20 Best-Selling Consoles Of All Time
With the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One X around the corner, we wanted to look back at the 20 best-selling game consoles of all time.
In addition to looking at sales figures and walking you through some of the tech specs of all of the consoles, we also wanted to see if there was a correlation between processing power and sales numbers. The results may surprise you.
For more relevant console hardware stories, check out:
20. Wii U
Units sold: 13.5 million
Nintendo launched its Wii U console on November 18, 2012. Despite breaking into our top 20 list, the console’s name confused many, as some people mistakenly took it to be an add-on for the Wii. It has sold 13.5 million units, which makes it Nintendo’s lowest-selling major console to date.
The white base model of the Wii U launched for $299 and came with 8GB of storage, but there was also a Deluxe black version that came with 32GB of storage and included a sensor bar. Like the Wii before it, the Wii U wasn’t a graphical powerhouse, but it was the first Nintendo system to support 1080p.
The system’s specs were co-developed by Nintendo, AMD, IBM, and Renesas. The Wii U featured IBM’s Espresso CPU clocked at 1.24GHz, and it was coupled by 2GB of DDR3 RAM. For graphics, AMD developed its Latte GPU clocked at 550MHz.
Internal tech specs aside, arguably the most significant feature of the Wii U was its GamePad. The tablet-like controller featured a 6.2-inch resistive touchscreen along with dual analog sticks, a D-pad, and several face buttons. The GamePad also supported motion controls, haptic feedback, and near-field communication--a feature that allowed users to sync Nintendo’s Amiibo figures to the console.
Competed against: Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One
Notable Games: Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Splatoon, Super Mario Maker, Super Mario 3D World
Units sold: 21.7 million
Nintendo launched the GameCube in Japan on September 14, 2001. In North America, it released three days after the original Xbox on November 18, 2001. The sixth generation of consoles gave Nintendo its stiffest market competition yet. Not only did Sony’s wildly popular PlayStation 2 dwarf the GameCube in sales, but it was also bested by Microsoft’s debut Xbox console. In total, the GameCube sold 21.7 million units.
Despite the moniker, the system wasn’t actually a true cube, with unequal dimensions that measured 5.9x6.3x4.3 inches. Nintendo eventually released several color variants, but the GameCube debuted in two colors: black and a bold indigo hue--the latter gave the console a toyish look. Its built-in handle also added to its kid-centric aesthetic.
Underneath the chassis, the system used IBM’s PowerPC Gekko CPU clocked at 486MHz. It was capable of delivering 1.9 GFLOPS of power. It was based on a simple RISC architecture, which Nintendo implemented in hopes of winning back third-party developers it had lost with the N64. The system also featured 43MB of RAM and used ATI’s Flipper graphics chip clocked at 162MHz. With it, the GameCube was able to output a 640x480p resolution.
While the system was Nintendo’s first console to use optical discs without the need of an add-on device, they were a smaller proprietary format made in partnership with Panasonic. These Game Discs stored up to 1.5GB of data, which were dwarfed by DVDs that offered up to 8.5GB. Piracy concerns continued to be one of the main reasons for the proprietary format. While the comparatively limited storage size wasn’t an issue for many developers, many cross-platform ports had to be compressed or remove features to fit on Game Discs.
Competed against: Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox
Notable Games: Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, Pikmin, Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil 4, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Units sold: 24 million
Microsoft debuted its original big, black, and green Xbox in North America on November 15, 2001. It retailed for $300 and launched within the sixth generation of consoles, which made it the first major gaming system to be created by an American company since the Atari Jaguar.
Prior to its launch, Microsoft's major gaming efforts had been focused on the PC, where its Windows operating system held a monopoly on the market. Arguably the closest the Redmond, Washington-based company had gotten to launching a console was when it developed a custom version of Windows CE for the Sega Dreamcast that supported a version of its DirectX API.
After seeing how Sony's console business was detracting from PC game sales and fearing that the rival company would own the living room with the PlayStation 2, Microsoft decided to release its own system to compete. An early prototype was put together by Microsoft engineers as a side project using Dell laptop parts. Microsoft decided to invest and iterate on this design, which eventually paved the way for the Xbox to use the PC's x86 architecture, which was rare for a console at the time.
