Next Generation: 1998–Present
The current generation of video games continues to push the envelope in terms of graphics, performance, and game play. The major players continue to be Sony and Nintendo, with one significant newcomer: Microsoft.
Sega upped the video game ante in 1999 with the release of its Dreamcast system. Incorporating a 128-bit microprocessor and 26MB memory, the Dreamcast ran on Microsoft's Windows CE platform. Dreamcast had strong sales until Sony's release of its Playstation 2; continuing financial problems led Sega to discontinue production in March 2001.
Sony Playstation 2
Building on the success of the first-generation Playstation, Sony released the Playstation 2 (PS2), powered by a 128-bit "Emoticon Engine" microprocessor and 32MB memory. In the first two days of its March 2000 Japanese launch, Sony sold more than 1 million units. Released in the United States in October 2000, the $200 console sold out its initial run of 500,000 units within a matter of hours. Three years after the PS2's launch, worldwide console sales had reached 60 million units, making it the dominant video game system in the current market. In late 2004, Sony introduced a new version of the original PS2 in a smaller, slimmer box.
Microsoft entered the video game market in November 2001 with its widely anticipated Xbox system. The Xbox incorporated a 733MHz Pentium III microprocessor, 64MB RAM, a 10GB hard drive, and built-in Ethernet support. Microsoft initially shipped 1.1 million units to retailers; in its first two years of release, almost 10 million units were sold worldwide.
Also released in November 2001 was Nintendo's latest game system, the GameCube. Priced at $199, $100 less than Xbox, the GameCube was Nintendo's first noncartridge system, instead running small-diameter CD-ROM discs. Nintendo sold more than 500,000 GameCubes in the first week of release; after two years on the market, total worldwide sales reached 13 million units.