History of video game consoles (third generation)
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In the history of computer and video games, the third generation (sometimes referred to as the 8-bit era) began on July 15, 1983, with the Japanese release of both the Nintendo Family Computer (later known as the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, in the rest of the world) and Sega SG-1000. This generation marked the end of the North American video game crash of 1983, a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan, and the transition from single-screen or flip-screen graphics to scrolling graphics, which was a pivotal leap in game design.
The best-selling console of this generation was the NES/Famicom (which remained the best-selling home console up until the PlayStation), followed by the Sega Master System (which dominated the European and South American markets) and then the Atari 7800. Although the previous generation of consoles had also used 8-bit processors, it was at the end of this generation that home consoles were first labeled by their "bits". This also came into fashion as 16-bit systems like the Mega Drive/Genesis were marketed to differentiate between the generations of consoles. In the United States, this generation in gaming was primarily dominated by the NES. The end of the 3rd generation of video games comes as 8-bit consoles become obsolete in graphics and processing power compared to 16-bit consoles.
The Family Computer (commonly abbreviated the Famicom) became very popular in Japan during this era, crowding out the other consoles in this generation. The Famicom's Western counterpart, the Nintendo Entertainment System, dominated the gaming market in Japan and North America, thanks in part to its restrictive licensing agreements with developers. This marked a shift in the dominance of home video games from the United States to Japan, to the point that Computer Gaming World described the "Nintendo craze" as a "non-event" for American video game designers as "virtually all the work to date has been done in Japan." Although the NES dominated the market in Japan and North America, Sega's Master System made large inroads in Europe, Oceania and Brazil, where the NES was never able to break its grip. The Atari 7800 also had a fairly successful life in the United States, and the Sharp X68000 began its niche run in Japan in 1987.
Unlike the NES, the SG-1000 initially had very little to differentiate itself from earlier consoles such as the ColecoVision and contemporary computers such as the MSX. Despite the lack of hardware scrolling, Sega's SG-1000 Mark II was able to pull off advanced scrolling effects, including parallax scrolling in Orguss and sprite-scaling in Zoom 909. In 1985, Sega's Master System incorporated hardware scrolling, alongside an increased colour palette, greater memory, pseudo-3D effects, and stereoscopic 3-D, gaining a clear hardware advantage over the NES. However, the NES would still continue to dominate the important North American and Japanese markets, while the Master System would gain more dominance in the emerging European and South American markets.
In the later part of the third generation, Nintendo also introduced the Game Boy, which almost single-handedly solidified and then proceeded to dominate the previously scattered handheld market for 15 years. While the Game Boy product line has been incrementally updated every few years, until the Game Boy Micro and Nintendo DS, and partially the Game Boy Color, all Game Boy products were backwards compatible with the original released in 1989. Since the Game Boy's release, Nintendo had dominated the handheld market. Additionally two popular 8-bit computers, the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC, were repackaged as the Commodore 64 Games System and Amstrad GX4000 respectively, for entry into the console market.
The third generation saw many of the first console role-playing video games (RPGs). Editing and censorship of video games was often used in localizing Japanese games to North America. During this era, many of the most famous video game franchises of all time were founded. Some examples are Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, Metroid, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Castlevania, Phantasy Star, Megami Tensei, Ninja Gaiden, and Bomberman.
The third generation also saw the dawn of the children's educational console market. Although consoles such as the VideoSmarts and ComputerSmarts systems were stripped down to very primitive input systems designed for children, their use of ROM cartridges would establish this as the standard for later such consoles. Due to their reduced capacities, these systems typically were not labeled by their "bits" and were not marketed in competition with traditional video game consoles.
Nintendo versus Sega 
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) / Family Computer (Famicom) sold by far the most units of any third generation console in North America and Asia. This was due to its earlier release, its strong lineup of first-party titles (such as Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid), and Nintendo's strict licensing rules that required NES titles to be exclusive to the console for two years after release. This put a damper on third party support for the other, less popular consoles. However, Sega's Master System was more popular than the NES in Europe, South America, and Oceania, with the latter two markets being first reached by Sega. Many more games for the Master System were released in Europe and Brazil than in North America, and the console had a very long shelf-life in Brazil and New Zealand. In Europe, competition was tough for the NES, which was not as successful as the Master System in those other regions despite the hegemony that it had in the North American and Japanese markets. The industry also started to grow in places west of the Soviet Union, including Lithuania via new programmers trained in that area. The Master System was finally discontinued in the late 1990s but has continued to sell in Brazil through to the present day, while Nintendo of Japan continued to repair Famicom systems until October 31, 2007.
