Invaders. However, the controls were considered inferior and it lacked basic ports, including a charging port and one for headphones. Bandai believed its monochrome system could defeat Game Boy Color, the same way Game Boy defeated Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear. Bandai could not hope to challenge the monolith that was Nintendo, especially since the Game Boy had evolved into a color version.

  • 1999, March 16 (JP): Neo Geo Pocket Color
    1999, August 6 (NA): Neo Geo Pocket Color
    Company: SNK
    Original price: $69.95
    2019 price: $105.37
    Sales: N/A
    Number of Games: 82 (48 backwards compatible)
    Best-selling game:
    ROM cartridge

The Neo Geo Pocket Color…

  • 2000, December 9 (JP): WonderSwan Color
    Company: Bandai
    Original price: ¥6,800
    2019 price: ¥6,952.43
    Sales: 1.1 million
    Number of Games: 102 (18 backwards compatible titles)
    Best-selling game:
    ROM cartridge

The WonderSwan Color…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *