Sometimes the argument comes up in the comments section that the “first system to show up for that generation is doomed to failure”. In fact, the idea behind writing this blog is to show that this trend is in fact not true. In fact, through the past 4 iterations (not including this one) there is no pattern between the order of release and the order at which they finish in terms of consoles sold.
Let us begin with a very familiar generation to us all. This is called the 3rd generation of console release. Also known as the 8-bit era, this was kick started with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1983. Following quickly on the heels of the NES was the Super Cassette Vision (released only in North America) in 1984. In fact, the 1983 release date for the NES was only in Japan. The NES did not cross the pacific until 1985. After the NES landed in North America, the Sega Master System followed in June 1986 (and later released in Japan in 1987). The final console to be released in the 8-bit generation was the Atari 7800 in June 1986 (similar to the Master System) and never saw a release in Japan.
I could find no recorded numbers on consoles sold for the Super Cassette Vision and Atari 7800. I think it would be safe to assume they were not successful in the console market.
However the Sega Master System did sell 16 million consoles and the Nintendo Entertainment System sold 60 million consoles. So, the winner of this generation (the NES) was in fact the first console for this generation.
The fourth generation was also known as the 16-bit era. This generation started with the TurboGrafx-16 (in North America) or the PC Engine (elsewhere) in 1987. Following the TurboGrax-16 was the Sega Genesis in 1988. Bringing up the end of console release was the Neo Geo in 1990 and finally the Super Nintendo Entertainment System towards the end of the same year.
In terms of console sales we have the TurboGrax-16 selling 10 million units, the Sega Genesis selling 29 million units and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System selling 49 million units. In this case, the most successful console (the SNES) was released at the very end of that console generation.
The fifth generation known first as the 32-bit era than evolved into the 64-bit era was launched in 1993 with the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer in North America. The UK’s Amiga CD32 followed 3DO’s console in the same month and then the Atari Jaguar at the end of 1993. The Sega Saturn was released in 1994 followed by the PlayStation a month later (December) and finished with the Nintendo 64 in 1996.
There are no record numbers for the Amiga CD32. The 3DO sold 2 million units, the Jaguar only managed a half a million units, the Saturn sold 9.5 million units, the PlayStation sold 102.5 million units and the Nintendo 64 sold a little under 32 million units. In this generation the worst selling console was the first released however, the second to last console to be released was the most successful.
The beginning of the 128-era, or the sixth generation, began in 1998 with the release of the Sega Dreamcast. Sony with the PlayStation 2 followed the Dreamcast’s release in 2000. Bringing up the back end of the console releases was the Nintendo GameCube (September of 2001) and the Microsoft Xbox (November of 2001).
The Dreamcast sold 10.6 million units, the GameCube sold 21.74 million units, the Xbox sold 24 million units, and the PlayStation 2 sold 127 million units. In this case the first release console did do the worst, but the second console released did the best.
So, where do we stand right now in the seventh generation? In 2005 we started with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 followed by Sony’s Playstation 3 in 2006 and followed closely as the final (so far released this generation) console is Nintendo’s Wii also at the end of 2006.
The last released console, the Wii leads the pack with 24.45 million consoles with the first console, the Xbox 360, in second with 19 million consoles and at the end is the PlayStation 3 with 13 million consoles.
For a brief summary:
8-bit Era: NES released 1st
16-bit Era: SNES released 4th (last)
32/64-bit Era: PS released 4th
128-bit Era: PS2 released 2nd
Current Era: Wii released 3rd (last)
8-bit Era: Super Cassette Vision released 2nd & Atari 7800 released 4th (last)
16-bit Era: TurboGrax-16 released 1st
32/64-bit Era: Jaguar released 2nd
128-bit Era: Dreamcast released 1st
Current Era: PlayStation 3 released 2nd
So what can be concluded from the data? That release order and place are in no way and indication of how and where you will finish that generation. There are too many other factors that can determine each console’s success and failure. Hopefully this entry can go a long way in helping dispel those debates that state the first released or last released console will either be the worst or the best (respectively).