Useful Notes: The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games

The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games was a time of the maturing of the video game industry. It was a time when many trends were started that would reach their height in the Seventh Generation.

The first out of the gate this time was Sega. The Sega Dreamcast was touted for its online features, with online play and downloadable games, as well as reviving the Sonic the Hedgehog series that was strangely on hiatus during the fifth generation.note  However, Sony, fresh off a victory in last generation's Console Wars, was gearing up to release the PlayStation 2. The hype surrounding this console, as well as many dubious or bad decisions on Sega's part in previous generations leaving them with a shaky public opinion, led to insufficient sales to keep Sega afloat, leading to the quick end of the Dreamcast in early 2001† , and the former console maker going third-party.

Software giant Microsoft made the surprising announcement that they were going to enter the video game industry with a console based on PC hardware: the Xbox. It released shortly after the Dreamcast's demise, in November 2001. Coming in a scant few days later was Nintendo with the GameCube (typically given the acronym "GCN"), their first console to use optical discs, albeit based on mini-DVDs rather than the standard 8-inch size used by the other consoles.

It was in this generation that Multi-Platform games started to become much more common. Unlike previous generations, the consoles were much more alike in terms of their basic design philosophies and capabilities, so games could now be more easily produced for the PS2, Xbox, and GCN all at once, though this was later often reduced to PS2 and Xbox due to Nintendo's "kiddie" reputation and the GameCube's low memory capacity on its disks.note  Multiplatform releases in this generation generally tended to fall into two categories – those which were designed with the PS2 in mind and only slightly upgraded for the other two consoles, and those which were designed with the GCN and/or Xbox in mind and later downsampled for the PS2 (Resident Evil 4 being the biggest example). Fortunately for Sony, the former type examples of Multiplatform games vastly outnumbered the latter types, meaning that the gulf in capabilities between its console and the other two generally wasn't obvious, though the examples of the latter type did lead to the system suffering its share of Porting Disasters.

Despite its deficiencies, the PS2 was the undisputed "winner" of this generation (the most lopsided victory since the original NES), due in large part to Sony's decision to include DVD-playback capabilities within the console's hardware. This resulted in the system being purchased by many people who did not necessarily care about the vast library of games, but wanted a DVD player they could justify spending money on.

Online gaming for consoles emerged in this era. Online gaming was already prevalent on PCs, and there were some early experiments with online with the Satellaview for the Super Famicom and the Nintendo 64-DD, but this generation saw the rise of online gaming as a standard for consoles. The Sega Dreamcast was noted for its highly detailed online services that were ahead of its time… but, as mentioned above, the Dreamcast's short lifespan rendered it Too Good to Last. The most successful online system of the sixth generation was Xbox Live, which was supported by several games both first-party and third-party because of its ease of setup. Its success spurred Sony to boost support for the PS2's online features, which didn't do as well as Xbox Live but still did reasonably well. Nintendo also had the intention of entering the online space with the GameCube, using a broadband and modem adapter for this purpose instead of built-in features. Unfortunately, it was discovered rather quickly that the cable could be used to hack into the GameCube, leading to piracy. Nintendo, having a long-standing fear of piracy, responded by sweeping the adapter into obscurity and releasing an Updated Re-release of the game that made hacking possible: Phantasy Star Online. Thus, the GameCube was rendered as the only console of the generation without online features.

In this generation, teenagers and young adults (rather than children) became the majority demographic for video games. The industry as a whole had already been undergoing a steady shift towards Darker and Edgier since the 16-bit era, but it was this generation where demographics really changed. Dark and violent video games like God of War, Resident Evil 4, and Grand Theft Auto redefined the medium as primarily for the older crowd rather than for kids. Nintendo's reputation (particularly with the nascent gaming press) for being the "uncool kid's game company" put them in a bad position because of these trends, which wasn't helped by the GameCube's toylike appearance. Sony and Microsoft, on the other hand, developed a more "core" reputation (and their subsequent adoration by the press) because of the many darker games released on their consoles.

Genre-wise, this generation is notable in that, at least initially, there was no genre that absolutely "defined" the era. Games from all sorts of genres, from Action Game, to Action Adventure, to Platform Game, to RPG, to Sports game, to Third-Person Shooter, and even several that didn't fit any established genre saw equal measure of success. This lead to the Sixth Generation being the most diverse era in terms of game variety… that is, until Halo happened partway through the generation, spawning countless imitators and leading to the massive popularity and dominance (at least in the West) of the First-Person Shooter at the end of this generation, which carried over even more so into the next era.

Lastly, on the handheld front, Nintendo's Game Boy Advance dominated the market, being essentially a portable Super Nintendo. When compared to the non-portable consoles of the era it lagged only behind the Playstation 2 in terms of sales. It would be Nintendo's last 2D system, and the last of the Game Boys (notably backwards compatible to even games for the first Game Boy, at least in its original model), as it would be replaced by the Nintendo DS.

Consoles of this era

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    New IPs of this era 

    Games of older IPs 

Alternative Title(s):

Sixth Generation, The Sixth Generation Of Console Video Games