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What was the last "REAL" game console?


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I was recently having a discussion with some friends and associates at work about game consoles. During the discussion the recent xbox one and PS4 were being put forth as the "best" game consoles but I threw in that neither was really a game console. I felt that pretty much every console since the original xbox has been a pc in disguise. I would have to say the GBA or N64. Anyone else like to throw in their opinion?

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Why, the Panasonic REAL 3DO of course! ; )

 

But seriously, I would have to say traditional game consoles were replaced right after the PS2/Xbox/Dreamcast era. After that family of systems you really start to see a shift away from a dedicated games machine toward an all purpose entertainment box. At that point the online connectivity was no longer a novelty but an integral part of the experience. You also start to see digital downloading of games become more and more prevalent from the Xbox 360 on. So the basic architecture of the systems and the change in content delivery method (download versus disc) really mark that dividing line for me.

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How many PC-like parts a console has was always a silly distinction to me. If it's designed to be primarily used with a TV and it's called and treated like a console, I'd consider it a console. PS4/Pro, Xbox One/S/X, and Nintendo Switch all qualify, despite the latter also working as a portable (the dock is standard issue and 99% of all games work with a TV).

 

The reality is, the only thing stopping any console from any era from becoming like a "computer" was only the addition of a cartridge, accessory, or add-on. Not every console had something like that made for it, but in theory, they could all have something like it.

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Consoles as far back as the Atari 2600 have always been computers, just computers with simplified user interfaces that were built to do one thing: Run game programs from cartridges or discs. I've always been predominantly a console gamer and really appreciate that simple "Insert cartridge, press power button, pick up controller and have fun." functionality, but I am aware that what's under the hood is just a streamlined computer.

 

Technicalities aside though what makes something a "real" console to me is that it's ability to play games properly is self contained. By that I mean no internet connection required, no update patches to download, etc. Everything you need to enjoy the games to their fullest is contained within the system and cartridges or discs, so that they can be played for generations to come. By those standards the Wii Mini would be the last "real" console, and the DS Lite would be the last "real" handheld.

Edited by Jin
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I was recently having a discussion with some friends and associates at work about game consoles. During the discussion the recent xbox one and PS4 were being put forth as the "best" game consoles but I threw in that neither was really a game console. I felt that pretty much every console since the original xbox has been a pc in disguise. I would have to say the GBA or N64. Anyone else like to throw in their opinion?

 

Lol, yeah that's a bunch of nonsense. Ask a die hard PC gamer if they think the PS4 is a "PC". I'm sure the answer would most likely be a resounding NO!

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Since Ralph Baer invented them then I think that if his patents weren't expired then the ones that would have to pay royalties would be the real ones. I mean, wouldn't the inventor's definition be the authoritative one? Anyway, I think all of today's could get around that hypothetical scenario of paying royalties just by them not displaying the games on CRT TV's.

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The last system that felt special and more of a console than a PC in a custom case was the Dreamcast. Even the Gamecube felt too similar to PS2 and Xbox with the high number of share games. DVD style boxes didn't help.

 

The Dreamcast having several arcade games running on essentially the same hardware dilluted the console experience a bit. Much more so than arcade games running on Saturn hardware, which still felt far below the tech level of the average arcade game at the time.

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Technicalities aside though what makes something a "real" console to me is that it's ability to play games properly is self contained. By that I mean no internet connection required, no update patches to download, etc. Everything you need to enjoy the games to their fullest is contained within the system and cartridges or discs, so that they can be played for generations to come. By those standards the Wii Mini would be the last "real" console, and the DS Lite would be the last "real" handheld.

 

A self-contained set-top-box computer, or laptop, or any emulation rig would fit that definition. Once set up, they don't need the internet. And everything is right there.

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Well, 360, and ps3 were the last ones that COULD work completely independent of any online service. Most the offline games are complete, though might have had a patch at some point. Seriously, I played oblivion, even 100% it (one of the few games I did that on) and years later it gets a patch...what? As near as I can tell, the game was already complete, and the patch just made area load times go from 20~ish seconds to a minute plus, so.

 

No, I don't count the current crop of consoles as 'real' consoles. WAY to dependant on the internet. Hell, Xbox one won't even work without the internet (as a result, it gets played very little, and I have zero intent to acquire more games for it) people say ps4 is just as bad, but I play it daily and haven't been online in several months, so I just don't see it.

