Ranked: The Best-Selling Video Game Consoles of All Time
Ranked: The Best-Selling Video Game Consoles of All Time
In 1972, the first-ever commercially available home video game console hit the market—the Magnavox Odyssey. Players of the Odyssey had a choice between two built-in games that were stored directly in the device, and would use a joystick and dials as a controller.
Video game consoles have come a long way since then, and the console market has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry that’s expected to reach $72.67 billion in value by the end of 2022.
This graphic by Enrique Mendoza uses data from VGChartz to show the market leaders in the industry, by highlighting the top-selling video consoles of all time, as of May 8, 2022.
Nine Generations of Video Game Consoles
Before diving into the top-selling consoles, it’s worth taking a step back to touch on the evolution of home consoles to show how they’ve changed over the years.
We dug into the literature on the history of video game consoles, and found that most articles and blog posts on the topic cite nine different generations of devices.
Here’s a breakdown of each generation, and some of their most noteworthy systems:
1972: Gen One, Where it Began
Consoles in the first generation had pre-built games that were stored directly on the device. They include the Magnavox Odyssey and Atari’s Pong.
1976: Gen Two Emerges
In this generation, games were sold separately, rather than programmed into the device. Consoles of this gen include the Fairchild Channel F and the Atari 2600.
1983: Gen Three, the “8-bit Generation”
This era’s consoles typically had 8-bit processes which allowed for more advanced graphics for the time. A few notable consoles during this gen were the Sega SG-1000 and the Nintendo Famicom, released outside Japan as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
1987: Gen Four Elevates Handheld Gaming
Home consoles were released with 16-bit systems, meaning that audio and graphics improved even more in this era. But an arguably bigger moment for this gen was the emergence of the Nintendo Game Boy.
1993: The 3D Start of Gen Five
This generation saw the move away from pixels and towards 3D polygons. Some consoles like the Sony PlayStation started using CD-ROMs instead of cartridges, which stored more data at a cheaper cost and changed the industry.
1998: Gen Six and the Internet
At the start of this generation, the three major players in the console space were Sony, Sega, and Nintendo. By the end, Sega would be replaced with Microsoft as it launched the Xbox and helped popularize online console gaming.
2005: HD Graphics and Motion Controls of Gen Seven
On one side of the market, Microsoft and Sony were competing with high-definition graphics, faster processers, and different forms (Blu-rays or DVDs). But Nintendo’s motion-sensing Nintendo Wii arguably defined this generation, and the handheld Nintendo DS swept the market as well.
2012: Gen Eight’s Modern Consoles
Consoles of this era started having increased connectivity and processing power, with full HD an expectation. It was also an extremely long generation, starting with Nintendo’s unsuccessful Wii U and ending with the ultra-successful Nintendo Switch, widely considered the first hybrid console with three different ways to play: TV mode, handheld mode, or tabletop mode.
2020: Gen Nine and Beyond
So far, this generation has brought upgraded graphics (up to 8K resolution), larger games, and game-streaming capabilities. Devices in this gen include the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, which both use solid state drives to increase speed and performance, while Nintendo has yet to introduce a 9th generation device.
The Best-Selling Game Consoles
The best-selling video game console of all time is Sony’s PlayStation 2 (PS2). More than 157 million systems have been sold around the world since its launch in March 2000.
|Rank||Console||Manufacturer||Global lifetime sales (millions)|
|1||PlayStation 2 (PS2)||Sony||157.68|
|2||Nintendo DS (DS)||Nintendo||154.90|
|3||Game Boy (GB)||Nintendo||118.69|
|4||PlayStation 4 (PS4)||Sony||116.97|
|5||Nintendo Switch (NS)||Nintendo||107.21|
|7||Nintendo Wii (Wii)||Nintendo||101.64|
|8||PlayStation 3 (PS3)||Sony||87.41|
|9||Xbox 360 (X360)||Microsoft||85.8|
|10||Game Boy Advance (GBA)||Nintendo||81.51|
|11||PlayStation Portable (PSP)||Sony||81.09|
|12||Nintendo 3DS (3DS)||Nintendo||75.95|
|13||Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)||Nintendo||61.91|
|14||Xbox One (XOne)||Microsoft||50.57|
|15||Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)||Nintendo||49.10|
|16||Nintendo 64 (N64)||Nintendo||32.93|
|17||Sega Genesis (GEN)||Sega||29.54|
|18||Atari 2600 (2600)||Atari||27.64|
|21||PlayStation 5 (PS5)||Sony||19.32|
|22||PlayStation Vita (PSV)||Sony||16.21|
|23||Xbox Series X/S (XS)||Microsoft||14.32|
|24||Nintendo Wii U (WiiU)||Nintendo||13.97|
|26||Sega Saturn (SAT)||Sega||8.82|
|28||Atari 7800 (7800)||Atari||4.30|
Despite the fact the PS2’s been discontinued since 2013, no other gaming console has managed to top it—in fact, the next closest actively-sold consoles, the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, are each more than 40 million units behind.
