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Key Points

  • The eighth generation of video game consoles started in 2012.
  • The WiiU kicked off the beginning of the 8th generation of video game consoles.
  • Xbox One and PlayStation 4 quickly followed.

The eighth generation of video game consoles certainly wasn’t as groundbreaking as many previous generations, but it did have a few notable moments.

Starting with the WiiU in 2012, the eighth generation got off to a slow start. However, things quickly picked up in 2013 with the release of the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Then Nintendo changed the definition of console gaming with the Switch’s release in 2017.

Overview of the Eighth Generation

Both Sony and Microsoft took an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach to the eighth generation by conservatively improving upon their previous consoles. This worked pretty well, as both consoles received widespread praise despite some early rough patches.

One of the most significant changes in the generation is that the Xbox One, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, and Nintendo Switch all launched without backward compatibility. This turned out to be a major mistake for both the Xbox One and Playstation 4, as each later added some backward support. As for the Vita and Switch, backward compatibility is a little more difficult because of the switch from disc to cartridge media.

Another difference is it is the first generation to have an upgrade that saw major improvements. Slimmed-down and cheaper consoles are common in the gaming industry, but the eighth generation saw Xbox and Playstation release beefed up and more expensive consoles halfway through.

Sony

Sony’s eighth-generation console was the Playstation 4. Like its predecessor, the Playstation 4 featured a Bluray disc drive capable of playing games and movies. In addition, the console was similar in size to the previous slim Playstation 3 consoles, featuring a slim, black exterior. At launch, the Playstation 4 cost $399, a staggering $100 less than the Playstation 3’s launch price. However, one of the biggest downfalls of the Playstation 4 was the lack of backward compatibility at launch.

The Playstation 4 came with an updated controller dubbed the Dualshock 4. It was a slight departure from the previous Dualshock’s shape with some refined edges and curved corners. However, most notable was the addition of a touchpad similar to those found on laptops. There is also a built-in speaker and an LED light that add an extra layer of detail for certain games.

The original Playstation 4 could display at 1080p, but Sony realized they needed to design a more powerful console before the next generation came out. This led to the development of the Playstation 4 Pro, which launched in November 2016. It featured improved performance and 4K capabilities. However, it also saw faster load times compared to its standard counterpart.

Microsoft

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02/02/2023 01:57 pm GMT

The Xbox One was Microsoft’s eighth-generation console, and it took a similar approach as Sony by simply refining the previous generation’s console. However, Microsoft made a critical mistake by bundling their Kinect peripheral with the console at launch, which left it priced $100 more expensive than the Playstation 4. The Kinect was later removed, and the price dropped to $400, but the damage was done as Microsoft had already lost significant market share to Sony.

Adding insult to injury was the decision to abandon backward compatibility just like Sony did with the Playstation 4. Microsoft also backtracked on this decision and later added compatibility for original Xbox and Xbox 360 games.

The Xbox One console was a boxier design than its predecessor and was slightly larger. Its controller was also similar to the Xbox 360s, with just a few design changes. The Xbox One could output 1080p just like the Playstation 4, and just like Sony, Microsoft developed a more powerful console of their own. The Xbox One X was a more powerful console capable of 4K, which debuted in November 2017.

Nintendo

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02/02/2023 03:41 pm GMT

While Microsoft and Sony usually release their consoles in the same year, Nintendo is an oddball. The WiiU is considered a part of the eighth generation despite lacking many technological improvements that the other consoles featured.

The Nintendo Wii was a major success, and Nintendo tried following up that success with another hit. Unfortunately, that was not the case, as the WiiU had numerous faults from the start. Firstly, Nintendo released the console with a basic and deluxe model priced at $299 and $349, respectively, significantly more than the Wii’s launch price of $249.

The other big problem was a lack of power which led many developers to forego producing games for the console. But by far, the gamepad got Nintendo the most ridicule as its giant, tablet-like controller was big enough to be a console of its own. Plus, many games also required a Wiimote or a Pro Controller.

The Wii U sold terribly, selling only 13.56 million consoles before its retirement. This is a fraction of the Wii and Switch consoles, which each sold over 100 million. Despite all its flaws, the WiiU had a great selection of first-party games that went overlooked by many. Fortunately, many of these games saw new light with re-releases on the Switch.

Portable Gaming

Although consoles tend to dominate the discussion of video game generations, handhelds should not be overlooked. Despite their release between major consoles, the eighth generation of portable consoles offered several revolutionary advancements.

The Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita are technically the first console releases of the eighth generation coming out in 2011. Although some consider these consoles part of the seventh generation, they saw continued support and revisions throughout the eighth generation of consoles.

