Gaming through the ages: the evolution of video game console from Atari to PlayStation 5

From the 1970s till date, video game consoles have seen more innovations to make them what we have today
Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji Bello
Network gaming

Video game consoles have come a long way since their early beginning in the 1970s. Right from the era of Atari, Coleco, and the like to the latest PlayStation, we can now enjoy more sophisticated gaming systems from the comfort of our homes. This article will dive deep into gaming history. We will explore the several generations of video game consoles and how gaming controllers evolved. We'd also look at how mobile and online gaming had come to birth and the future of video game consoles.

A brief history of video games

The history of video games is often traced back to Ralph H. Baer, known as the father of Video games, who invented what was initially called TV Game Unit #7 and became better known by its nickname, "The Brown Box" (from the brown, self-adhesive vinyl used on the prototype). The Brown Box included features that are still familiar today: two controls and a multi-game program system.

The Brown Box was licensed to Magnavox, which released the system as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972. The Odyssey had limited graphic capabilities and included translucent color overlays to add game settings and layouts. It also came with physical accessories such as dice and decks of cards. 

Later in 1975, the Magnavox gaming company developed several models of Video gaming consoles. At that time, several other companies, like Coleco, Atari, etc., had started producing game consoles with games like handball, tennis, hockey - and Pong. Originally an arcade game, the home version of Pong was released in 1975 to immediate success.

In the 1980s, games like Pac-Man, Mario Bros, and Final Fantasy emerged. Today, several video games are being released into the gaming system year in, year out.

The birth of video game consoles

Generally, we could say that the first generation of commercial Video Game Consoles was developed between 1972 and 1978, with several companies competing to be the best in the market. Magnavox Odyssey, Atari Pong, and Coleco Telstar systems are notable gaming consoles made within these years. 

With the Magnavox Odyssey, players could enjoy up to eleven games like football, cat and mouse, hockey, tennis, skates, roulette, etc. Still, Odyssey Console was developed so that players had to insert a game into the system before they could power the console. 

 As of the fourth year of production of Magnavox Odyssey, relatively good sales were recorded but not as much as the company expected. This was due to public misinformation as intended users weren't sure if the Console could work on any brand of the TV set or only Magnavox brand TV. On this note, other companies learned to provide information on which TV brand their Console works with.

In 1975, Atari released its video game console game, Pong, which had unique features compared to its competitors. The Atari Pong gaming system was made with a single chip that allowed gaming with sounds and onscreen scoring.

Gaming through the ages: the evolution of video game console from Atari to PlayStation 5
Vintage Atari 2600 video game

Around the same time the Atari collections became popular, Coleco entered the video game Console market and released its Telstar brand in 1976. This brand came with three games, tennis, handball, and hockey, and was generally accepted by many players. From then on, Coleco released fourteen more consoles with the Telstar name until 1978.

Of the fourteen new consoles from Coleco, only two (Telstar Combat and Telstar Marksman) were successful in the market.

The golden age of video game consoles

The beginning of the golden age of video game consoles can be traced back to the early 1980s when the gaming market experienced a more advanced technological innovation. It was a period when games like Pacman, Mario Bros, Final Fantasy, etc., were released, and the cartridge video game system gained prominence. 

Gaming through the ages: the evolution of video game console from Atari to PlayStation 5
Mario game

In this period, Sega and Nintendo were notably the brands that dominated the gaming market. Sega 1983 released the SG-1000 as its first console before launching a highly successful console called the Sega Master System in 1986. A few years before the Sega Master System, Nintendo released its console named Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1983, which became the best seller out of all consoles in that period. 

Although several other companies launched new consoles in this period, they were overthrown by the competition from the Sega brand and NES. The competition continued, and the two companies came up with brand-new consoles. In 1989, Sega launched the MegaDrive/Genesis, while Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) the following year. Still, in the same year, Sega made the Master System II after it became successful with MegaDrive/Genesis.

Later in 1990, SNK Neo Geo, a company new to video game consoles, joined the industry by releasing the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System (Neo Geo AES). The brand was particularly appreciated for its graphics but wasn't well received by many people because of its high price tag.

The rise of 3d graphics and the introduction of CDs

At the beginning of the 1990s, many video gaming companies started using compact discs instead of cartridges to store games. This allowed for gaming with more capacities and more so enabled 3D graphics instead of 2D. 

Phillip, in 1991 released the first-ever CD console but didn't gain much recognition because of its substandard games. In 1989, TurboGrafx-CD, designed by Hudson Soft and sold by NEC Home Electronics, was released, but this brand had to compete with the Sega Genesis, released just two weeks earlier.

Furthermore, in 1993, Atari made their CD-based Atari Jaguar console with the hope that it'll compete against SNES and Sega MegaDrive; however, there came some advancement after a year when Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation were released.

Later on, in 1994, we already had Sony PlayStation featuring 3D graphics & CD ROM drive, and Sega, on the other hand, came up with its new series, the Genesis 2 in 1994 and Genesis 3 in 1997. I also launched another console called Saturn, which competed with every other console in the market. 

Nintendo also came up with Nintendo 64 but maintained its cartridge storage system. Also, in 1994, SNK Neo Geo developed its CD-based console but gave a moderate price for its product compared to the Neo Geo AES of 1990.

Gaming through the ages: the evolution of video game console from Atari to PlayStation 5

The introduction of online gaming

By 2000, Sony had developed the PlayStation 2, which was even more advanced than its previous development. The console was designed with a top-notch graphics DVD storage system, included classics like God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, etc., and was still popular even after the PlayStation 3 was released. 