Home systems 
|Name||SG-1000||Family Computer/Nintendo Entertainment System||Mark III/Master System||Atari 7800|
|Media||Cartridge and Cassette (SG-3000)||Cartridge
Floppy disk (Japan only)
|Cartridge and data card||Cartridge|
|Top-selling games||N/A||Super Mario Bros. (pack-in), 40.23 million (as of 1999)
Super Mario Bros. 3, 18 million (as of May 21, 2003)
|Hang-On and Safari Hunt (Pack-In)||Pole Position II (pack-in)|
|Backward compatibility||None||None||Sega SG-1000 (Japanese system only)||Atari 2600|
|CPU||NEC 780C (Zilog Z80 clone)
3.58 MHz for NTSC, 3.55 MHz for PAL
|Ricoh 2A03 (based on
MOS Technology 6502
|NEC 780C (Zilog Z80 clone)
3.57 MHz (3.54 MHz PAL)
|Custom, 6502C (based on
MOS Technology 6502)
|Memory||2 kB Main RAM
16 kB video RAM
|2 KB main RAM
2 KB video RAM
256 bytes sprite RAM
28 bytes palette RAM
|8 KB main RAM
16 KB video RAM
|4 KB main RAM|
32 sprites, maximum of 4 sprites per scanline
|64 sprites (8 per scanline)
25 simultaneous colors
53 color palette
64 sprites (8×8 or 8×16)
32 simultaneous colors
64 color palette
25 simultaneous colors
256 color palette
|Audio||Mono audio with:
||Mono audio with:
||Mono audio with:
||Mono audio with:
Sales comparison 
|Console||Units sold worldwide||Japan||Americas||Elsewhere|
|Nintendo Entertainment System||61.91 million (as of December 2009)||19.35 million (December 2009)||34 million (December 2009)||8.56 million (December 2009)|
|Sega Master System||11.8 million||1 million (1986)||United States: 2 million (1992)
Brazil: 5 million (2012)
|Western Europe: 6.8 million (1993)|
|Atari 7800||3.77 million (December 1990)||Unknown||United States: 2 million (June 1988)||Unknown|
Handheld systems 
Nintendo's Game & Watch series helped to establish handheld gaming as popular and lasted until 1991. Many Game & Watch games would later be re-released on Nintendo's subsequent handheld systems.
Nintendo Game & Watch (Released 1980-1991)
Milestone titles 
- Super Mario Bros. was bundled with the NES and became the best-selling video game of all time, a title it would hold until 2009. Countless imitations of the game would appear for the course of the console generation.
- Dragon Quest introduced the Dragon Quest series in 1986, and has created a phenomenon in Japanese culture ever since.
- Final Fantasy started the Final Fantasy series in 1987. The title stems from the fact that its producer Square was struggling and Hironobu Sakaguchi thought it to be their final title.
- Mega Man 2 was the breakthrough title in Capcom's Mega Man series. The series would have a number of additional hits on the NES, and would later spawn several successful spin-off series.
- Metal Gear initiated the Metal Gear series in 1987. Hideo Kojima’s game represents the birth of the stealth game genre. It was released for the MSX2 computer and ported to the NES shortly after.
See also 
- Travis Fahs. "IGN Presents the History of SEGA: Coming Home". IGN. p. 2. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
- Mark J. P. Wolf, The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond, ABC-CLIO, p. 115, ISBN 0-313-33868-X, retrieved 2011-04-19
- Arnie Katz, Bill Kunkel, Joyce Worley (August 1988), "Video Gaming World", Computer Gaming World (50), p. 44, "I'm sure you've noticed that I've made no reference to the Nintendo craze that has repeated the Atari and Mattel Phenomenon of 8 years ago. That's because for American game designers the Nintendo is a non-event: virtually all the work to date has been done in Japan. Only the future will tell if the design process ever crosses the Pacific as efficiently as the container ships and the letters of credit now do."
- Travis Fahs. "IGN Presents the History of SEGA: World War". IGN. p. 3. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
- "Nintendo's classic Famicom faces end of road". AFP. 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2007-11-09.
- "初代「ファミコン」など公式修理サポート終了". ITmedia News (in Japanese). ITmedia. 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
- RyanDG (2007-10-16). "Nintendo of Japan dropping Hardware support for the Famicom". Arcade Renaissance. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
- "Best-Selling Video Games". Guinness World Records. Archived from the original on 2006-03-17. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "All Time Top 20 Best Selling Games". 2003-05-21. Archived from the original on 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "-Sega Emulation Overview - another overview". retrocopy.com. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- "Consolidated Sales Transition by Region" (PDF). Nintendo. 2010-01-27. Archived from the original on 2010-02-14. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
- "NES". Classic Systems. Nintendo. Archived from the original on 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2007-12-04.
- Forster, Winnie (2005). "Sega SG-1000 & Master System". The Encyclopedia of Game Machines. Magdalena Gniatczynska. pp. 80–81 . ISBN 3-00-015359-4. Retrieved 2011-01-31. "Units sold: 10 Million"
- Buchanan, Levi (2009-03-20). "Genesis vs. SNES: By the Numbers". IGN. Retrieved 2010-03-15. "The Master System sold an anemic 13 million to the NES count of 62 million."
- Nihon Kōgyō Shinbunsha (1986). "Amusement". Business Japan (Nihon Kogyo Shimbun) 31 (7-12): 89. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
- Sheff, David (1993). [[Game Over (book)|Game Over]] (1st ed. ed.). New York: Random House. p. 349. ISBN 0-679-40469-4. Retrieved 16 January 2012. More than one of
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- Théo Azevedo (2012-07-30). "Vinte anos depois, Master System e Mega Drive vendem 150 mil unidades por ano no Brasil" (in Portuguese). jogos.uol.com.br. Retrieved 2012-08-06.
- "Sega Consoles: Active installed base estimates". Screen Digest. Screen Digest. March 1995. p. 60. (cf. here, here, and here)
- Matthew, Matt (May 26, 2009). Atari 7800 Sales Figures (1986 - 1990), Gamasutra.
- "Video Games". Los Angeles Times. June 13, 1988. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- "Getting That "Resort Feel"". Iwata Asks: Wii Sports Resort. Nintendo. p. 4. "As it's sold bundled with the Wii console outside Japan, I'm not quite sure if calling it "World Number One" is exactly the right way to describe it, but in any case it's surpassed the record set by Super Mario Bros., which was unbroken for over twenty years."