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The Third Generation Consoles (1983-1994) improved on the home console market. In Japan, Nintendo released their popular console, the Famicom, the same day as SEGA's SG-1000 in 1983. The Family Computer was re-branded in North America as the Nintendo Entertainment System. After the crash of the home console market in North America, the Nintendo Entertainment System brought gaming back to a mass audience and saved the market for video games there. In 1985, SEGA released the SG-1000 Mark III, which was re-branded as the Master System outside of Japan. The console was not popular in Japan and North America due to the immense popularity of the NES. SEGA, however, had considerable success in Europe, South America, South Korea, and Oceania, regions where the Master System either rivalled or outsold the NES.
Overview[edit | edit source]
|Part of a series on:|
|History of video games|
In the history of computer and video games, the third generation (sometimes referred to as the 8-bit era) began on July 15, 1983, with the Japanese release of both the Nintendo Family Computer (later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, in the rest of the world) and SG-1000. This generation marked the end of the North American video game crash of 1983, a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan, and the transition from single-screen or flip-screen graphics to scrolling graphics, which was a pivotal leap in game design.
The best-selling console of this generation was the NES/Famicom (which remained the best-selling home console up until the PlayStation), followed by the SEGA Master System (which dominated the European, South American and Oceanian markets) and then the Atari 7800. Although the previous generation of consoles had also used 8-bit processors, it was at the end of this generation that home consoles were first labeled by their "bits". This also came into fashion as 16-bit systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis were marketed to differentiate between the generations of consoles. In the United States, this generation in gaming was primarily dominated by the NES. The end of the 3rd generation of video games comes as 8-bit consoles become obsolete in graphics and processing power compared to 16-bit consoles.
History[edit | edit source]
The Family Computer (commonly abbreviated the Famicom) became very popular in Japan during this era, crowding out the other consoles in this generation. The Famicom's Western counterpart, the Nintendo Entertainment System, dominated the gaming market in Japan and North America, thanks in part to its restrictive licensing agreements with developers. This marked a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan, to the point that Computer Gaming World described the "Nintendo craze" as a "non-event" for American video game designers as "virtually all the work to date has been done in Japan." Although the NES dominated the market in Japan and North America, SEGA's Master System made large inroads in Europe, Oceania, and Brazil, where the NES was never able to break its grip. The Atari 7800 also had a fairly successful life in the United States, and the Sharp X68000 began its niche run in Japan in 1987.
The third generation would mark the move away from single-screen or flip-screen graphics, which were more dominant in the previous generation, to scrolling graphics, which was a pivotal leap comparable to the move to 3D graphics during the fifth generation. While hardware scrolling had been present in various arcade games in the early 1980s, during the golden age of video arcade games, it did not become common in consoles until the 1983 release of the NES, establishing the dominance of scrolling games, which opened up the possibility of vast worlds that made earlier single-screen games seem quaint. This gave Nintendo's NES a major advantage over its main competitor, the SEGA SG-1000, which was released on the same day but lacked hardware scrolling. Unlike the NES, the SG-1000 initially had very little to differentiate itself from earlier consoles such as the ColecoVision and contemporary computers such as the MSX. Despite the lack of hardware scrolling, SEGA's SG-1000 Mark II was able to pull off advanced scrolling effects, including parallax scrolling in Orguss and sprite-scaling in Zoom 909. In 1985, SEGA's Master System incorporated hardware scrolling, alongside an increased colour palette, greater memory, pseudo-3D effects, and stereoscopic 3-D, gaining a clear hardware advantage over the NES. However, the NES would still continue to dominate the important North American and Japanese markets, while the Master System would gain more dominance in the emerging European, South American and Oceanian markets.
In the later part of the third generation, Nintendo also introduced the Game Boy, which almost single-handedly solidified and then proceeded to dominate the previously scattered handheld market for 15 years. While the Game Boy product line has been incrementally updated every few years, until the Game Boy Micro and Nintendo DS, and partially the Game Boy Color, all Game Boy products were backwards compatible with the original released in 1989. Since the Game Boy's release, Nintendo had dominated the handheld market. Additionally two popular 8-bit computers, the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC, were repackaged as the Commodore 64 Games System and GX4000 respectively, for entry in to the console market.
