5th generation consoles were designed between 1993 and 2002. This period is also known as the 32-bit era or the 64-bit era. Alternatively, some people know it as the 3D era. This period so the release of video game consoles, video game handheld devices, and computer and video games.
Only three consoles define this period: Sega Saturn (1994), Sony PlayStation (1994), and Nintendo (1996). Their systems as well as demographics significantly varied. At some point, this led to what was known as systems war. This review looks at 5th generation video game consoles and some of the key defining moments.
5th Generation Video Game Consoles (1993-2002)
Three video game consoles are associated with the 5th generation of gaming consoles. They include:
Nintendo 64 console, also known as N64, is a home video game console developed by Nintendo. It was first released in Japan in 1996. Shortly after, it entered the North American market in the same year. The console entered the Australian and European markets in 1997.
Note that this is the only 5th generation console that uses cartridges and 64-bit graphics. Nintendo 64 also featured its own unique 3-pronged controller in addition to a d-pad and analog joystick. Nintendo 64 also had a trigger button located behind its middle prong.
At the time of its release, it was one of the biggest 5th generation consoles, having sold 300,000 units in the first 3 days.
Most people loved its impressive performance, specifications, and competitive pricing. It equally appealed to veteran gamers and new users, thanks to its ease of use. This console led to the introduction of many great titles, and the best Nintendo 64 games include:
- Super Mario 64
- Mario Kart64
- GoldenEye 007
- Paper Mario
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Banjo- Kazooie
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Sony PlayStation is a product of Sony Computer Entertainment. As one of the top fifth-generation video game consoles, its original design concept first originated in the mid-1980s. This is when Ken Kutaragi, a Sony employee, pitched his idea of developing a Nintendo console that could effectively read CD-ROMs.
Well, Nintendo was keen to act on it. However, its president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, scrapped the contract because he felt that this would give Sony extra copyright control.
Sony went ahead with this project, despite receiving many legal threats from Nintendo. Eventually, it released the Sony PlayStation in 1994.
But it’s worth noting that Sega, another Japanese company, had also released its own console in the same year. So, Sony faced a high level of competition from Sega.
However, Sony still came out strong and prevailed in the highly competitive market. It attained good sales as well as critical reception. This was facilitated by the PlayStation’s superior graphics.
What made it one of the great 5th generation consoles is that it used CDs and not cartridges. The device also used a memory card to save its data, and this was a critical feature.
Its demand was also facilitated by its exceptional game library with Tekken, Gran Turismo, and Metal Gear Solid series all beginning on this PlayStation. It goes without saying that its popularity continued to soar when the console eventually took the Final Fantasy before going ahead to release the franchise’s most lauded installments, i.e., VII, VIII, IX, & the turn-based tactics.
The success of PlayStation led to the evolution of Sony’s PlayStation releases. Before and after the 5th generation consoles era ended, Sony released other editions, including:
PlayStation 2 was released in 2000. It’s the best-selling console ever, and it has sold over 155 million units.
PlayStation 2 Slimline was released in September 2004. Its design featured a more minor system. Besides that, it came with an inbuilt ethernet port, and it was quieter.
It was released in 2006 and has managed to sell more than 80 million copies. This is the PlayStation that introduced the use of Wi-Fi connectivity. It also came with a 20 GB internal hard drive.
PlayStation 3 Slim
It was introduced to the market in 2009. Slim was smaller and also lighter than its predecessor. Its design meant that it ran quietly and consumed less power.
PlayStation 3 Super Slim
It was released in 2012. It was also slimmer and lighter than the previous model.
It was released in 2013. PlayStation 4 had sold one million units within one day, becoming the fastest-selling gaming console to make such sales in 24 hours.
PlayStation 4 Slim
Sony still continued with its tradition of releasing more minor and lightweight variants. It was an upgrade from its predecessor and featured USB 3.1 support, 5 GHz Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
PlayStation 4 Pro
It was released in 2016. Pro’s design enabled it to use both ethernet and wireless networks. It also supported HDMI and 4K.
PlayStation Classic: Sony released this model in 2018, and it was an improvised model of the original PlayStation.
It is the latest model of PlayStations and was released in 2020. PlayStation 5 stores data in its custom 825GB SSD and has16 GB memory. Its video output is based on HDMI 2.1, and it features a haptic feedback design that can simulate touch.
Sega Saturn is a type of home video game console that was developed by Sega. It was first released into the Japanese market in 1994. Shortly after, it found its way into the North American and European markets in 1995.
This is one of the most popular 5th generation consoles. But the Sega Saturn gaming console only had a lifespan of around 6 years, between 1994 and 2000.
While Sega Saturn wasn’t successful in the North American and European markets, it still did well in Japan. However, the lack of a good market is what led to its eventual failure. Both North America and Europe, for instance, had their own PlayStation and Nintendo 64, which we’re doing well.