The console was equipped with a 32-bit Intel Celeron/Pentium III hybrid CPU clocked at 733MHz. It had 64MB of DDR SDRAM clocked at 200MHz set up in a dual-channel configuration. For its GPU, the Xbox used a custom chip from Nvidia based on the company's GeForce 3 line of graphics cards, and was clocked at 233MHz. The GPU supported Microsoft's DirectX 8 API and was capable of delivering 7.3 gigaflops of performance. Though it supported 32MB memory cards, it also came with an 8GB hard drive, which was a costly investment for the company at the time. This made it the first console to include a built-in HDD.
While developers generally agree that the Xbox was more powerful than the competing GameCube and PlayStation 2, few third-party ports took advantage of the extra processing power. It ended up selling over 24 million units, which allowed it to edge out Nintendo's system. Though it came in second that generation and established a reputation for the company in the console space, it was sold at a loss, and greatly fell short of matching the sales of the PS2, which sold over 155 million units. Despite major efforts by Microsoft, the console struggled in Japan, with some figures estimating it sold roughly half a million systems. Compared to the competition, the Xbox became a haven for more western games and first-person shooters, the latter of which were relatively rare on consoles.
Competed Against: Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube
Notable Games: Conker Live and Reloaded, Dead or Alive 3, Fable, Forza Motorsport, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, MechAssault, Ninja Gaiden, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Project Gotham Racing, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
17. Xbox One
Units sold: 26 million (estimate)
Microsoft entered the eighth generation of consoles on November 22, 2013. The Xbox One launched at $500, with the company pitching it as the ultimate entertainment system and bundling every unit with a second-generation Kinect. While Microsoft originally asserted that the Kinect was an integral part of the experience and made it a requirement to be plugged in at all times, the company eventually offered a cheaper $400 SKU on June 9, 2014 that omitted the sensor to be more competitive with Sony's $400 PS4 console.
Unlike the Xbox 360 before it, the Xbox One moved back to the PC's x86 instruction set. The console uses AMD's custom Jaguar accelerated processing unit, which features two quad-core modules clocked at 1.75GHz. The system uses AMD's Durango integrated graphics solution based on the company's Radeon HD 7000 series GPUs. Durango is clocked at 853MHz and is capable of delivering 1.31 teraflops of performance. For memory, the Xbox One uses 8GB of shared DDR3 RAM clocked at 2133MHz, but it also offers 32MB of faster ESRAM embedded onto the APU. The console is generally seen as being slightly weaker than the competing PS4, which doesn't use any ESRAM but features 8GB of the fast GDDR5 memory. Some third-party ports run at a lower native resolution than on Sony's system.
Piggybacking on the success of the 360 as a multimedia device, Microsoft heavily pushed the console's multimedia functionality and added the ability to record and stream gameplay. The original operating system ran a stripped-down version of Windows 8 that was based on the OS' tile-based design language. The user interface initially received a lot of criticism for being unintuitive. It received many updates over the years, and in 2016, it added Cortana voice support.
Microsoft is keeping Xbox One sales numbers close its its chest, but recent industry estimates peg it at around 26 million units sold.
Competing Against: Sony PlayStation 4, Sony PlayStation 4 Pro, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch
Notable Games: Forza Horizon 2, Forza Horizon 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Forza Motorsport 6, Gears of War 4, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Halo 5: Guardians, Inside, Minecraft, Ori and the Blind Forest, Sunset Overdrive
16. Atari 2600
Units sold: 30 million
The Atari 2600 was released on September 11, 1977, which makes it the oldest gaming system on our list. It was a part of the second generation of consoles and sold roughly 30 million units until it was discontinued 15 years later in 1992.
The system launched at $199 and helped popularize the microprocessor and ROM cartridges. It used an 8-bit MOS Technology 6507 CPU clocked at 1.19MHz coupled with 128 bytes of RAM.
Competed against: Fairchild Channel F, ColecoVision, Bally Astrocade, Magnavox Odyssey, Intellivision
Notable Games: Combat, Pac-Man, Air-Sea Battle, Star Ship, Street Racer, Pitfall, Atlantis, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
15. Sega Genesis
Units sold: 30.7 million
Originally released on October 29, 1989 as the Mega Drive in Japan, Sega sold over 30 million units of its third console.