The third generation saw many of the first console role-playing video games (RPGs). Editing and censorship of video games was often used in localizing Japanese games to North America. During this era, many of the most famous video game franchises of all time were founded. Some examples are Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, Metroid, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Castlevania, Phantasy Star, Megami Tensei, Ninja Gaiden, and Bomberman.
The third generation also saw the dawn of the children's educational console market. Although consoles such as the VideoSmarts and ComputerSmarts systems were stripped down to very primitive input systems designed for children, their use of ROM cartridges would establish this as the standard for later such consoles. Due to their reduced capacities, these systems typically were not labeled by their "bits" and were not marketed in competition with traditional video game consoles.
Starting in 1982, several home computers were released, which were focused on playing games: the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 (C64) and Amstrad CPC. All thee of these were popular in Europe, with the Spectrum and C64 in particular outselling computers from Apple and IBM, and the less versatile games consoles. These three machines would later emerge in console format, as the Commodore 64 Games System and GX4000, while the Spectrum could play cartridge-based games via the ZX Microdrive, with a later addon adding CD-ROM capabilities.
Nintendo versus SEGA[edit | edit source]
The Nintendo Entertainment System and Family Computer sold by far the most units of any third generation console in North America and Asia. This was due to its earlier release, its strong lineup of first-party titles (such as Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid), and Nintendo's strict licensing rules that required NES titles to be exclusive to the console for two years after release. This put a damper on third party support for the other, less popular consoles. However, SEGA's Master System was more popular than the NES in Europe, South America, and Oceania, with the latter two markets being first reached by SEGA. Many more games for the Master System were released in Europe and Brazil than in North America, and the console had a very long shelf-life in Brazil and New Zealand. In Europe, competition was tough for the NES, which was not as successful as the Master System in those other regions despite the hegemony that it had in the North American and Japanese markets. The industry also started to grow in places west of the Soviet Union, including Lithuania via new programmers trained in that area. The Master System was finally discontinued in the late 1990s but has continued to sell in Brazil through to the present day, while Nintendo of Japan continued to repair Famicom systems until October 31, 2007.
List of Consoles[edit | edit source]
|Name||SG-1000||Nintendo Entertainment System||Casio PV-1000||SG-1000 Mark III
|Launch prices||¥15000 (equivalent to ¥17710 in 2021)||¥14800 (equivalent to ¥17473 in 2021)
US$199.99 (equivalent to US$440 in 2021)
CA$240 (equivalent to CA$NaN in 2021)
|¥14,800||¥24200 (equivalent to ¥27376 in 2021)
US$199.99 (equivalent to US$432 in 2021)
£99.99 (equivalent to £254 in 2021)
|US$140 (equivalent to $302 in 2021)|
|Release date||July 15, 1983 (JP) 1983 (NZ)||July 15, 1983 (JP)
October 18, 1985 (US)
|October 1983 (JP)
||October 20, 1985 (JP)
September 1986 (NA)
June 1987 (WW)
|May 1986 (NA)
July 1987 (WW)
Famicom Disk System:
|Top-selling games||N/A||Super Mario Bros. (pack-in), 40.24 million (as of 1999)
Super Mario Bros. 3, 18 million (as of May 21, 2003)
|N/A||Hang-On and Safari Hunt (pack-in)
Alex Kidd in Miracle World (pack-in)
Sonic the Hedgehog (pack-in)
|Pole Position II (pack-in)|
|Backward compatibility||None||None||None||SG-1000 (Japanese systems only)||Atari 2600|
|CPU||NEC 780C (based on 8/16-bit Zilog Z80)
3.58 MHz NTSC (3.55 MHz PAL)
|Ricoh 2A03/2A07 (based on 8-bit MOS Technology 6502)
1.79 MHz (1.66 MHz PAL)
|NEC 780C (based on 8/16-bit Zilog Z80)
3.58 MHz (3.55 MHz PAL)
|Custom 6502C (based on 8-bit MOS Technology 6502)|