One major factor for the PS2’s success was its built-in DVD player. At the time, DVD players were very expensive, and in many places a PS2 was a cheaper and effective alternative. It was also one of the first devices to be “backward compatible,” meaning users could play most of their PS1 games on the PS2. This meant players didn’t have to buy a whole new library of games when they made the switch to a PS2, and Sony could tap into its existing customer base.
But while Sony’s PS2 is the top-selling console on the list, Nintendo has more top-selling consoles on the list—almost half of the consoles on the list are manufactured by Nintendo (11), while only seven are made by Sony.
What Will it Take to Out-Sell the PS2?
As the PS4 has started taking a backseat to the PS5 in sales and promotion, the current most-likely contender for the best-selling console crown is the Nintendo Switch. Early in 2022, it was the fastest console to sell 100 million units.
With lots of hype around the possibilities of AR and VR, it’ll be interesting to see what new features come with the next generation of gaming consoles.
Will future devices ever beat the PS2’s record-breaking sales? Time will tell. But for now, the 22-year-old console continues to hold its well-earned spot at the top.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Nvidia Joins the Trillion Dollar Club
America’s biggest chipmaker Nvidia has joined the trillion dollar club as advancements in AI move at lightning speed.
Nvidia Joins the Trillion Dollar Club
Chipmaker Nvidia is now worth nearly as much as Amazon.
America’s largest semiconductor company has vaulted past the $1 trillion market capitalization mark, a milestone reached by just a handful of companies including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. While many of these are household names, Nvidia has only recently gained widespread attention amid the AI boom.
The above graphic compares Nvidia to the seven companies that have reached the trillion dollar club.
Riding the AI Wave
Nvidia’s market cap has more than doubled in 2023 to over $1 trillion.
The company designs semiconductor chips that are made of silicon slices that contain specific patterns. Just like you flip an electrical switch by turning on a light at home, these chips have billions of switches that process complex information simultaneously.
Today, they are integral to many AI functions—from OpenAI’s ChatGPT to image generation. Here’s how Nvidia stands up against companies that have achieved the trillion dollar milestone:
|Joined Club||Market Cap|
|Peak Market Cap
Note: Market caps as of May 30th, 2023
After posting record sales, the company added $184 billion to its market value in one day. Only two other companies have exceeded this number: Amazon ($191 billion), and Apple ($191 billion).
As Nvidia’s market cap reaches new heights, many are wondering if its explosive growth will continue—or if the AI craze is merely temporary. There are cases to be made on both sides.
Bull Case Scenario
Big tech companies are racing to develop capabilities like OpenAI. These types of generative AI require vastly higher amounts of computing power, especially as they become more sophisticated.
Many tech giants, including Google and Microsoft use Nvidia chips to power their AI operations. Consider how Google plans to use generative AI in six products in the future. Each of these have over 2 billion users.
Nvidia has also launched new products days since its stratospheric rise, spanning from robotics to gaming. Leading the way is the A100, a powerful graphics processing unit (GPU) well-suited for machine learning. Additionally, it announced a new supercomputer platform that Google, Microsoft, and Meta are first in line for. Overall, 65,000 companies globally use the company’s chips for a wide range of functions.
Bear Case Scenario
While extreme investor optimism has launched Nvidia to record highs, how do some of its fundamental valuations stack up to other giants?
As the table below shows, its price to earnings (P/E) ratio is second-only to Amazon, at 214.4. This shows how much a shareholder pays compared to the earnings of a company. Here, the company’s share price is over 200 times its earnings on a per share basis.
|P/E Ratio||Net Profit Margin (Annual)|
Consider how this looks for revenue of Nvidia compared to other big tech names:
$NVDA $963 billion market cap, 38x Revenue
$MSFT $2.5 trillion market cap, 12x Revenue$TSLA $612 billion market cap, 7.8x Revenue$AAPL $2.75 trillion market cap, 7.3x Revenue$GOOG $1.6 trillion market cap, 6.1x Revenue$META $672 billion market cap, 6x Revenue pic.twitter.com/VgkKAfiydx
— Martin Pelletier (@MPelletierCIO) May 29, 2023
For some, Nvidia’s valuation seems unrealistic even in spite of the prospects of AI. While Nvidia has $11 billion in projected revenue for the next quarter, it would still mean significantly higher multiples than its big tech peers. This suggests the company is overvalued at current prices.
Nvidia’s Growth: Will it Last?
This is not the first time Nvidia’s market cap has rocketed up.
During the crypto rally of 2021, its share price skyrocketed over 100% as demand for its GPUs increased. These specialist chips help mine cryptocurrency, and a jump in demand led to a shortage of chips at the time.
As cryptocurrencies lost their lustre, Nvidia’s share price sank over 46% the following year.
By comparison, AI advancements could have more transformative power. Big tech is rushing to partner with Nvidia, potentially reshaping everything from search to advertising.
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