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I think of "the last real game console" as the last system that was just a game system. I'm thinking GameCube. That was when systems started to become more multimedia machines or entertainment centers or something. PS2 and XBox played DVDs. A lot of people bought a PS2 because it was a DVD player as a matter of fact. The first DVD I ever watched was The Matrix, and it was played on my PS2 phat. GameCube didn't play DVDs. It had some online capability (in Japan I think), but it was games. I don't think you could "surf the web" on it, could you? Game systems since then (at least mainstream game systems) were all also movie players or could do Netflix or had some form of web browser or something.

 

How closely the internals resembled a computer or whether you hook it up to a TV or a monitor or whether you play the games on cartridges or disks or cassettes or online or whatever are all irrelevant to me. A pure game machine is just that. Just games. And I think the GameCube is the last one to do that.

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I would think the last dedicated mainstream console from birth to death was the Gamecube. It was never intended to do more than just play games. They really never took it online, even with the broadband adapter it worked with like what 2 games? PS2 and Xbox both had hard drives as an option, multiplayer, and a partially(sony) and fully fleshed out online network and a shop. The two also were on the cusp (or within with MS) the realm of releasing broken games because you can fix it up with a download using full price buyers as guinea pigs for free. Also the PS2 and Xbox played DVD movies too when setup for it.

 

Gamecube got hell from the trendy loser nerds of the gaming media who would perpetually textually blow Microsoft how awesome they were with xbox live and Sony with what they did (plus just being dominant) so the Cube ended up a profitable niche that had solid service more than half its life. Yet even in all that high and low it had, it never strayed into mass storage, bandaids, online buffoonery or the rest. It was a dedicated game system only and the only real expansion only added 1000s more games with the GB Player. It was the last dedicated offline entirely game dedicated console on the market from a leader.

 

Wii Mini doesn't count, it was just a fart in the wind after the system was basically done to sell as a budget box to people looking for cheap games new or second hand but the core system was Nintendo getting in on the non-gaming only console racket.

Edited by Tanooki
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I was recently having a discussion with some friends and associates at work about game consoles. During the discussion the recent xbox one and PS4 were being put forth as the "best" game consoles but I threw in that neither was really a game console. I felt that pretty much every console since the original xbox has been a pc in disguise. I would have to say the GBA or N64. Anyone else like to throw in their opinion?

Going by the "PC in disguise" guideline and adjusting for the hardware of the era, the Atari 5200 would have to be disqualified from being a 'real' game console by virtue of the fact that it's essentially a cut-down Atari 400 computer. Ditto the Amstrad GX4000 and Commodore 64GS.

 

Realistically, almost every console ever made has used at least some off-the-shelf componentry shared with computers - and even the PS2 (and, later, the PS3) was capable of running Linux with its manufacturer's blessing.

Edited by x=usr(1536)
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The most current gen systems (PS4 XB1, Switch) are all still real game consoles in my eyes. Each one has physical media you put in to play games. Yes, they go online, and yes, there are downloadable titles, and yes, the media itself even loads differently than before, but whatever, they still play games. I would also consider Steam Box-type devices as consoles.

 

Every game console manufacturer strives to get the upper hand in functionality with the goal of getting people to buy their product. Game console manufacturers since the very beginning have tried to make game consoles versatile and each one had its own gimmicks. There were peripherals for the 2600 that allowed for cassette games to be played (Supercharger) and to play downloadable titles (Gameline). Genesis and PC Engine had CD peripherals that also acted as music players, and the CD-based 32-bit systems did the same. Does that make them stereo systems? A big selling point for me when buying the PS2 back in 2001 was that it was also a DVD player. Did that make it less of a game system?

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I guess I'm not surprised to see people on here complain about newer technology like Internet-connected consoles (radical changes to the way things were done seem to bother some people quite a bit), but I can't see how you can have a modern product that isn't. Sure, updates can be a pain, but whether it's adding features or fixing bugs, it's not really a bad thing considering it's all but impossible to make modern software (and we're not just talking games here, it applies to every type and industry) perfect right out of the gate. I for one wouldn't want a console these days (or most products, really), that didn't rely on connectivity, and in particular, some way to update itself. If the option is there, it should be usable. And I don't want to hear that "it's a crutch" or if the option wasn't there we'd have more bug-free software. I just don't think that's realistic anymore.

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I wasn't complaining about newer tech. I think I was actually changing the question to "Pure" instead of "Real"... Everything since the Gamecube has been some form of multimedia hub... I have friends on Xbox Live who, every time I see them on, they're just watching Netflix. At that point, is it really a game system or a Netflix box that can play games?

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