Sixth Generation Game Console
1978 – 2006
The sixth-generation era is characterized by 32-bit processors or cores. However, after the fifth generation, few referred to consoles by their word length. The exception being in operating systems where 64-bit provides a major improvement in speed and efficiency.
Today’s consoles are not measured by bits or megahertz anymore. For those that feel one console is better than the other, the number of processing cores or graphics processing cores may be mentioned.
However, the true measure o a console today is the killer games released for that console.
A popular game or two can be enough to get people to purchase a platform, as can be seen by such games as Halo and Gears of War.
New Entrant: Microsoft
It is not easy to compare the relative power of the different systems. Many have written papers on how the Sony Playstation 3 is much better and faster than the Xbox 360. However, a lot of this is academic as the Xbox is easier to program for . Moreover, the Xbox 360 being more popular, games re often made for the 360 and then ported over.
Above: Microsoft Xbox game console
That being said, this is about the sixth generation. This is the generation that Microsoft makes their first debut into the gaming market. Many criticized Xbox for the ugly box, which is essentially a home computer in a box.
However, while it had a few issues, Microsoft released the console with the Halo series which help generate millions in sales. The original xbox was so successful that a seventh generation machine was inevitable.
Another huge factor for the Xbox taking off in popularity is Xbox live. SONY provided a free online gaming experience, but Microsoft charged about $60 per year.
Gaming in the new century became a social affair. Game stories became secondary for most games. The focus was no on multiplayer playability and success. Get people hocked on multiplayer and you had a market ready and willing to buy maps and other add ons, getting far more than just $70 per game.
The Microsoft Xbox uses a 32-bit CISC x86 architecture processor, with 64 MB RAM running at 733 MHz. It has a NV2A GPU.
Above: Nintendo Game Cube game console
The Nintendo GameCube is the most compact sixth generation console, but its graphics and power are more akin to the fifth generation console. It’s biggest strength was that it focus on family friendly gaming and social interactions in the home rather than over the networks.
As such, it sold incredibly well.
Moreover, because it did not use state of the art processing and graphics, Nintendo was able to make money off every console, unlike SONY and Microsoft.
The PlayStation 2’s CPU has a 64-bit double precision core based on MIPS architecture. It includes three separate execution units inside the one processor and each one is capable of executing two instructions per cycle.
The PS2’s Graphics Synthesizer has fast dedicated video memory, though it is limited in the amount of data it can hold. Consequently, many of the PS2’s games have reduced textures compared with versions for other consoles.
Above: SONY Playstation Game Console
The Dreamcast has a 64-bit double-precision superscalar SuperH-4 RISC MPU core with a 32-bit integer unit using 16-bit fixed-length instructions, a 64-bit data bus allowing a variable width of either 8, 16, 32 or 64-bits, and a 128-bit floating-point bus.
Above: Sega Dreamcast Game Console
SONY achieve dominance in this generation, but Xbox was right on its heals. The real surprise, though, is how quickly Sega exited the market despite having a good selling console that was well received. I for one had one of these and thought it was great.