The seventh generation of video game consoles, just like all the previous generations, brought plenty of changes in gaming. It’s the first generation that launched without Sega and the one that saw a massive gaming expansion. But what really separated the seventh generation from its predecessors? Well, quite a lot, actually, and here are some of the key facts:
- The seventh generation introduced HD graphics to gaming.
- Though online multiplayer was introduced in the sixth generation, the seventh generation put a greater emphasis on online play.
- Motion controls were also emphasized a lot.
- Sony’s seventh-gen flagship is considered Sony’s fall from grace.
Although the seventh-gen’s contributions to gaming certainly weren’t negligible, the console makers faced a challenging road to launch and profitability. Here’s everything you need to know about the seventh generation of video game consoles and why it’s an important piece of gaming history.
Seventh-Generation Video Game Consoles: A Timeline
Each generation of video game consoles follows certain technological developments and brings novelty to gaming. The fifth generation brought 3D graphics and disc-based media, and the sixth introduced online multiplayer, DVDs, and more advanced graphics.
The seventh generation of video game consoles followed the advancement in the video industry in terms of high-definition (HD) resolutions that began in the early 2000s. Microsoft Xbox 360 was released in 2005, officially starting the seventh generation of consoles.
PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii consoles came to the market in the following year. All three consoles introduced new technologies as means of fighting over market dominance. Xbox 360 offered a great selection of titles at launch, PS3 offered HD movie playback, and Wii brought the motion controls.
This generation also introduced two very important handheld systems, Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable, both of which were actually released before the Xbox 360. The seventh generation officially came to an end in 2013, when both Microsoft and Sony shifted their focus toward new hardware.
Xbox 360: First Come, First Served
|November 22, 2005
|3.2GHz PowerPC tri-core
|500 MHz Xenos
(custom ATI design)
|512 MB GDDR3 @ 700 MHz
10 MB EDRAM GPU frame
|Over 400 Xbox games
|April 20, 2016
Still fearing that PlayStation’s dominance in the console market might seep into their PC share, Microsoft made sure it came first to the market with the new console. The Xbox 360 launched a whole year ahead of its competition, fueled by the established Xbox Live service and a wider selection of titles at launch.
Its sales continued to go strong for nearly the entire lifespan of the console generation in both America and Europe. But, just like the original Xbox, the console was poorly received in Japan — this is attributed to Japanese brand loyalty and a lack of content that would entice Japanese gamers.
Regardless, Microsoft’s message with the Xbox 360 was clear: pure gaming entertainment for you and your friends. However, the system wasn’t without its faults. Soon after launch, numerous reports started popping up about the console scratching discs and displaying the infamous Red Ring of Death. Microsoft assured the public that the hardware failure was within the margins associated with consumer electronics.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as Microsoft later acknowledged that the issue was more widespread. Though the company never released official numbers, estimates suggest that up to 30% of the Xbox 360s were affected by the Red Ring of Death alone. Despite this, Microsoft still had a one-year lead on its competitors, which played a crucial role in long-term consumer and developer preference.
In comparison, Sony had a horrible start in the market, being a whole year behind Xbox 360. This trend would continue for years to come since Xbox 360 was much cheaper to produce. Furthermore, the system boasted a vast library of titles, including a series of gaming releases that developers had originally planned as PlayStation 3 exclusives.
2010 was another important year for the Xbox 360. Microsoft launched Kinect, which was a motion capture camera system that made the players into the console’s “controllers.” The hardware sold more than eight million units in its first two months on the market, claiming the World Record for fastest-selling consumer electronics device.
That same year, Microsoft also released the Xbox 360 S, referred to as the Xbox 360 Slim. In 2013, the company revealed and released the Xbox 360 E before finally shutting down production in 2016. Microsoft Xbox still supports the platform.
