Fifth Generation (1993-2001)
The fifth generation era of video game consoles lasted from about 1993 to 2001, and is also referred to as the 32-bit era, the 64-bit era, and the 3D era. This generation was shaped by three dominant consoles: the Sega Saturn, the Sony PlayStation, and the Nintendo 64. Handheld video game consoles also remained popular, with the Sega Nomad and the Nintendo Virtual Boy, although Nintendo’s Game Boy continued to cornered the market in this generation.
The bit rating trend of previous generations was less exaggerated during this time, with the exception being Nintendo 64’s obvious reference to its 64-bit processor in the title. Bit rating had been used to differentiate between consoles’ performance; however, once past 32 or 64 bits, performance depended on many different factors, like memory or bandwidth. In the third generation, emulation also became a trend. Personal computers now had the processing power to imitate systems from the fourth generation. The rise of Internet also made it easier to access older games.
The fifth generation is most well-known for its 3D games. Earlier generations had featured some games with 3D backgrounds. However with the creation of Super Mario 64 for Nintendo, Crash Bandicoot for Sony, and Tomb Raider for Sega, the 3D era was really ushered in. This shift also steered favor away from cartridges to CDs, as games could be produced with less money and storage capacity was larger. In spite of this, the Nintendo 64 still utilized cartridges, citing reasons such as shorter load times and defense against piracy.
During this generation, Atari attempted to release its own fifth generation console. However, due to its market problems in the fourth generation, Atari never regained its foothold. Atari was sold to a storage company and stopped making video game hardware. Towards the latter half the generation, Sega also saw its piece of the market on shaky ground. The Saturn suffered from poor marketing, and the console was more difficult to program for than others of the time. The Sony PlayStation really dominated console sales in this era, with the Nintendo 64 in second.