I was born in 1983 and the first gaming console I remember was the NES. Do you remember World Cup? This well made video showcases the rise and fall of the best selling video game consoles from 1977 to 2019.
It starts in 1977 with the Atari 2600 hitting the market. The console is an instant hit and the sale numbers only start to slow down at around 1982 – with almost 22 million consoles sold until then. Intellivision is on the 2nd place at that time, with a measly 2,6 million units sold.
July 15, 1983 marks the day Nintendo releases the NES, which is short of Nintendo Entertainment System. By 1988 Nintendo sold over 15 million units. Atari had no success with the Atari 5200, which was the successor of their first console. In the same year they have sold only 1,4 million units, even though they launched at a similar time.
All other contenders during at time, such as ColecoVision and IntelliVision haven’t sold a combined amount of 7 million. The original Atari 2600 is sitting on 30 Million sales in 1988.
By 1989 the NES overtook the Atari 2600 as the best selling console in history. It also marks the time of the launch of the legendary GameBoy (Gameboy Color) and the Genesis / Mega Drive console.
One year later another legendary console is released. It’s the Super NES by Nintendo. By 1993 it was the best selling console on the market.
Followed by the Mega Drive, which also was a huge success. In 1995 the yearly sales of both consoles are dropping sharply (still the best selling consoles on the market). In the same year a new contender enters the market. The famous Sega Saturn system.
Yet it never manages to overtake the Super NES by Nintendo in yearly sales and it is miles behind in total sales. Roughly 10 million (Sega) vs. 42 million (SNES) in 1996.
Two years earlier on December 3rd, 1994 the next famous console hits the market. It’s the Playstation by Sony. Sales are going through the roof for this next-gen console and by 1997 they are selling close to 10 million units a year. Two years later Sony reaches 20 million sales per year, placing it on the 3rd spot of overall sales with 55 million units sold.
Another console we all know, the Nintendo 64 reaches it’s peak sales in 1999 at around 10 million per year and declines from there. As the graph shows, during all this time the Game Boy / Game Boy Color was selling like hot cake, sitting comfortably on place #1 with 76 million total units sold by 1999.
Sega tried another attempt with the Dreamcast on September 9, 1999 in North America. It was a very promising concept, that sadly was never able to reach the scale of popularity as all these other well known consoles. The Dreamcast held one record for a short period of time and that was sales on the first day (launch day). It generated $97 million USD on the first day.
It was the Playstation 2 (PS2) by Sony, launched in March 2000 (Japan) and October (North America) that took the title of highest sales on launch day with $250 million. Winning the title for “Best selling video game consoles” of all times.
By 2003 it was the best selling console with almost 20 million per year, closely followed by the Game Boy Advanced.
We almost forgot to mention the 4th big competitor that rose to success in the later years. I’m talking about the Xbox by Microsoft, which was launched in November 15, 2001. Trying it’s best to make it to the ranks of the best selling video game consoles. Microsoft didn’t manage to create the No1 contender here, but it fared well in the Browser war!
By 2008 Xbox already launched their 2nd gen console named Xbox 360 sitting at 15 million total sold units, while the Nintendo DS was dominating the yearly sales with over 20 million a year. At that time the Playstation 2 overtook the Game Boy with most total sales of 130 million. Two years earlier in 2006 Nintendo released the Nintendo Wii – also a legendary console with a new concept of how to control games. Which resulted in great yearly sales of over 25 million in the year 2010.
But the king of yearly sales still remains the Nintendo DS. Nintendo effectively sold 1 DS units per second for 5 years straight:
60 seconds per minute
60 minutes per hour
24 hours per day
365 days per year
Fast forward to 2018. Playstation had great success with their PS3 and PS4 console. Nintendo had a literal rocket launch of the latest console, the Nintendo Switch, which was sitting just a tad under the PS4 in yearly sales of around 17 million.
In 2018 we have the Playstation 2 sitting on top of the all times sales chart with 155 million units sold. Making it the best selling video game consoles of all times.
Followed by the Nintendo DS with just one million less, 154 million. The Game Boy (all version) with 119 million and the original Playstation with 102 million units sold.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Google does with their Stadia project. Leaks show that Google plans to add Stadia support and launch a “Hero Device” for Android TV in 2020. This could be the next generation of console gaming – just this time without a console!