Sony

The Playstation Vita is the successor to the popular PSP. Despite its many advancements, such as a trackpad and OLED display, it did not enjoy the success of the PSP. There were relatively few games released for the Vita, and with poor sales, Sony eventually decided to abandon the handheld console.

One of the most innovative features of the Vita was its ability to work with a Playstation home console. The Vita could work as a streaming device with games sent from a Playstation 4 to the Vita. It also inspired Playstation TV, which experienced success long after its demise. It, too, lets players stream games from the Playstation console, in addition to playing Vita games through its built-in cartridge slot.

Nintendo

Nintendo’s 3DS console was a follow-up to the immensely popular DS, which saw many years of success. The 3DS offers similar features to the DS, with dual screens and a clamshell design. However, the distinguishing factor for the console was its 3D screen which saw mixed reviews. Fortunately, you could turn the 3D feature off, and Nintendo later released 2D versions.

Despite the popularity of the 3DS, its popularity was waning by the end of the generation, and Nintendo was ready to respond. The Switch launched in 2017 for $299 and revolutionized the way people play games by making a console that could be used at home and on the go. It also featured “Joycons,” which were removable and allowed for a range of different controller options during gameplay.

Of course, the Switch did have its limitations as relatively weak and lacked an OLED display that its rival had five years prior. Nintendo was able to address the criticism of an OLED display by releasing an OLED model in 2021. In addition, Nintendo also released a Switch Lite which lacked removable Joycons but only cost $199.

What Defined the Eighth Generation?

Although the eighth generation of consoles didn’t have an overarching change that previous generations saw, it still had many improvements, particularly in image quality. Video games have become very photorealistic, especially racing simulation games. Load times also decreased significantly, and few games had load screens during gameplay.

However, the most significant shift of the eighth generation was the reliance on the internet. At one point, it was thought that the internet would be needed at all times to play games. Thankfully that changed, but many games still required the internet to play.

Finally, the eighth generation’s most infamous yet defining factor must be a push for augmented and virtual reality. While previous generations saw the EyeToy and Kinect, both Microsoft and Sony doubled down for the eighth generation. Microsoft’s insistence on bundling the Kinect with early Xbox consoles likely led to its poor sales and the eventual discontinuation of the device. In contrast, Sony took a more relaxed approach by offering its PSVR system, which worked out well.

What Was the Best Eighth-Generation Console?

Sony unequivocally dominated the eighth generation, that is, until the Nintendo Switch came out. Although the Switch has not yet surpassed the Playstation 4 in sales, it likely will, considering it still has strong sales and the Playstation 4 is discontinued.

Although Sony dominated the early part of the generation, Microsoft remained a powerful player and a favorite console to many. Likewise, Nintendo was able to quickly rebound with the success of the Switch.

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Last update on 2023-02-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Eighth Generation Video Game Consoles FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What defines a video game generation?

There are no set factors that determine when a video game generation begins or ends. In earlier generations, certain advancements helped define a generation such as 8, 16, or 32-bit consoles. Today, however, it is mostly based on when Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo release their consoles.

Why did Nintendo have so many eighth generation consoles?

Because the Nintendo DS was part of the seventh generation the 3DS fell in the eighth generation. This is also true of the Wii U’s release. However, the Switch launched many years before the Series S/X and Playstation 5 so it is considered part of the eighth generation as well.

Were any eighth generation consoles capable of 4K?

None of the original eighth generation consoles were capable of 4K. However, the later released Xbox One S could handle some 4K and the Playstation 4 Pro and Xbox One X were both capable of 4K.

What happened to Kinect?

Microsoft stopped bundling Kinect with the Xbox One just a few months after its release. It wasn’t until 2017 before Microsoft would finally announce that they were officially discontinuing support for the Kinect.

Did any eighth generation consoles not have disc drives?

The only consoles of the eighth generation to feature a disc drive were the Xbox One, One S, and One X; along with the Playstation 4 and Playstation 4 Pro. The 3DS, Switch, and Vita all used cartridges while Microsoft had a digital-only Xbox One S.

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More from History-Computer

  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eighth_generation_of_video_game_consoles
  • BBC Available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/the-8-generations-of-video-game-consoles/zvcjkty
  • IGN Available here: https://www.ign.com/articles/the-playstation-vitas-legacy-is-more-important-than-its-sales-numbers
  • Google Available here: https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/history-of-video-game-consoles-eighth-generation/m087k9?hl=en
  • The Verge Available here: https://www.theverge.com/2022/8/15/23306068/microsoft-xbox-one-sales-lifetime-versus-ps4-sales