PlayStation 3: Fall From Grace
|November 11, 2006
(3.2 GHz Power ISA 2.03-based
PPE with 7×3.2 GHz SPEs)
|550 MHz Reality Synthesizer
(based on NVIDIA G70)
|256 MB XDR @ 3.2 GHz
256 MB GDDR3 @ 650 MHz
|Limited; depends on the model
|2013’s Grand Theft Auto V
Sony’s marketing strategy wasn’t focused so much on the fun aspect of console gaming. Instead, it focused primarily on the power and versatility of the console’s internals. The reliance on new technologies, such as the new Cell CPU and Blu-ray, caused disruptions in the production of the new console, which led to shortages in Europe at the system’s launch.
This was a major issue since the success of PS3 and the Blu-ray depended on each other. The introduction of new technologies also caused the production price for the PS3 to skyrocket, resulting in a higher retail price. Additionally, the console lost plenty of third-party gaming titles that were previously exclusive to Sony PlayStation; these titles also launched on Xbox 360 due to its early arrival to the market.
Sony blamed the lower sales of its new gaming system on the aforementioned loss of gaming exclusives, the higher retail price, and stock supply shortages. The high retail price was the most significant factor for slower sales, prompting Sony to drop the price by as much as 30% in some countries.
The price drop resulted in a nearly 200% sales increase within a month. The company would later acknowledge that it sold the system at a loss, costing the company over $3 billion. They also stated that they’re not likely to recuperate the funds invested in the new platform. This made Sony known as the company that sells its hardware at a loss and then recuperates through software sales.
In 2009, Sony announced a greater number of exclusive gaming titles than ever before. And, to everyone’s surprise, these were actually good gaming titles. The results became apparent in 2011, when PlayStation 3 finally outsold the Xbox 360 in total sale numbers, maintaining its position until the end of the generation.
Ultimately, the PlayStation 3 was Sony’s attempt to give the audience what they thought it needed, as opposed to what the crowds wanted. It resulted in a drop in sales and a struggle to re-establishing market dominance — something Sony won’t repeat again in the future generation.
Though it never suffered any major hardware issues, like the Xbox 360, the PS3 hasn’t aged very well, having lost the support of its developer. The console received two revisions: the PS3 Slim and PS3 Super Slim, released in 2009 and 2011, respectively. Though, admittedly, out of all three, the PS3 Slim is still the most aesthetically appealing product.
Nintendo Wii: The Unexpected Success
|729 MHz PowerPC-based
|243 MHz ATI “Hollywood”
|24 MB 1T-SRAM
integrated into the GPU
64 MB GDDR3 SDRAM
3 MB GPU frame buffer memory
|2006’s Wii Sports
Nintendo Wii was the last to come to the market, just a few days behind PlayStation 3. The company took an entirely opposite approach to the new generation compared to its competitors. Instead of focusing on graphical fidelity and expensive hardware, Nintendo opted to focus on providing interactive gaming experiences.
And it worked; both Nintendo’s hardware implementations, paired with titles that were targeting broader demographics, paid off significantly. The revised controller and control schemes, paired with supporting gaming titles, attracted everyone from hardcore gamers to non-gaming audiences to the gaming system.
Nintendo supported its new gaming hardware with first-party titles like Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, and Metroid. The company also appealed to non-gamers and casual gamers by developing core Wii games, which consisted of Wii Sports, Wii Play, and Wii Fit. These relied on players simulating real-world activities using the console’s motion-sensing controller, which caused massive property damage.
Third-party developers were reluctant to develop for Wii, due to the platform’s deviation from the new norm. But the Wii’s growing sales figures and popularity eventually won them over. In fact, the most interesting thing about the Nintendo Wii is that it was instantly profitable for its manufacturer, unlike PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
By the time the generation had ended — with the release of Wii U — Nintendo Wii had sold more than 101 million units. This made Nintendo the winning console among the seventh generation of video game consoles, at least when it comes to sales.
Seventh-Generation Video Game Consoles: The Handhelds
Not to point fingers, but Sony is a real playground bully. Back in the early ‘90s, Nintendo and PlayStation formed a partnership over the development of a fifth-gen console, the iconic Nintendo PlayStation. However, the partnership fell apart after disagreements over licensing and ownership, and Sony got the shorter end of the stick.
