History of video game consoles (third generation)

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History of video games

The third generation of video game consoles began on July 15, 1983. The third generation began with the release of the Nintento Family Computer, or better known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Sega SG-1000.[1] This generation helped end the North American video crash of 1983. This resulted in a shift from the United States to Japan as the leading country for home video games.[2] In the third generation the displays changed from single-screen (or flip-screen) graphics to scrolling graphics.[3]

The best-selling console of this generation was the NES/Famicom. This was followed by the Sega Master System and the Atari 7800. The NES/Famicom system remained the best-selling home console until the PlayStation in 1996. Some of the consoles in the third generation used 8-bit processors. However, systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis used 16-bit processors. The NES/Famicom system was the most popular video game console in the United States.

Home systems[change | edit source]

Comparison[change | edit source]

Name SG-1000 Family Computer/Nintendo Entertainment System Mark III/Master System Atari 7800
Manufacturer Sega Nintendo Sega Atari
Console Sega-SG-1000-Console-Set.jpg NES-Console-Set.jpg Sega-Master-System-Set.jpg Atari-7800-Console-Set.jpg
Launch prices ¥15,000 ¥14,800
US$199.99
CA$240
¥24,200
US$199.99
US$140.00
Release date JP July 15, 1983AUS 1983 JP July 15, 1983
US October 18, 1985

AME February 1 1986
EU September 1, 1986
WW January 1 1987

JP October 20, 1985
AME June 1, 1986

WW September 1, 1987

AME June 1, 1986

WW September 1, 1987

Media Cartridge and Cassette (SG-3000) Cartridge

Floppy disk (Japan only)

Cartridge and data card Cartridge
Top-selling games N/A Super Mario Bros. (pack-in), 40.23 million (as of 1999)[4]
Super Mario Bros. 3, 18 million (as of May 21, 2003)[5]
Hang-On and Safari Hunt (Pack-In) Pole Position II (pack-in)[source?]
Backward compatibility None None Sega SG-1000 (Japanese system only) Atari 2600
Accessories (retail) N/A
More...
CPU NEC 780C (Zilog Z80 clone)

3.58 MHz for NTSC, 3.55 MHz for PAL

Ricoh 2A03 (based on

MOS Technology 6502
1.79 MHz (1.66 MHz PAL)

NEC 780C (Zilog Z80 clone)
3.57 MHz (3.54 MHz PAL)
Custom, 6502C (based on

MOS Technology 6502)
1.79 MHz

Memory 2 kB Main RAM
16 kB video RAM
2 KB main RAM
2 KB video RAM
256 bytes sprite RAM
28 bytes palette RAM
8 KB main RAM
16 KB video RAM
4 KB main RAM
Video 256x192 resolution
32 sprites, maximum of 4 sprites per scanline
16 colors
64 sprites (8 per scanline)
256x240 resolution
25 simultaneous colors
53 color palette
256x240 resolution
64 sprites (8×8 or 8×16)
32 simultaneous colors
64 color palette
Unlimited sprites
320x200 resolution
25 simultaneous colors
256 color palette
Audio Mono audio with:
  • 3 voices
  • noise/vibrato effect
Mono audio with:
  • Two square waves
  • One triangle wave
  • One noise generator
  • One DPCM channel
  • One FM synthesizer (Famicom Disk system, Japan only)
Mono audio with:
  • Three square waves
  • One noise generator
  • 9-channel, 2-operator FM synthesizer (Japan only)
Mono audio with:
  • Two square waves

Sales comparison[change | edit source]

See also: List of best-selling game consoles
Console Units sold worldwide Japan Americas Elsewhere
Nintendo Entertainment System 61.91 million (as of December 2009)[7][8] 19.35 million (December 2009)[7] 34 million (December 2009)[7] 8.56 million (December 2009)[7]
Sega Master System 11.8 million[9][10] 1 million (1986)[11] United States: 2 million (1992)[12]
Brazil: 5 million (2012)[13]
Western Europe: 6.8 million (1993)[14]
Atari 7800 3.77 million (December 1990)[15] Unknown United States: 2 million (June 1988)[16] Unknown

Sales comparison[change | edit source]

See also: List of best-selling game consoles
Console Units sold worldwide Japan Americas Elsewhere
Nintendo Entertainment System 61.91 million (as of December 2009)[7][17] 19.35 million (December 2009)[7] 34 million (December 2009)[7] 8.56 million (December 2009)[7]
Sega Master System 11.8 million[18][19] 1 million (1986)[20] United States: 2 million (1992)[21]
Brazil: 5 million (2012)[13]
Western Europe: 6.8 million (1993)[14]
Atari 7800 3.77 million (December 1990)[22] Unknown United States: 2 million (June 1988)[23] Unknown

Handheld systems[change | edit source]

Nintendo's Game & Watch was very popular in the third generation. It continued to do so until 1991, when it was discontinued.

