Eighteen years ago this Sunday, the eternally popular PlayStation2 console was launched in Japan. To celebrate, we’ve examined the gaming consoles that made up the “sixth generation”, what was special about each of them, and why they are remembered.
Ah, Sega Dreamcast. Despite the fact you ushered in this generation on November 27th 1998, you also died a sad and lonely death. We imagine you were thrown into the ocean from a bridge à la the kids from Jumanji, and made a watery grave for yourself surrounded by those weird human-fish things from Seaman.
The thing is, this sad end was entirely undeserved. The Dreamcast was, in a lot of ways, ahead of its time; it featured an in-built modem for online gaming, as well as a web browser, high quality ports, and its games library was huge, creative and especially innovative. Titles such as Silver, Rez, Shenmue and House of the Dead 2 showcased the immense originality and inventiveness of the library, but became overshadowed by the vastly more popular games available on other consoles.
How did it die? Well, we can chalk that one up to our much-lauded PlayStation 2, which had a huge amount of hype propelling it due to its backwards compatibility and built-in DVD player. Sega discontinued the console on March 31st 2001, having sold 9.13 million units.
Whether you were a softcore gamer who only bought console game adaptations of Harry Potter and The Sims (a ridiculously scaled down version of the real thing that just left you wondering why you’d bothered in the first place), or whether you devoted your weekends to scouring Whetstone for Bigfoot, the PlayStation 2 found a place in everyone’s home by sheer popularity.
And why wouldn’t it? PlayStation 2’s backwards compatibility meant that that previous console games would still be compatible with this one, ensuring the durability and attractiveness of the console. And what could’ve been more attractive than the range of games and series available? Kingdom Hearts. Grand Theft Auto. Metal Gear Solid. Even more esoteric titles like Bully and Shadow of the Colossus stand the test of time (two of my personal favourites).
In 2013, when the PlayStation 2 was finally put out to pasture after thirteen years, it had accumulated 3874 titles, sold over 1.5 billion copies of them, and easily become the best-selling video game console of all time. In 2011 Sony announced that it had sold over 150 million units worldwide, proving undeniably the staying power of the PlayStation 2.
The Nintendo Gamecube is a funny one. Coming after the culturally iconic Nintendo 64, it didn’t nearly reach the hype that the former generated. It was something that a “friend of a friend” owned, and that you played sporadically if you happened upon one. It wasn’t exactly a console of firsts for Nintendo either; despite being the first console to use optical discs as its primary storage medium, these discs were in miniDVD format, so it was not compatible with standard DVDs and audio CDs, unlike PlayStation 2. It’s purple “box” design was not particularly memorable or attractive either.
But that isn’t to say it wasn’t good. The redesigned controller brought it in-line with Sony’s Dualshock gamepads (and improved upon it), and in 2002 Nintendo released the first wireless controller in the form of the Wavebird. The console also featured online gaming, and compatibility with the handheld devices in the Nintendo series. And the games had incredible replay value, like Luigi’s Mansion, Super Mario Sunshine and the insanely good Super Smash Bros. Melee. When the console was retired in 2007 it had sold close to 22 million units, to be preceded and left behind by the Nintendo Wii.
Whenever people think of “console wars”, it is usually the Xbox that comes up against the PlayStation. Microsoft’s response to Sony’s prevalent gaming console, the Xbox wasn’t even originally its name; included on a list of prospective names to show how awful it was, it ended up outperforming all the others in consumer testing and the Xbox was born.
Released on November 15th 2001, the first Xbox console was powerful in terms of its graphics and playability, and featured a standard PC 733 MHz Intel Pentium III processor. It was the first console to feature an in-built hard disk drive, which eliminated the need for exterior memory cards and ensured players could download endless content from Xbox Live. This came with a price, as the Xbox was by far the heaviest and bulkiest console on the market.
With titles like Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and, of course, Halo 2, it sold over 24 million units—surpassing the Gamecube to take 2nd Place in “the Sixth Generation”, and standing the test of time in the wake of PlayStation’s popularity.
And let’s not forget that memorable (read: terrible) ad.
This year’s #HybridWorldADL will take place in July in the city of Adelaide. For more details about the event, click here.