The hardware for the Genesis was inspired from Sega’s work in the arcade space. It had two CPUs with its primary processor being Motorola’s 68000 processor, which was coupled with a Zilag Z80 chip.
The Sega Genesis didn’t sell nearly as well as its rival Super Famicom console in Japan, but it fared better internationally. Its success was in large part due to the fact that it supported over 900 games, including Sega’s own popular Sonic the Hedgehog series.
Competed Against: Super Nintendo, TurboGrafx-16, Neo Geo
Notable Games: Earthworm Jim, Sonic series, Altered Beast, Ecco the Dolphin, Joe Montana Football, Mortal Kombat
14. Nintendo 64
Units sold: 32.9 million
The Nintendo 64 launched in Japan on June 23, 1996. The console debuted in North America for $199.99 that September. Facing stiff competition from Sony and its PlayStation console, which had released a year and a half earlier in Japan, the N64 didn’t perform as well as its predecessor and sold 32.9 million units worldwide.
As the name implies, the console used a 64-bit processor, specifically NEC’s VR4300 CPU clocked at 93.75MHz. The N64 launched with 4MB of Rambus RDRAM, but the console had an expansion slot that would later allow players to double the memory with an Expansion Pak. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and Donkey Kong 64 required it. For graphics, the console used SGI’s Reality Co-processor clocked at 62.5MHz. The system was able to support up to 16.8 million colors and resolutions up to 640x480.
With its computing horsepower, the N64 helped pave the way for modern 3D graphics and redefined polygonal 3D games with titles like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
While the N64 was more powerful than the PlayStation in many ways, it was ultimately held back by its cartridge format, which couldn’t compete with Sony’s competing 650MB CD-ROM solution. For reference, the largest N64 cartridge was 64MB, and most of them were between 8-12MB. Nintendo was concerned that piracy would run rampant with CD-ROMs. However, the limited cartridge format pushed away many third-party developers--most notably Squaresoft, which wanted to make large-scale games like Final Fantasy VII that required a lot of storage space to house full-motion video. Nintendo’s cartridges also took a long time to produce and were expensive. As a result, games often retailed for $70 or more. One advantage cartridges had over CDs, however, were near-nonexistent load times.
The N64 was one of the first consoles to support four controller ports without the need of a multitap adapter. The system ended up becoming a local multiplayer party machine because of this and produced iconic titles like Super Smash Bros., Mario Party, and GoldenEye: 007, the last of which proved that consoles could produce competent first-person shooters--a genre nearly exclusive to the PC up until then.
Competed against: Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn
Notable Games: Super Mario 64, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Donkey Kong 64, GoldenEye: 007, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Super Smash Bros., Star Fox 64, Mario Party series, Wave Race 64, Perfect Dark, Paper Mario
13. Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Units sold: 49.1 million
Nintendo released its Western variant of the Super Famicom in North America on August 23, 1991 and rebranded it the Super Nintendo. The underlying specs were the same, and the SNES launched for $199. It didn’t sell quite as well as the NES before it worldwide, but it gained traction in Europe, where its predecessor wasn’t widely available. Overall, the system became the best-selling console of its generation and moved 49.1 million units.
The SNES used a Ricoh 5A22 CPU clocked at 3.58MHz. The modest processor was powerful enough to simulate 3D effects with Nintendo’s Mode 7 graphics system, which allowed the background layer of games to be rotated and scaled on a scanline-by-scanline basis. The processor also allowed the system to produce up to 32,768 colors. For audio, Nintendo used an S-SMP audio processing unit, which provided up to eight audio channels. Compared to the NES before it, the SNES used more advanced cartridges that could store up to 120Mb of data.
Competed against: TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Genesis
Notable Games: Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy VI, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Star Fox, EarthBound, Mega Man X, Super Mario Kart, Street Fighter II, F-Zero, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG
12. Nintendo Entertainment System
Units sold: 61.9 million
The Famicom ultimately released in the United States as the Nintendo Entertainment System on October 18, 1985, with a starting price of $299. It was Nintendo’s first home console to release outside of Japan.
The NES eventually helped pull the North American video game industry out of a two-year crash and was a big success. The system sold more than 61.9 million units, and was bolstered by notable games like the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros series, making it the best-selling console of its generation.
