History Of Video Game Consoles (Fourth Generation)

It was during 1982-1984 that a crash had come about in the video gaming industry. But, this was followed by a revival, and a new generation of game units was herein introduced. This was the fourth generation of video game consoles, in an era that lasted from 1985-1989.

The powering force behind this revival was two remarkable technical innovations. One was higher-power 8-bit microprocessors and the other was memory chips that were now available at more affordable costs.

With these developments in place, game designers were empowered to come up with home video game consoles. The remarkable feature of these consoles was that they could now stand in competition with arcades, in the terms of the quality that they delivered to the video games.

Top video gaming systems of the fourth generation

  1. Nintendo Entertainment System

It was in 1983 that in Japanese market, Nintendo bought the Famicon (“family computer”) video game system. The console clocked some great sales and was loved by the public. In the first year itself, they sold 2.5 million units. Next, Nintendo was in the process of negotiating with Atari for distributing the system across the United States of America. The negotiations never came across success. But, Nintendo, then, took up the initiative by itself to distribute the system across the United States. They undertook the activities under the name of Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

It was on an 8-bit Motorola 6502 microprocessor that the $199 NES was based on. The shipping of $199 NES was conducted with a version of Super Mario Bros, the popular arcade game. Several NESs were sent over into the New York markets just before the Christmas of 1985. But, it was only in early 1986 that the distribution was initiated at a national level.

In the first two years following the release, Nintendo sold over 3 million units of NES. One of the estimations is that across the entire product life of NES, over 65 million NES consoles were globally sold. The number of cartridges sold stood at an astonishing 500 million.

  1. Atari 7800

Atari’s fortunes were on the downstream while the fourth generation of video gaming consoles lasted. They wanted to turn their fortunes, and hence, in 1986, came up with the Atari 7800 ProSystem. It was most unfortunate that the technology of the 7800 was outdated. The unit was initially intended to be released in 1984. But a development caused the plans to be shelved. The company was sold off to Jack Tramiel, the Commodore founder by Warner Communications. Atari 7800 failed to effectively compete in the fourth-generation gaming systems.

  1. Sega Master System

Sega Master System (SMS) was first released across the United States in 1989 and featured two cartridge ports, one for the standard cartridge and the other for a credit card-shaped cartridge. Both ports were simultaneously usable. Some games called for the use of 3D glasses.

  1. Nintendo Gameboy

Nintendo Gameboy was the first programmable handheld game system released in 1989 and was priced at $100. With a black and white screen, the Gameboy came loaded with a Tetris cartridge. Gameboy is the all-time bestselling videogame.


The fourth generation of consoles was a superb achievement, even though it came at a cost. The idea behind the designing of these units was to replicate what arcades offered, but were priced at much lesser rates. One can safely assume that the consumer base was overwhelmed by the new arrivals, and this is what led to the close of the arcade industry.

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