Popular games[change | edit source]

References[change | edit source]

  1. Mark J. P. Wolf, The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond, ABC-CLIO, p. 115, ISBN 0-313-33868-X, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=XiM0ntMybNwC&pg=PA115, retrieved 2011-04-19
  2. Arnie Katz, Bill Kunkel, Joyce Worley (August 1988), "Video Gaming World", Computer Gaming World, p. 44, "I'm sure you've noticed that I've made no reference to the Nintendo craze that has repeated the Atari and Mattel Phenomenon of 8 years ago. That's because for American game designers the Nintendo is a non-event: virtually all the work to date has been done in Japan. Only the future will tell if the design process ever crosses the Pacific as efficiently as the container ships and the letters of credit now do."
  3. Travis Fahs. "IGN Presents the History of SEGA: Coming Home". IGN. p. 2. http://uk.retro.ign.com/articles/974/974695p2.html. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  4. "Best-Selling Video Games". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2006-03-17. http://web.archive.org/web/20060317005503/http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/content_pages/record.asp?recordid=52404. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. "All Time Top 20 Best Selling Games". 2003-05-21. Archived from the original on 2006-02-21. http://web.archive.org/web/20060221044930/http://www.ownt.com/qtakes/2003/gamestats/gamestats.shtm. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. "-Sega Emulation Overview - another overview". retrocopy.com. http://www.retrocopy.com/sms.aspx. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 "Consolidated Sales Transition by Region" (PDF). Nintendo. 2010-01-27. Archived from the original on 2010-02-14. http://www.webcitation.org/5nXieXX2B. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  8. "NES". Classic Systems. Nintendo. Archived from the original on 2007-08-04. http://web.archive.org/web/20070804161605/http://www.nintendo.com/systemsclassic?type=nes. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
  9. Forster, Winnie (2005). "Sega SG-1000 & Master System". The Encyclopedia of Game Machines. Magdalena Gniatczynska. pp. 80–81 [80]. ISBN 3-00-015359-4. http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg278/Salvidrim/PUBLIC/IMG_0001.jpg?t=1327588500. Retrieved 2011-01-31. "Units sold: 10 Million"
  10. Buchanan, Levi (2009-03-20). "Genesis vs. SNES: By the Numbers". IGN. http://retro.ign.com/articles/965/965032p1.html. Retrieved 2010-03-15. "The Master System sold an anemic 13 million to the NES count of 62 million."
  11. Nihon Kōgyō Shinbunsha (1986). "Amusement". Business Japan (Nihon Kogyo Shimbun) 31 (7-12): 89. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tJcSAQAAMAAJ&q=%22Sega+is+estimated+to+have+sold%22&dq=%22Sega+is+estimated+to+have+sold%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CM8eT7m8JonLsgbPpdnHDA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  12. Sheff, David (1993). Game Over (1st ed. ed.). New York: Random House. p. 349. ISBN 0-679-40469-4. http://books.google.co.uk/books?ei=4pUUT-7MIoeM8gPGnoDTAw&id=gxyXUi336egC&dq=sheff+1993+game+over&q=master+systems#search_anchor. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Théo Azevedo (2012-07-30). "Vinte anos depois, Master System e Mega Drive vendem 150 mil unidades por ano no Brasil" (in Portuguese). jogos.uol.com.br. http://jogos.uol.com.br/ultimas-noticias/2012/07/30/vinte-anos-depois-master-system-e-mega-drive-vendem-150-mil-unidades-por-ano-no-brasil.htm. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Sega Consoles: Active installed base estimates". Screen Digest. Screen Digest. March 1995. p. 60. (cf. here, here, and here)
  15. Matthew, Matt (May 26, 2009). Atari 7800 Sales Figures (1986 - 1990), Gamasutra.
  16. "Video Games". Los Angeles Times. June 13, 1988. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-13/business/fi-3249_1_video-game-systems. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  17. "NES". Classic Systems. Nintendo. Archived from the original on 2007-08-04. http://web.archive.org/web/20070804161605/http://www.nintendo.com/systemsclassic?type=nes. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
  18. Forster, Winnie (2005). "Sega SG-1000 & Master System". The Encyclopedia of Game Machines. Magdalena Gniatczynska. pp. 80–81 [80]. ISBN 3-00-015359-4. http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg278/Salvidrim/PUBLIC/IMG_0001.jpg?t=1327588500. Retrieved 2011-01-31. "Units sold: 10 Million"
  19. Buchanan, Levi (2009-03-20). "Genesis vs. SNES: By the Numbers". IGN. http://retro.ign.com/articles/965/965032p1.html. Retrieved 2010-03-15. "The Master System sold an anemic 13 million to the NES count of 62 million."
  20. Nihon Kōgyō Shinbunsha (1986). "Amusement". Business Japan (Nihon Kogyo Shimbun) 31 (7-12): 89. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tJcSAQAAMAAJ&q=%22Sega+is+estimated+to+have+sold%22&dq=%22Sega+is+estimated+to+have+sold%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CM8eT7m8JonLsgbPpdnHDA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  21. Sheff, David (1993). Game Over (1st ed. ed.). New York: Random House. p. 349. ISBN 0-679-40469-4. http://books.google.co.uk/books?ei=4pUUT-7MIoeM8gPGnoDTAw&id=gxyXUi336egC&dq=sheff+1993+game+over&q=master+systems#search_anchor. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  22. Matthew, Matt (May 26, 2009). Atari 7800 Sales Figures (1986 - 1990), Gamasutra.
  23. "Video Games". Los Angeles Times. June 13, 1988. http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-13/business/fi-3249_1_video-game-systems. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  24. "Getting That "Resort Feel"". Iwata Asks: Wii Sports Resort. Nintendo. p. 4. http://iwataasks.nintendo.com/interviews/#/wii/wiisportsresort/0/3. "As it's sold bundled with the Wii console outside Japan, I'm not quite sure if calling it "World Number One" is exactly the right way to describe it, but in any case it's surpassed the record set by Super Mario Bros., which was unbroken for over twenty years."