The Death of Consoles Greatly Exaggerated
Console gaming officially headed into its 8th generation with the release of the Wii U in 2012, with the PS4 and Xbox One to follow a year later. It's an achievement that some pundits boldly predicted would never happen a few years back, claiming the time of the console was dead, and that cloud gaming would rise to take its place. However not only is console gaming not dead, but it's actually expanding with the introduction of several Android-based home gaming consoles within the past year. While not direct competitors to Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo, their entry in the market shows that there is undoubtedly still a place for consoles (and more than just one) in the living rooms and dens of people across the globe.
While this will likely be the first generation of consoles to not outsell the previous generation, given the fact that the close battle of the last generation resulted in nearly 300 million units sold (and counting), console gaming is still going strong, and there are already assurances from people in the industry that there will be at least one more console generation to come.
It's been a fast, steady climb for the console industry, which got its start back in 1973 with the release of the Magnavox Oddysey, a device that played only a handful of games, yet sold 2 million units, showing the immediate promise of the new industry and the thirst for home gaming. The Atari 2600 fully capitalized on that with the first system that could play dozens of different cartridges, with advanced technology for the time, and were rewarded with 40 million units in sales as a result. However, over aggressive production of games knocked Atari out of the home market when the 3rd generation of consoles rolled out, paving the way for Nintendo to take the reins. Still considered one of the greatest home consoles to date, with one of the largest collections of quality and innovative titles, the Nintendo Entertainment System sold over 60 million units and became a cultural phenomenon.
While the 3rd generation went largely uncontested, the 4th generation gave us the first epic console war, a harbinger of the 3-way battle that was to come between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft in the 7th generation. Sega and Nintendo went head-to-head with their Genesis and Super Nintendo systems, with gamesmanship in their announced sales figures and aggressive marketing campaigns that attacked the other system. After a fierce battle, the Super Nintendo would win the war with 49 million sales to the Genesis' 40 million.
The 5th and 6th generations gave rise to CD and then DVD-based systems, 3D gameplay, streaming video, and vastly improved music. The PlayStation and its successor the PlayStation 2 were the dominant winners of these generations, and are widely regarded as the two best consoles ever, with vast libraries of high quality games. Each system sold over 100 million units, with the PS2's 155 million units sold easily placing it as the top selling home console of all time.