1.19 MHz or 1.79 MHz
|GPU||Texas Instruments TMS9918||Ricoh PPU (Picture Processing Unit)||SEGA VDP (Video Display Processor)|
|Sound chip(s)||Texas Instruments SN76489||
Famicom Disk System:
Optional cartridge chip:
|2 KiB + 1 KiB (character generator)|
MMC chips: IRQ interrupt, diagonal scrolling, line scrolling, split‑screen scrolling
|Audio||Mono audio with:||Mono audio with:
Japan only upgrades:
|Unknown||Mono audio with:
|Mono audio with:
Optional cartridge chip:
Sales Comparison[edit | edit source]
Worldwide[edit | edit source]
|34 million (1996)
(United States: 33.29 million (1993),
|8.56 million (1996)|
(Europe: 3.5 million (1992),
South Korea: 360,000 (1993))
|10 million (2016)
(Brazil: 8 million (2016),
United States: 2 million (1992))
|7.67 million (1993)|
6.95 million (1993),
|Atari 7800||1 million (1988)||—||—||—|
|Super Cassette Vision||330,000
Japan[edit | edit source]
The cumulative (including annual) sales figures for Japan:
|Family Computer ||FCDS||Modem||SG-1000 ||SG-1000 Mark III|
(40% of Japan homes)
United States[edit | edit source]
The cumulative (including annual) sales figures for the United States:
(33% of US homes)
Western Europe[edit | edit source]
The cumulative (including annual) sales figures for Western Europe:
The regional sales figures for Western Europe:
|NES||SMS ||SCV ||XEGS |
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Travis Fahs. IGN Presents the History of SEGA: Coming Home. IGN. Retrieved on 2011-03-27
- 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
- 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."
- Travis Fahs. IGN Presents the History of SEGA: World War. IGN. Retrieved on 2011-05-21
- "Videogaming: The Odyssey". EDGE Magazine (Future Publishing): 76. Jan 2000.
- Reimer, Jeremy. Personal Computer Market Share: 1975-2004. Retrieved on 2009-07-17
- How many Commodore 64 computers were sold?. Retrieved on 2011-02-01
- Reimer, Jeremy. Total share: 30 years of personal computer market share figures. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2008-09-13
- Amstrad Product Archive. Retrieved on 25 September 2009
- "Nintendo's classic Famicom faces end of road". AFP. 2007-10-31. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jAJfrC1k8lDKLOCGJu4VonjOYxBg. Retrieved 2007-11-09.
- 初代「ファミコン」など公式修理サポート終了 (Japanese). ITmedia News. ITmedia (2007-10-16). Retrieved on 2008-01-20
- RyanDG (2007-10-16). Nintendo of Japan dropping Hardware support for the Famicom. Arcade Renaissance. Retrieved on 2008-01-20
- Computer Entertainer, February 1987, page 13
- Best-Selling Video Games. Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2006-03-17 Retrieved on 2008-01-31
- All Time Top 20 Best Selling Games (2003-05-21). Archived from the original on 2006-02-21 Retrieved on 2008-01-31
- -SEGA Emulation Overview - another overview. retrocopy.com. Retrieved on 2010-04-30
- Charles MacDonald. SEGA Master System VDP documentation. Archived from the original on 2014-03-18 Retrieved on 2011-07-05
- Consolidated Sales Transition by Region (PDF). Nintendo (2010-01-27). Archived from the original on 2010-02-14 Retrieved on 2010-02-14
- NES. Classic Systems. Nintendo. Archived from the original on 2007-08-04 Retrieved on 2007-12-04
- SEGA Mark III:
- Azevedo, Théo (May 12, 2016). Console em produção há mais tempo, Master System já vendeu 8 mi no Brasil (Portuguese). Universo Online. Retrieved on May 13, 2016 “Comercializado no Brasil desde setembro de 1989, o saudoso Master System já vendeu mais de 8 milhões de unidades no país, segundo a Tectoy.”
- Sheff, David (1993). Game Over (1st ed. ed.). New York: Random House. p. 349. ISBN 0-679-40469-4. https://archive.org/stream/Game_Over_1999_Cyberactive_Publishing#page/n357/mode/2up. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- Western Europe
- Press Release, Atari (June 1, 1988)
- Nihon Kōgyō Shinbunsha (1986). "Amusement". Business Japan (Nihon Kogyo Shimbun) 31 (7-12): 89. (Link)
- Computer Entertainer, December 1986, page 8
- "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.
- "Active installed base estimates". Screen Digest. Screen Digest. March 1995. p. 60. (cf. here, here, and here)