What made this video game console unique is its design. The company, Sega, had taken time to design a console based on advanced hardware. It had dual CPUs, but this feature made it difficult for those programmers without the advanced knowledge of upgraded formats to operate it.
It should be noted that it also had chip components designed to work differently, so they couldn’t work together. Sega Saturn was too complex to operate, and even its graphics hardware was complex. At the same time, its primary geometric primate was designed using quadrilaterals.
In the end, the quadrilaterals made it difficult for Sega to sell the model because the rest of the industry had based their designs on triangles. Once Sega released Dreamcast, Saturn was quickly overshadowed.
Sega Saturn emulator was Mednafen, an open-source and multi-system emulator. However, there have been several emulator improvements, and it’s even possible to play Sega Saturn’s game on some android devices.
Several great games were released for Saturn. The best Sega Saturn games include Classics such as:
- The Guardian Heroes
- Nights into Dreams
- Virtua Cop
- Virtua Fighter 2
- Shining Force III
- Radiant Silvergun
Consoles have undergone massive changes over the years. Manufacturers are constantly releasing new editions with upgraded features. However, there are notable changes in the console systems that created a significant shift. They include:
Transition to 3D
The 32-bit / 64-bit console era resulted in developing the popular 3D games that we know about. First, it should be noted that before this era, there were still games that had used the 3D environment. This included Star Fox and Virtua Racing.
However, the 32-bit/ 64-bit era is what created a notable shift. Many game designers started to move pseudo-3D and 2D games into 3D.
It’s worth noting that PlayStation’s Crash Bandicoot and N64’s Super Mario 64, as well as Saturn’s Tomb Raider, followed this new trend.
Their designers extensively marketed their 3D environments. This, consequentially, led to the industry’s focus shifting from rail-style titles and side-scrolling to creating more complex video games and genres.
Eventually, 3D became the focal point of the gaming era. This led to in increased popularity of CDs. At the same time, the use of cartridges, on the other hand, began to rapidly decline. CDs were favored because they made it easier and cheaper to produce games. This is because the games could now feature more dramatically cut scenes alongside symphonic music.
CD vs. Cartridge
While Nintendo was preparing to launch its newest console, the brand decided to make a cartridge-based system for Nintendo 64, just like its predecessors. Well, Nintendo publicly defended its decision to this. In its defense, the cartridge-based system would give games shorter load times compared to CDs.
But this was clearly a dubious move as Nintendo was charging higher licensing fees because cartridge production was quite expensive. Most 3rd-party developers observed that this was Nintendo’s way to raise more money. As a result, most of them became reluctant to release more games on N64.
The use of a cartridge-based system by Nintendo ended up sparking “media wars.” But despite its move, most developers ended up using the new CD-ROM technology. Nintendo ended up losing badly, and N64 became the last central home video game console designed to use cartridges.
CDs had more appeal because publishers could produce many copies without spending so much. This effect was able to pass to consumers. This directly impacted the retail sales, and consumers could now buy games at cost-effective prices.
The 5th generation market played a crucial role in the development of optical-based media storage. Developers were able to craft more complex games with improved graphics and sound. The best thing about CDs is that they effectively provided the extra space needed to store data.
The 32-bit/64-bit era was crucial in staging the already existing console wars involving large game-hardware manufacturers.
Console wars were a phenomenon that emerged when people would try to evaluate the effectiveness of upcoming hardware systems and then purchase the said system for that specific reason only. This was, of course, based on the speculation that the best games must definitely be made for that hardware.
It’s worth noting that the period systems took in development had been significantly growing since the onset of the 8-bit era. So, most of the time, consumers were left with more time in between. They used that period to speculate about the core strengths and weaknesses of the next-generation consoles expected to be released.
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Results of Fifth Generation Video Game Consoles
Once the console wars had toned down, several companies were subjected to a drastically new outlook. For instance, Sega lost a significant level of consumer confidence in the North American market. This also affected its performance in the next round of the console wars.
A lot of things favored PlayStation in place of Sega’s Saturn. While Saturn was considered to be a technically-advanced software of that generation, it’s suffered significantly. Poor marketing, as well as limited 3rd-party support, affected its overall performance. Overall, PlayStation ended up dominating the market, with Nintendo 64 coming in second.
Besides that, the console had been launched 4 months early for the US market. This meant that at this time, 3rd-party developers had not fully prepared for the market. This consequentially angered the developers and resulted in distribution issues. Retailers such as KB Toys were extremely furious with this move that they vowed not to stock Saturn after that.
The Bottom Line
There is no doubt that the 5th generation consoles created a massive shift in the gaming sector. The key players in this generation included Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64. Their development is what has led to advancement in the design of consoles, and that’s why handheld video game consoles have remained popular