Part 3

This generation of gaming brought many exciting changes to us that are just now being fully realized. Many of the innovations introduced here will be with us for many continuing generations.

The next, sixth, generation (1998-2006) brought a new kind of innovation to the forefront. The Sega Dreamcast was released in late 1999. What made this console innovative was the inclusion in the box of a modem for online operations. Online capabilities had been included with previous generations of consoles before, but previous generations did not have this capability immediately able for use like the Dreamcast did (minus the time actually setting up the service). The Dreamcast started out strong with a good line-up of games and a lack of next generation competition, but what started as a very promising future for Sega ended up being a bitter disappointment and the end of their involvement in consoles.

The sixth generation of gaming was dominated by the PlayStation 2 which was released about one year after the Dreamcast. The launch of the PlayStation 2, and in fact, the announcement of its impending release was one factor that had an influence in Sega leaving the console market. Also with the scheduled launches of both the Nintendo Gamecube and the Microsoft Xbox, Sega decided to leave the console business and focus on software. Now, Sega may have been the first to have included internet capability, but the release of the Xbox in late 2001 brought it to the gaming forefront. Live was launched in 2002 to immediate success and with it a new era for console gaming commenced.

This generation also brought many handheld systems to the market. While these new handhelds (most notably the Neo Geo Pocket Color, N-Gage, and the redesigned N-Gage QD) were unsuccessful against the entrenched competition, Nintendo did release three new variants of its popular Game Boy hardware during the 2001-2005 time frame. The successor to the Game Boy Color was released in 2001 and was called the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo never was one to get too risky with the naming of its consoles. Moniker aside, the Game Boy Advance ended up being very profitable for Nintendo. This version of the venerable system had a horizontal orientation, surprisingly similar to its competitor's consoles more so than any earlier version of Game Boy. But issues of comfort and a dark screen while playing games led to an updated version of the hardware, the Game Boy Advance SP.

The SP was released 2 years later in 2003 and added significant upgrades to the original. A front lit screen (and later backlit), rechargeable battery, and a new clamshell design to reduce the overall size (when closed) and protect the screen. Orientation also went from horizontal to the classic Game Boy vertical. The next iteration was not an improvement but a style change for the SP. The Game Boy Micro was released in 2005. This version of the Game Boy was compatible with all SP games, but was not backwards compatible with other previous generations. With a smaller screen and interchangeable faceplates, sales of the Micro started out strong but eventually only ended up selling about 2.4 million consoles worldwide, Nintendo's most significant failure. In the scheme of things though, the Micro had a very small part in Nintendo's strategy, and Nintendo could definitely afford to take a loss on it.



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