After picking up the pieces, Sony developed its own fifth-gen gaming console, the original PlayStation, which outsold Nintendo 64 by a 3:1 ratio. The sixth-gen didn’t fare well for Nintendo, either, since the PS2 outsold the Nintendo GameCube approximately 7:1. For every GameCube sold by Nintendo, Sony sold seven PlayStation 2 consoles.
Though success is the best form of revenge, Sony wasn’t content with humiliating Nintendo in the previous two generations of consoles. So, the company decided to take over the prized market for handheld consoles — the only gaming market in which Nintendo still reigned.
Consequently, Sony announced that it would enter the handheld market with a handheld whose performance was comparable to PS2. In November 2004, Nintendo launched the Nintendo DS, a dual-screen successor to its Game Boy line of handhelds.
Just like with Wii, Nintendo knew that they couldn’t match the prowess of Sony’s hardware, so they went with gameplay creativity and control schemes. And it worked once again.
Sony launched the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in 2005. The company’s previous success with other gaming consoles saw an influx of developers willing to develop gaming titles for the portable platform. Additionally, the handheld’s powerful hardware allowed for more advanced graphics and a more console-like gaming experience.
But, unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to dethrone Nintendo in the handheld market. Despite the fierce competition between the two gaming giants, Nintendo DS ended up outselling the PSP by a wide margin due to a significantly lower price, innovative features, and a wider variety of games. Ultimately, both consoles are a significant part of the history of handheld gaming.
Seventh Generation Video Game Consoles: The Explosion of Video Games
Though the sixth generation of video game consoles is widely regarded as the Golden Age of Video Games, the seventh generation saw the biggest explosion of gaming among audiences. The audience of the seventh-gen was by far the largest and most diverse in the entire history of gaming. This is largely thanks to the introduction of the Nintendo DS and Wii.
While Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had introduced significant advancements to gaming and have produced some casually-oriented titles, it was Nintendo’s focus on casual and non-gamers that won the masses over.
Everyone was joining gaming; tech-illiterate or tech-challenged elders who previously showed no interest in jumping jacks on the TV screen joined their grandchildren in this new activity. Even female players joined the community, initiating the change in the industry that was once mainly focused on boys and men.
Gaming became mainstream. Before the seventh-generation video game consoles, no one actually declared themselves a gamer — gaming was simply a pastime. But the seventh generation changed all that to the extent that gaming is now a sport.
Seventh Generation Video Game Consoles: 5 Must-Know Facts
Here are 5 must-know facts about the seventh generation of video game consoles:
- Despite Sony’s entry into the handheld market, Nintendo remained the proverbial King of the Hill.
- It was Nintendo that expanded the player market like never before.
- Microsoft proved that they’re a worthy rival to Sony in the gaming console market.
- The seventh generation of consoles brought about the downfall of couch multiplayer — split-screen gaming.
- Seventh-gen consoles also boosted the rise of digital storefronts.
Seventh Generation Video Game Consoles: Which One Is the Best Console?
There’s no doubt about the fact that PlayStation 3 was a more advanced gaming system compared to Xbox 360 — not to mention the Nintendo Wii. But computational power isn’t the only factor, and Xbox 360 aged beautifully compared to PlayStation 3.
Microsoft still supports Xbox 360, which still has an active gaming community. Furthermore, the console is quite popular with collectors and modders, whereas the gaming community has largely forgotten PlayStation 3 following the release of PlayStation 4.
Nintendo Wii also has a very active modding community, with modders restoring the GameCube backward compatibility to the console for better versatility — the feature was present on the system initially, but Nintendo removed it later on.
So, which one should you obtain for some retro gaming? Well, that’s a matter of personal preference, but Xbox 360 emerged as the people’s champion over the years. Having a modded Nintendo Wii is also a nice option. Please note that we don’t endorse modding or piracy. PlayStation 3 is only viable if you actually have physical copies of the games.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©PauloMichel/Shutterstock.com.