Competed against: Atari 7800, Sega Master System
Notable Games: The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Super Marios Bros. series, Duck Hunt, Mega Man franchise, Castlevania, Final Fantasy, Contra
11. PlayStation 4
Units sold: 63.3 million
Sony released the PlayStation 4 in North America on November 15, 2013, and it sold one million units within its first day, making it the fastest-selling console in a 24-hour period to date. To date, it’s the best-selling console of the eighth generation.
The PS4 marked the first time Sony would release a console with a CPU based on the x86 instruction set, which is the same processor architecture that gaming PCs use. Specifically, it uses an 8-core AMD x86-64 Jaguar CPU clocked at 1.6GHz along with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, which it shares with its integrated AMD Radeon GPU.
Competed Against: Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Xbox One
Notable games: Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Bloodborne, Infamous: Second Son, Until Dawn, Horizon Zero Dawn
10. Nintendo 3DS
Units sold: 67 million
Nintendo released the 3DS in Japan on February 26, 2011. The handheld sold over 67 million units, which allows it to break into our top 10 list. It was a follow-up to Nintendo’s DS and was backwards compatible with it, but pushed stereoscopic 3D without requiring users wear glasses.
The 3DS competed against Sony’s PlayStation Vita. While it launched at $249, Nintendo dropped its price to $169 less than six months later after disappointing sales. The company provided ten free NES and Game Boy Advance games from its eShop to those who purchased the 3DS at its initial price.
Competed Against: PlayStation Vita
Notable Games: Pokémon X and Y, Pokémon Sun and Moon, Mario Kart 7, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario 3D Land, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
9. Game Boy Advance
Units sold: 81.5 million
Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance in Japan on March 21, 2001. The 32-bit handheld was roughly as powerful as the SNES and was backwards compatible with the Game Boy and Game Boy Color that preceded it.
The GBA was able to keep portable competitors like the Neo Geo Pocket Color and N-Gage at bay by selling over 81 million units throughout its life.
Competed Against: Neo Geo Pocket Color, N-Gage
Notable Games: Super Mario Advance series, Final Fantasy VI Advance, The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Metroid Fusion, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Advance Wars, Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Units sold: 82 million
Sony released its PlayStation Portable to compete with the Nintendo DS on December 12, 2004. While it wasn’t as popular as the DS, which released earlier that year, it proved to be Nintendo’s most formidable opponent in the handheld market. The PSP sold over 80 million units until it was discontinued in 2014.
It was more than just a gaming handheld and featured multimedia capabilities with online connectivity that allowed it to double as a video player. It was also the first (and last) handheld to use optical discs.
Competed against: Nintendo DS
Notable Games: God of War: Chains of Olympus, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, God of War: Ghosts of Sparta, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Dissidia Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
7. PlayStation 3
Units sold: 83.8 million (estimate?)
First released on November 11, 2006 in Japan (followed a week later by its North American debut), the PlayStation 3 sold more than 83 million units worldwide and competed against Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. Launching at $599.99, it was the most expensive system of its era, but it was the first console to have a Blu-ray drive and was priced cheaper than most standalone Blu-ray players when it launched.
At the heart of the PS3 was its proprietary Cell processor. Sony designed the chip in partnership with Toshiba and IBM. However, the CPU became controversial among developers due to how difficult it was to program. The Cell featured seven cores and was clocked at 3.2GHz. The PS3’s graphics used Nvidia’s RSX Reality Synthesizer GPU, which featured 256MB of VRAM and clocked in at 550MHz. The PS3 was also the first PlayStation system to support HDMI and 1080p output.
Initial versions of the PS3 were backward compatible with PS2 games, but that was because Sony physically incorporated a PS2 processor inside the chassis. To cut costs, Sony later removed this feature shortly after launch.
Competed against: Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360
Notable games: The Last of Us, Uncharted 2/3, LittleBigPlanet, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, God of War III
6. Xbox 360
Units sold: 84 million
Microsoft released its second console in North America on November 22, 2005, roughly a year before its PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii competitors. The Xbox 360 came in two SKUs at launch. The higher-end Pro Edition came with a 20GB hard drive and retailed for $400, but Microsoft also wanted to offer a cheaper model that hit a $300 price point and released the Core model as a result. This SKU lacked a hard drive, which caused some confusion among game developers who weren’t initially sure how to design games around this fragmented constraint. Users could purchase and add an optional Xbox hard drive to the console, however.
