Video game consoles have come a long way since their humble beginnings in the 1960’s with Ralph H. Baer’s ‘Brownbox’ that was designed to plug in to ordinary television sets and only came with six very simple games. Throughout the following decades, videogame titans such as Nintendo and Sega battled for living room dominance, each bringing more and more powerful hardware to the table.
In these early days, style and size rarely topped the list in terms of what was considered an essential selling point. However, in the last few console cycles, tastes and marketing strategies have changed and consoles are now expected to have several reincarnations throughout their lifetime. This usually comes in the form of a new design implementation, or a smaller, more compact version of the original console. Whether or not these are necessary additions is a difficult question, as some changes could be considered more superfluous than others. With the recent release of the Xbox One ‘Slim’ model, we here at Cubed thought it prudent to look back on the origin of this slightly odd trend.
PlayStation 2 Slim
Retaining the spot of best selling console of all time and with a 13-year production run, is it any wonder that this monolith of videogame excellence was granted a new lease of life? Introduced in 2004, just four years after the original, the slim model was not only almost half the height and width of the original, but also ran much more quietly and featured an Ethernet port.
Xbox 360 S
The Xbox 360 remains a rarity to this day after having an exclusive window of almost a full year prior to the release of the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. Released in 2005, Microsoft’s foray into the next generation of consoles netted around 24 million units, falling short of the predicted 50 million worldwide sales. However, this still managed to eclipse Nintendo’s previous console: the GameCube (22 million) and Sega’s Dreamcast (10.6 million). Following the release of Microsoft’s hit and miss motion capture camera ‘Kinect’, the ‘360 S’ was released in 2010 as a major overhaul to the red ring riddled masses that came before. Featuring a thinner body, additional USB ports, built-in Wi-Fi and replaceable hard drive system, the 360 S was the last hurrah and closed out a much loved console cycle.
PlayStation 3 Slim
The only console to feature not one but TWO revisions in size, the PlayStation 3 was forever staggering behind in the 360’s wake, picking up any fallen crumbs. The ugly eye sore of the launch PS3 was given a new lease of life when the first revised console was released in 2009. The console featured an impeccable design, with smooth edges and a frame of almost half the width of the original, in addition to decreased power consumption and noise reduction. Unfortunately, Sony was not yet finished with the PS3, releasing another ‘slimmer’ model in 2012 that was marketed as 20 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter than the previous slim model. Its only other change was the replacement of a motorised disk reader to a manual one, which seems like a step backwards in hindsight considering that all the major manufacturers retained motorised disc covers for the current generation of hardware.
Arguably the most unnecessary of all the console changes, the Wii Mini was a smaller redesigned Wii which featured a top-loading disc, drive much like the last PS3 slim model. However, unlike the other consoles on this list, this model featured a long string of features that had been removed from an already short list to begin with. This included GameCube compatibility, online connectivity, SD card slots, Wi-Fi support and only one USB port. The price was probably its only saving grace at just under £90, however without any exciting new feature and tons missing, it remains a mystery as to whom this was targeted towards in the first place.
Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Slim
The Xbox One S rounds out this list as the console with the most useful features added to it, including a 2TB hard drive option for those fast enough to grab one, as well as the enviable ability to stream in 4K. The PlayStation 4 Slim has yet to be officially announced, however pictures and video of the console in action have inexplicably appeared on the Internet for those who simply can’t wait for an official announcement.