Eighth generation of video game consoles
The eighth generation of consoles includes consoles released since 2012 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. For home video game consoles, the eighth generation began on November 18, 2012, with the release of the Wii U, and continued with the release of the PlayStation 4 on November 15, 2013, and the Xbox One on November 22, 2013. The Wii U was the first home console of this generation to be discontinued, on January 31, 2017, to make way for Nintendo's second home console competitor, the Nintendo Switch, released on March 3, 2017. These video game consoles follow their seventh generation predecessors from the same three companies: Nintendo's Wii, Sony's PlayStation 3, and Microsoft's Xbox 360. Throughout the generation, Sony and Microsoft continued to release hardware upgrades to their flagship consoles. In August 2016 and September 2016, Microsoft and Sony respectively both released "slim" revisions of their consoles, the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Slim. The Xbox One S notably added support for HDR video and Ultra HD Blu-ray, while Sony released a software update to add HDR to all existing PlayStation 4 consoles; the PlayStation 4 Slim does not support UHD Blu-ray. Following this was an upgraded version of the PlayStation 4, the PlayStation 4 Pro, which was released later in November 2016; meanwhile, Microsoft also announced an upgraded version of the Xbox One in 2016 under the name Project Scorpio. This would become the Xbox One X, released a year later in November 2017. Both of these consoles were aimed at providing upgraded hardware to support rendering games at up to 4K resolution.
In contrast to Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo began to phase out the Wii U in favor of a completely new hardware platform announced in April 2016 as NX. This would become the Nintendo Switch, released in March 2017. Being a hybrid between a handheld and a standalone console, it is a tablet-sized unit with a built-in display that has detachable wireless controllers and can be placed in a docking station for use with a television. The Switch was highly successful in its first year of sales, especially in comparison to its predecessor, the Wii U. In its first year, the Switch sold 3.2 million units in Japan, breaking the yearly record set by the PlayStation 2, and it had already completely outsold the Wii U by January 2018. Based on 4.8 million units sold in the United States by the end of 2017, Nintendo officially declared that the Switch had outpaced the seventh-generation Wii as the fastest-selling home video game console of all time in the United States.
For handheld game consoles, the eighth generation began in February 2011 with the Japanese release of the Nintendo 3DS, the successor to the Nintendo DS. Nintendo has released additional variants in the 3DS family, such as the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 2DS XL. The successor to last generation's PlayStation Portable, the PlayStation Vita, was released in Japan in December 2011, and then to Western markets in February 2012. The non-handheld variant of the PlayStation Vita, the PlayStation TV, was released in Japan in November 2013, North America in October 2014, and Europe and Australia in November 2014. The PlayStation Vita was the first handheld system of this generation to be discontinued, on March 1, 2019, effectively concluding Sony's presence in the handheld market.
Unlike in most prior generations, there were few new innovative hardware capabilities to mark this generation as distinct from prior ones. Instead, each of the major manufacturers produced new systems with similar designs and capabilities as their predecessors, but with increased performance. Even the major innovation of the seventh generation, motion capture gaming, was greatly diminished in prevalence as most games that included it opted to make it optional or secondary to traditional button-based controls. Virtual reality gaming hit the home console market in the middle of the generation with Sony releasing the PlayStation VR, a virtual reality headset compatible with all PS4 models, in October 2016. Sales remained modest, with only 5% of PS4 owners purchasing one as of 2019. Microsoft originally planned to support VR games on the Xbox One X, but despite this, Microsoft never released a VR platform for the Xbox. Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, stated in June 2017 that VR technology was "a few years away from something that will really work” and that Microsoft would instead be focusing their investments on Windows. Unique to the Switch is Nintendo's Labo system, released in April 2018. The Labo is a hybrid construction toy and video game system that allows users to create their own game-specific controllers, such as fishing poles and steering wheels. On April 12, 2019, Nintendo launched a Labo VR kit.
BackgroundThis generation was predicted to face competition from smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. In 2013, gaming revenue on Android overtook portable game console revenue, while remaining a distant second to iOS gaming revenue. In fiscal year 2013, Nintendo sold 23.7 million consoles, while Apple sold 58.2 million iPads in FY 2012. One particular threat to the traditional console game sales model has been the free-to-play model, wherein most users play free, and either a small number of dedicated players spend enough to cover the rest, or the game is supported by advertising.
The PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U all use AMD GPUs, and two of them also use AMD CPUs on an x86-64 architecture, similar to common personal computers. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony were not aware that they were all using AMD hardware until their consoles were announced. This shift was considered to be beneficial for multi-platform development, due to the increased similarities between PC hardware and console hardware. It also provided a boost in market share for AMD.
Various microconsoles have been released since 2012, although they are seldom referred to as being part of the eighth generation of video game consoles. These microconsoles have included the Ouya, Nvidia Shield Console, Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation TV, MOJO, Razer Switchblade, GamePop, GameStick, and PC-based Steam Machine consoles. A number of microconsoles that were modeled as scaled-down versions of consoles from previous generations, running a selection of games from that console, were also released. These included the NES Classic Edition, the SNES Classic Edition, the PlayStation Classic, the Sega Genesis Mini, and the Atari VCS.
Cloud gaming options for the consoles also were developed in the eighth generation. PlayStation Now enables cloud gaming of PlayStation 2, 3, and 4 games to current PlayStation consoles and personal computers. Microsoft began developing a comparable service xCloud for Xbox and Windows games. Google released Stadia, a dedicated cloud gaming platform designed around reduced latency and advanced features not typical of these other cloud gaming options.
TransitionThough prior console generations have normally occurred in five to six-year cycles, the transition from seventh to eighth generation lasted approximately eight years. The transition is also unusual in that the prior generation's best-selling unit, the Wii, was the first to be replaced in the eighth generation. In 2011, Microsoft had stated they began looking at their next console, but they, along with Sony, considered themselves only halfway through a ten-year lifecycle for their seventh-generation offerings. Sony and Microsoft representatives have stated that the addition of motion controllers and camera-based controllers like Xbox's Kinect and PlayStation Move have extended these systems' lifetimes. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had stated that his company would be releasing the Wii U due to declining sales of seventh generation home consoles and that "the market is now waiting for a new proposal for home consoles". Sony considered making its next console a digital download only machine, but decided against it due to concerns about the inconsistency of internet speeds available globally, especially in developing countries.
Both Microsoft and Sony have announced plans for their next-generation consoles, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, respectively, to be released in 2020. Both companies have emphasized that they want this to be a soft transition, allowing Xbox One and PlayStation 4 games to be directly backwards compatible on their respective systems. Microsoft has stated that all Xbox One games will be playable on the Xbox Series X, and will introduce its Smart Delivery program to provide enhanced performance updates to select Xbox One games to play on the Xbox Series X. Sony has stated the "overwhelming majority" of PlayStation 4 games will play on the PlayStation 5, with many running at higher frame rates and resolutions.
Chinese marketThe eighth generation of consoles also saw a re-entry of manufacturers into the Chinese market. Since 2000, the Chinese government had banned the sale and distribution of video game consoles, citing concerns on their effect on youth. The ban led console gaming to a niche sector, including a black market for the purchase of these consoles, while also causing personal computing gaming to take off within China, including the spread of Internet cafes and PC bangs. This ban lasted through January 2014, where the Chinese government first opened up to allow the sale of consoles in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone. By July 2015, the ban on video game consoles was wholly lifted. Access to the Chinese video game market is lucrative, having an estimated 500 million potential players and representing over in revenues as of 2016.
Microsoft and Sony quickly took advantage of the lifting of the ban, announcing sales of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 platforms within the FTZ shortly after the 2014 announcement. Microsoft established a partnership with BesTV New Media Co, a subsidiary of the Shanghai Media Group, to sell Xbox One units in China, with units first shipping by September 2014. Sony worked with Shanghai Oriental Pearl Media in May 2014 to establish manufacturing in the FTZ, with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita shipping into China by March 2015. CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House explained in September 2013 that the company intended to use the PlayStation Vita TV as a low-cost alternative for consumers in an attempt to penetrate the Chinese gaming market.
Nintendo did not initially seek to bring the Wii U into China; Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime stated that China was of interest to the company after the ban was lifted, but considered that there were similar difficulties with establishing sales there as they had recently had with Brazil. Later, Nintendo had teamed up with Tencent by April 2019 to help sell and distribute the Nintendo Switch as well as aid its games through the Chinese government approval process led by National Radio and Television Administration.
Wii UIn November 2010, Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime stated that the release of the next generation of Nintendo would be determined by the continued success of the Wii. Nintendo announced their successor to the Wii, the Wii U, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 on June 7, 2011. After the announcement, several journalists classified the system as the first eighth generation home console. However, prominent sources have disputed this because of its comparative lack of power and older disc media type with respect to the announced specifications for PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.