Over its lifespan, Microsoft's second console drastically outperformed its freshman effort, and sold over 84 million units worldwide. It continued to underperform in Japan, however, with estimates suggesting that it sold roughly 1.5 million units. Despite struggling in the land of the rising sun, it remains Microsoft's best-selling system to date.
The Xbox 360 moved away from the x86 architecture that the original console used. Microsoft instead opted to go with an IBM PowerPC solution. Its triple-core, six-thread CPU was codenamed Xenon and was clocked at 3.2GHz. After getting over a legal payment dispute with Nvidia over the original Xbox's GPU, Microsoft decided to go with ATI for its graphics. The 360 used a custom solution codenamed Xenos that was based on the manufacturer's Radeon X1800 graphics card. For memory, the system used 512MB of shared GDDR3 RAM clocked at 700MHz. While the memory was a very costly investment for Microsoft at the time, the company met with studios like Epic Games to see what games like Gears of War would need to properly run. The console supported DirectX 9 and developers generally saw the Xbox 360 as being easier to program for than the PS3 with its complicated Cell processor. Multiplatform games on the system tended to look better on the 360 as a result.
The 360 eventually became a popular living room entertainment center. It supported burgeoning streaming services like Netflix and also allowed users to stream media from local PCs on the network. It supported CDs, DVDs, and the now-defunct HD DVD standard via an optional add-on accessory.
While the 360 achieved great success for Microsoft, early models were plagued by what gamers would refer to as the Red Ring of Death, highlighted by the fact that a red LED ring would appear on the console to signal an overheating issue. It was such a pervasive problem that it ended up destroying systems. Users ended up coming up with ridiculous fixes that included baking the console's motherboard in ovens. This pushed Microsoft to spend over a billion dollars to extend the console's warranty by three years.
Competed Against: Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii
Notable Games: Blue Dragon, Crackdown, Dead or Alive 4, Gears of War, Gears of War 2, Gears of War 3, Halo 3, Halo: Reach, Halo 4, Kameo, Lost Odyssey, Viva Piñata
Units sold: 101.6 million
Nintendo released its Wii console on November 19, 2006. With it, Nintendo popularized motion controls with its Wii Remote and Nunchuck controllers. The Bluetooth peripherals detected movement in three dimensions using built-in accelerometers coupled with an infrared detection sensor.
Wii Sports was praised as a great showpiece for Nintendo’s motion controllers, and outside Japan, the game was bundled with the system.
The console was codenamed Revolution, which appropriately signaled a new design philosophy for Nintendo. The company believed that there wasn’t enough room for three consoles vying for top-tier processing power, so Nintendo attempted to cast a wider net and marketed the Wii toward a more casual audience. The new strategy paid off financially, and the Wii became a colossal sales success. Not only did Nintendo buck its downward console trend, but it sold more than 101 million units worldwide, making it Nintendo’s best-selling non-portable console to date.
Compared to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it was far from a technical powerhouse with its IBM PowerPC Broadway CPU and 88MB of memory. Its ATI Hollywood GPU also wasn’t very powerful and relegated the system to 480p. It was Nintendo’s first console to support backwards compatibility.
Competed against: Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3
Notable Games: Wii Sports, Mario Kart Wii, Super Paper Mario, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Super Mario Galaxy series, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Units sold: 102.4 million
The original PlayStation launched in Japan on December 3, 1994. It became the first video game console to ship more than 100 million units. It’s a part of the fifth generation of game consoles and competed against the Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 in the mid-’90s.
The catalyst for the console actually spawned from a failed partnership with Nintendo, when Sony was in talks with building an add-on for the Super Nintendo. The PlayStation would go on to feature a dual-speed CD-ROM drive, a one-core CPU that had 2MB of RAM along with 1MB of video RAM with graphics that could deliver up to 360,000 polygons per second.
The original PlayStation played a pivotal role in transitioning the industry away from 2D graphics to real-time 3D rendering. Its use of the compact disc format also allowed it to push high-fidelity full-motion video, something the competing N64 struggled to do with its space-limited cartridges.
