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The Evolution of Gaming: Retro vs Modern Gaming

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the first commercial home video game console entering the market. Needless to say, gaming technology has made significant strides since then. Gaming manufacturers have been competing ever since, developing cutting edge innovation to vy for the coveted spot as a number one best-selling brand. Many brands have come and gone: Atari and Sega, just to name a few. In recent years, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo have dominated the market.

In this article, we look at the evolution of this exciting industry, covering topics such as how video game consoles have developed, the value of retro consoles over time, the expansion of video game storage, the largest video games by file size, and the largest open-world maps.

Cost of Game Consoles

Consoles have come a long way in the past 50 years. We’ve used the website Price Charting to show how much gaming systems are worth on the current market, based on the valuation of their unboxed price. Makes you want to go searching your attic for old consoles, doesn’t it?

Even after the Odyssey and more well-known Atari gaming consoles hit store shelves in 1972, few gamers were early adopters. The Odyssey was $99, which, with inflation, would equal approximately $633 in 2022 — more than most modern-day consoles. An Atari system retailed for nearly twice as much, relegating most gamers to arcade play for the next decade. The Odyssey wasn’t a commercial success, which means anyone who happens to own one today could value it at $1,400 — a massive 1314% increase over the 1972 purchase price.

If you were to buy any of these consoles on the market today, Price Charting calculates that the NEO-GEO would be the most expensive at an eye-watering $3,205. But even at the time of sale, this console wasn’t cheap. Back in 1991, this system cost $649, which is the equivalent of $1,282 in modern money. The bank-busting price tag was one of the reasons this retro console wasn’t a big hit.

Evolution of Game Console Storage:

A significant way in which gaming system technology has developed over the years is how data is stored. Older consoles never stored games internally. Instead, everything was housed on a cartridge, disk or game card. The cartridges on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System had a capacity of 6MB, which was reserved for game and data files, and could only be written on to save game progress.

After game cartridges, the next significant evolution in gaming consoles came with the PlayStation One, which introduced the use of a disc for game storage and an additional memory card of up to 1MB on which gamers could save data such as progress and autosave checkpoints.

The next big stage of console gaming memory innovation came when Xbox parted ways with external memory cards (kind of!) and took the first big leap forward to incorporate internal storage. This was a true game-changer, mostly in terms of capacity since storage went from the 1MB PlayStation cards to 8GB of internal storage, along with the option to add extra memory cards. All of this happened in the space of 6 years. Fast-forward to modern consoles and the Xbox One S, which has a huge 2TB capacity option to handle the growing demand and expansion of video games. You can even increase your storage further with an external SSD.

Largest Games by File Size

It could be argued that capacity is the real hero of modern video games, since designers were once limited by the size of the cartridge on which each game would fit. Imagine the restraints on imagination that 6MB would necessitate. But with huge internal storage options, game developers were able to break free and seized the opportunity to scope up their games by improving resolutions, increasing maps sizes, and expanding gaming capabilities.

The largest modern game by file size is ARK: Survival Evolved, which, when you’ve downloaded all the additional downloadable content (DLC), takes up a whopping 275GB of storage. If you have a 500GB gaming console, this game takes 55% your storage.

But that doesn’t mean you have to skip the fun of these storage-hogging games. Many modern consoles allow you to add storage. By installing a Crucial P5 Plus with a heatsink in the empty M.2 upgrade slot, gamers can expand PlayStation™ 5 storage for their game library and quickly run titles directly from the drive.

Biggest Open World Maps by Size

 It may surprise you that the games with the largest open world maps are not the biggest capacity hogs in your gaming library. The top three open world map sizes are all games based in space, which makes sense. They’re so big, with thousands of stars, planets, and moons, it’s nearly impossible to accurately calculate the size of each overall map.

The game with the biggest map is No Man’s Sky, which has 255 galaxies that are packed with stars and planets. It’s calculated that this map is around 31.7 sextillions km2 (a sextillion has 21 zeros). The oldest game in the list is Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters; released in 1992 and sitting third on the list, it’s another game based in space with 500 stars and 3,800 planets.

It’s fair to say that size doesn’t always matter when it comes to storing games with big maps. The only games to make it in both the largest maps and the largest games by file size list is Microsoft Flight Simulator and Final Fantasy XV.

What’s next for gaming?

As storage and memory evolve, so too does the development of video games. Home video gaming has come a long way since the poker chips and deck of cards that came with the Magnavox Odyssey or the 6MB SNES cartridges. With games going up to a massive 250GB, it is hard to fathom how far the video gaming industry can go in the coming decades, but if the last 50 years are anything to go by, we should prepare to be amazed.