The Wii U's main controller, the Wii U GamePad, features an embedded touchscreen that can work as an auxiliary interactive screen in a fashion similar to the Nintendo DS/3DS, or if compatible with "Off TV Play", can even act as the main screen itself, enabling games to be played without the need of a television. The Wii U is compatible with its predecessor's peripherals, such as the Wii Remote Plus, the Nunchuk, and the Wii Balance Board.
The Wii U was released in North America on November 18, 2012, in Europe on November 30, 2012, and in Japan on December 8, 2012. It came in two versions, the Basic Model and the Deluxe/Premium Model, at the price of $300 and $349 US Dollars, respectively. On August 28, 2013, Nintendo announced the production of the Basic model has ended and expected supplies to be exhausted by September 20, 2013. On October 4, 2013, the Deluxe/Premium model was price cut from US$349 to US$300.
The Wii U had lifetime sales of about 13 million, in sharp contrast with the Wii, which had over 100 million over its life. This financially hurt Nintendo, with several financial quarters running at a loss through 2014. Nintendo had anticipated the Wii U would sell similarly to the Wii. Nintendo officially discontinued the Wii U on January 31, 2017, about a month before the release of the Nintendo Switch.
PlayStation 4On February 20, 2013, Sony announced the PlayStation 4 during a press conference in New York City. The console places a emphasis on features surrounding social interaction. Gameplay videos can be shared via the PlayStation Network and other services. Users can stream games being played by themselves or others. The DualShock 4 is similar to the previous DualShock 3 controller with the addition of a touchpad and a "Share" button along with an Light-emitting diode bar on the front to allow motion tracking. An updated PlayStation Eye camera accessory is offered for the system. The stereo camera lenses use a 1280×800px resolution with support for depth sensing similar to Microsoft's Kinect, and remains compatible with the PlayStation Move peripherals. Second screen capabilities are available through mobile apps and the PlayStation Vita, as well as Cloud gaming streaming through the Gaikai service.
The PlayStation 4 was released on November 15, 2013, in North America and November 29, 2013, in Australia and Europe at US$399.99, A$549 and €399 respectively.
Xbox OneOn May 21, 2013, Microsoft announced the Xbox One at an event in Redmond, Washington. The console focuses on entertainment, including the ability to pass television programming from a set-top box over HDMI and use a built-in electronic program guide, and the ability for computer multitasking by snapping applications to the side of the screen, similarly to Windows 8. The controller has "Impulse Triggers" that provide Haptic technology feedback, and the ability to automatically record and save highlights from gameplay. An updated version of Kinect was developed with a 1080p camera and expanded voice controls. Originally bundled with the console it has since been excluded.
The Xbox One was released in North America, Europe, and Australia on November 22, 2013, at a launch price of US$499.99, €499 and A$599 respectively with Japan, and was later released in 26 other markets in 2014. It had two mid-generation upgrades, one cheaper option released in 2016 called the Xbox One S, and the other called the Xbox One X which added 4K gaming.
Nintendo SwitchDue to the poor sales of the Wii U, along with competition from mobile gaming, then-president Satoru Iwata sought to revitalize the company by creating a new strategy for Nintendo that included embracing mobile gaming, and developing new hardware that would be attractive to a wider range of audiences. The hardware product was announced under the codename NX in a press conference held with DeNA on March 17, 2015, and fully revealed as the Nintendo Switch on October 20, 2016. The unit was released worldwide on March 3, 2017.
The Switch is considered by Nintendo a home console that has multiple ways to play. The main unit, the Console, is a tablet-sized device with a touch-sensitive screen. It can be inserted into a Docking Station which allows games to be played on a connected television. Alternatively, two Joy-Con, motion-sensitive controllers comparable to the Wii Remotes, can be slotted onto the sides of the Console so the unit can be played as a handheld. Further, the Console can be set on a kickstand, allowing multiple players to see the screen and play games with separate Joy-Con. Additionally, Nintendo built the Switch on standard industry components, allowing for ease of porting games onto the system using standard software libraries and game engines rather than Nintendo's proprietary approaches. This enabled them to bring several third-party and independent game developers on board prior to launch to assure a strong software library.