Competed against: Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64
Notable games: Resident Evil series, Tekken series, Dead or Alive, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy VII/VIII/IX, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid, Crash Bandicoot, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, Gran Turismo, Chrono Cross, Spyro the Dragon, PaRappa the Rapper
3. Game Boy/Game Boy Color
Units sold: 118.6 million
Inspired by Nintendo’s own NES and Game & Watch portable handhelds, Nintendo released the original Game Boy in Japan on April 21, 1989. The 8-bit handheld competed against Sega’s Game Gear.
While it originally released as a monochrome system, a Game Boy Color SKU eventually came out in 1998, which offered 15-bit color. Combined, both variants sold over 118 million units.
Competed against: Sega Game Gear
Notable Games: Super Mario Land, Pokémon series, Tetris, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Metroid II: Return of Samus, Donkey Kong Land
Units sold: 154 million
Nintendo released its 32-bit DS portable handheld on November 21, 2004. It featured dual LCD screens with a clamshell design. The bottom screen acted as a touchscreen and the device featured a built-in mic and wireless connectivity support.
Despite facing formidable competition from Sony and its PSP, the Nintendo DS managed to sell over 154 million units, which makes it the best selling handheld system to date.
Competed against: Sony PlayStation Portable
Notable Games: Super Mario 64 DS, Diddy Kong Racing DS, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Pokémon Platinum, Guitar Hero: On Tour, New Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart DS, The World Ends with You, The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, Animal Crossing: Wild World, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
1. PlayStation 2
Units sold: 155 million
First released in Japan on March 4, 2000, the PlayStation 2 has become the best-selling console to date, selling more than 155 million units over a 12-year span. The PS2 is a part of the sixth generation of consoles and competed with the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo’s GameCube, and Microsoft’s Xbox. Ultimately, the PS2’s leg up on the competition was its sheer library size--the console produced well over 2,000 games.
The PS2 launched with its Emotion Engine CPU, which was a one-core processor clocked at 294.9MHz. It featured 32MB of system RAM and 4MB of video RAM. The console was backward compatible with most PS1 games, which was a rare feature at the time. It was also the first console to support DVDs--which, in addition to enabling games with larger assets, allowed the PS2 to play DVD movies.
Competed against: Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox
Notable games: Final Fantasy X, Devil May Cry, Suikoden series, Metal Gear Solid 2/3, Twisted Metal Black, Silent Hill series, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper, Kingdom Hearts I/II, Katamari Damacy, God of War I/II, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
The chart above plots out the 20 best-selling consoles. Nintendo’s 10 systems make up half the list. It is important to note that Nintendo has been in the gaming hardware business longer than every other company on this list.
While Sony is in second place with five systems, its consoles sell 97.3 million units on average, which is higher than Nintendo’s 70.1 million equivalent.
Now to answer an important question: Do the most powerful consoles sell the best? As it turns out, the reverse seems to be more true.
Starting from the fifth generation of consoles, which dove into the 3D era with the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64; it’s debatable as to which gaming system was more technically capable. The N64 is newer and has a faster CPU and more RAM, but it was held back by its limited cartridge format. We’d probably give the N64 the slight nod here if we had to choose. Despite this, the PS1 was able to outsell the N64 by a factor of 3.1x.
Moving onto the sixth generation of consoles, the PS2 was older and slower than its GameCube and Xbox rivals, but was able to sell better than both consoles combined...and then multiplied by three.
Nintendo was able to take the hardware sales lead when it came to the seventh generation of consoles with its Wii, which was also weaker than the competing Xbox 360 and PS3 systems.
This trend, where the weaker system outsells the more powerful one, also persisted in the handheld space. For instance, the Nintendo DS outsold the PSP, and the Nintendo 3DS outsold the PS Vita.
The PS4 bucked this trend in the eighth generation by outselling the slightly less powerful Xbox One. Still, when we look at historical data, there isn’t a strong positive correlation between how powerful a console is with how well it sells. The data suggests that releasing early into a console generation has a greater positive influence on sales. The only example that bucks this trend here is with the Wii, which came out after the Xbox 360 and PS3. This could be partly due to the fact that it was a novel console that featured new motion-tracked controllers, which helped pull in a larger non-gaming audience.
Regardless, what’s your favorite console? Let us know in the comments below.