With a leap in computer technology, the fifth generation of video games ushered in the three-dimensional era of gaming.
In 1995, Sega released in North America its Saturn system, the first 32-bit console that played games on CDs rather than cartridges, five months ahead of schedule. This move was to beat Sony’s first foray into video games, the Playstation, which sold for $100 less than the Saturn when it launched later that year. The following year, Nintendo released its cartridge-based 64-bit system, the Nintendo 64.
Sony dominated the video game market and would continue to do so into the next generation. In fact, the Playstation 2, released in 2000 and able to play original Playstation games, would become the best-selling game console of all time.
The Playstation 2, which was the first console that used DVDs, went up against the Sega Dreamcast (released in 1999), the Nintendo Gamecube (2001), and Microsoft’s Xbox (2001).
The Dreamcast—considered by many to be ahead of its time and one of the greatest consoles ever made for several reasons, including its capability for online gaming—was a commercial flop that ended Sega’s console efforts. Sega pulled the plug on the system in 2001, becoming a third-party software company henceforth.
In 2005 and 2006, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s Playstation 3, and Nintendo’s Wii kicked off the modern age of high-definition gaming. Though the Playstation 3—the only system at the time to play Blu-rays—was successful in its own right, Sony, for the first time, faced stiff competition from its rivals.
The Xbox 360, which had similar graphics capabilities to the Playstation 3, was lauded for its online gaming ecosystem and won far more Game Critics Awardsthan the other platforms in 2007; it also featured the Microsoft Kinect, a state-of-the-art motion capture system that offered a different way to play video games (though the Kinect never caught on with core gamers or game developers).
And despite being technologically inferior to the other two systems, the Wii trounced its competition in sales. Its motion-sensitive remotes made gaming more active than ever before, helping it appeal to a much larger slice of the general public, including people in retirement homes.
Towards the end of the decade and beginning of the next, video games spread to social media platforms like Facebook and mobile devices like the iPhone, reaching a more casual gaming audience. Rovio, the company behind the Angry Birds mobile device game (and, later Angry Birds animated movie), reportedly made a whopping $200 million in 2012.
In 2011, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure brought video games into the physical world. The game required players to place plastic toy figures (sold separately) onto an accessory, which reads the toys’ NFC tags to bring the characters into the game. The next few years would see several sequels and other toy-video game hybrids, such as Disney Infinity, which features Disney characters.