The Switch was met with critical praise and commercial success. Nintendo had anticipated selling about 10 million Switches in the first year of release but ended up exceeding this projection with total first-year sales of over 17 million units, exceeding the Wii U's lifetime sales. In late 2017, the Nintendo Switch was the fastest selling console in US history, and in November 2018 it was the fastest selling of all the 8th generation consoles in the US.
A hardware revision, the Switch Lite, was announced for release in September 2019. The unit integrates the Joy-Con onto the main console with a smaller form-factor, making the unit strictly handheld rather than a hybrid system. Further details are described below under Handhelds.
Handheld systemsA trend starting from the eighth generation of handheld systems is the general shift from dedicated handheld gaming consoles to mobile gaming on smart devices, such as smartphones and tablets. As such, smart devices have eroded sales of dedicated handheld gaming consoles, with analysts predicting that smart devices will replace handheld gaming consoles in the near future.
Nintendo 3DSThe Nintendo 3DS is a portable game console produced by Nintendo. It is the successor to the Nintendo DS. The autostereoscopic device is able to project stereoscopic 3D effects without the use of 3D glasses or any additional accessories. The Nintendo 3DS features backward compatibility with Nintendo DS series software, including Nintendo DSi software. Announcing the device in March 2010, Nintendo officially unveiled it at E3 2010, with the company inviting attendees to use demonstration units. The console succeeds the Nintendo DS series of handheld systems, which primarily competes with PlayStation Portable. It competes with Sony's handheld, the PlayStation Vita.
The Nintendo 3DS was released in Japan on February 26, 2011; in Europe on March 25, 2011; in North America on March 27, 2011; and in Australia on March 31, 2011. On July 28, 2011, Nintendo announced a major price drop starting August 12. In addition, as of September 2011 consumers who bought the system at its original price have access to ten Nintendo Entertainment System games before they are available to the general public, after which the games may be updated to the versions publicly released on the Nintendo eShop. In December 2011, ten Game Boy Advance games were made available to consumers who bought the system at its original price at no charge, with Nintendo stating it has no plans to release to the general public.
On June 21, 2012, Nintendo announced a new, bigger model of the 3DS called the Nintendo 3DS XL. It has 90% larger screens than the 3DS and slightly longer battery life. It was released on July 28, 2012, in Europe and August 19, 2012, in North America as well as Australasia on August 23, 2012, and Brazil on September 1, 2012.
On August 28, 2013, Nintendo announced a low cost, 2D version of the 3DS called the Nintendo 2DS. This redesign plays all Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS games, albeit without a sterescopic 3D option. Unlike previous machines of the DS family, the Nintendo 2DS uses a slate-like design instead of a clamshell one. The console launched on October 12 in both Europe and North America as well as Australasia.
On August 29, 2014, Nintendo announced an enhanced revision of the 3DS called the New Nintendo 3DS and New Nintendo 3DS XL. The newer system uses microSD cards rather than full-sized and has a second analog "nub" input, the C-stick, Super-Stable 3D™ and an upgraded processor that allows for more advanced NN3DS-exclusive games which cannot be played on the original Nintendo 3DS/2DS, although New Nintendo 3DS can still be played with all 3DS and most DS/i games. It was released in Japan on October 11, 2014; in Australasia on November 21, 2014; in Europe on February 13, 2015; in North America on February 13, 2015, for the XL version. The smaller version for North America was released on September 25, 2015 bundled with the game . In April 2017, Nintendo announced the New Nintendo 2DS XL, released in Japan on July 13, 2017, and in North America on July 28, 2017. It is a streamlined version of the New Nintendo 3DS XL, with identical screen sizes, but with a thinner build and without stereoscopic 3D.
PlayStation VitaThe PlayStation Vita is the second handheld game console developed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is the successor to the PlayStation Portable as part of the PlayStation brand of gaming devices. It was released in Japan on December 17, 2011 and was released in Europe and North America on February 22, 2012.
The handheld includes two analog sticks, a OLED/LCD multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, and supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and optional 3G. Internally, the PS Vita features a 4-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor and a 4-core SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit, as well as LiveArea software as its main user interface, which succeeds the XrossMediaBar.
The device is backward-compatible with a subset of the PSP and PS One games digitally released on the PlayStation Network via the PlayStation Store. The graphics for PSP releases are upscaled, with a smoothing filter to reduce pixelation.
Lifetime sales of the Vita have not been released by Sony but have been estimated between 15 and 16 million. Sony discontinued the PlayStation Vita on March 1, 2019, and has no plans for a successor.