A year later, Nintendo changed its Nintendo 64 cartridge to a DVD model. Both the PS2 and Nintendo 64 at that time had some Internet capabilities. 

Later in 2001, Microsoft entered the video game industry when it launched the Xbox. The introduction of Xbox into the gaming system came with much improvement and innovations as online gaming began with the Xbox Live. 

The Xbox console competed with PlayStation 2 immediately after it came into the foray, and it was developed with a built-in hard drive. Many players loved games like Halo, Fable, and Project Gotham Racing, making Microsoft well-known in the gaming sector.

In 2005, Microsoft also introduced the Xbox 360. The console came with a more flexible and easier-to-use controller, more advanced memory & graphics, and gamers could play as single or multiple players. 

As of 2013, Microsoft had started marketing its newly released console as an all-in-one entertainment system. This birth the name of the console, Xbox One. The console had one controller, a power cable, and a chat headset that could be used to connect with other players and friends across the globe. Until today, most gaming companies have incorporated online gaming into their products. 

The evolution of gaming controllers

Just like gaming consoles have evolved and improved throughout the years, their controllers have also experienced a lot of advancement up until today. The first set of controllers used was that of Magnavox Odyssey, which came in the form of two wired analog controllers. Each controller had a button on them and knobs on their sides that allowed players to control vertical and horizontal motions while gaming.

Atari developed their controllers later, enabling players to handle their Pong by moving a paddle-like controller up and down. In the 1980s, a new generation of controllers came in the form of joysticks. 1988 also saw Sega develop a rounded controller with a directional pad and four more buttons, including the start button.

In the 1990s, Nintendo’s controller was quite different from its predecessors. The controller had a three-prong which made it M-shaped. It also featured a directional pad with start buttons and yellow directional buttons. Around 1997, Sony introduced the DualShock PlayStation Controller, famous for vibrating when gamers acted in the game.

Gaming through the ages: the evolution of video game console from Atari to PlayStation 5
Sony Dualshock

In the mid-2000s, we already had Xbox 360, which also came with its directional pad in several colors. Shortly after, Nintendo came up with the Wii remote as an option for controllers. The Wii remote was handheld, like a TV remote, with a small power button, a speaker, and other buttons.

Nintendo and several other video game companies continued to innovate. They came up with new designs of game controllers, and as of 2020, with the advent of PlayStation 5, we now have the DualSense. This has a primary color of white and black, a directional pad, and a central touchpad with lightning that changes as you play different games.

The birth of mobile gaming

The birth of commercial mobile gaming can be traced to the introduction of Tetris for the Hagenuk MT-2000 in 1994. However, Mobile Gaming didn't gain a worldwide audience until the famous Nokia Snake was preinstalled on Nokia's 6110 model in 1997. 

Although the game didn't have many features and functions, it was everyone's favorite. After Snake had its day, several similar games were developed; however, there wasn't sophisticated hardware so programmers couldn't do much. Despite that, games like card games, races, and shooters were still developed.

The Introduction of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) service was a noticeable advancement in mobile gaming. This service was designed to allow players to download games on mobile phones, connect to the Internet and enable multiplayer support. As of 2000 and onward, Alien Fish Exchange, a connected version of Tamagotchi initially designed for interactive TV, became a popular game, and with the WAP service, gamers could buy and sell fish to other players.

In 2001, Arcade games and Space Invaders were launched on mobile phones. Two years later, color mobile phones became rampant, and several racing games were founded in the same year.

Touchscreen iPhones were made available in 2007, bringing a more significant revolution to mobile gaming. Shortly after, in 2008, Appstore was launched, allowing developers to sell games to players.

By the end of 2009, Rovio Entertainment launched Angry Birds on the app store. The game was made quite affordable, engaging, and fun. The free version of the game was soon made available on Android, but players had to remove the ads on the play by paying.

With the rise in the use of social media platforms like Facebook, games such as Farmville became famous in 2010, and in 2012, there came the renowned Candy Crush. Similar games were also released around this time, including Clash of Clans, Crossy Road, and many more.

In 2016, there was more advancement in mobile phone development, so gaming took a new turn. Temple Run, Subway Surfers, and Ingress utilized the latest technology and added new specialized features to their game. Until today, several mobile games are being developed and released on the app store.

The current generation of video game console

The current generation of video game consoles includes the Microsoft Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, released in late 2020. These consoles have more advanced features than their predecessors regarding their storage capacity and computing power. Aside from that, their graphic processors tend to be more improved, with about 8K resolutions in some instances, and the controllers were also upgraded.

The future of video game consoles

There have been a lot of debates and predictions regarding what the future of video game consoles will be. While some believe that game consoles will continue to evolve with more innovations, others think they'll eventually go extinct, replaced by VR. Some people think that game consoles have many bad games and won't make it to the future, while others contend that video game consoles will remain good forever. 

Gaming through the ages: the evolution of video game console from Atari to PlayStation 5
man playing video game

So, what will gaming consoles be like in the next decade and more?

We shouldn't expect that video game consoles will go away; however, we should expect the incorporation of more advances, such as streaming, VR, and AR. Today, Sony can already stream exclusive games through PS Now. Soon, we will expect that Microsoft will do the same through Xbox Game Pass.  We'll have our usual PC and smartphone games, but we might not necessarily see the game boxes (consoles) that we have today. 

Also, we could expect that companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will continue to bring more technological advancement to the gaming industry.


The evolution of video game consoles has been an exciting journey from the era of the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Sega MegaDrive until the latest PlayStation 5.  While each of these consoles had peculiar exciting features, they had brought a lot of innovations to the gaming industry.

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