Video Game Consoles: A Definition

At its core, a video game console is a highly specialized computer. In fact, most systems are based on the same central processing units (CPUs) used in many desktop computers. To keep the cost of the video game system within reasonable limits, most manufacturers use a CPU that has been widely available for long enough to undergo a significant decrease in cost.

Why would people buy a game console instead of a computer? There are several reasons:

  • A video game console is less expensive than a tricked-out computer designed to run video games. Current generation consoles cost between $200 to $500, whereas a fully-loaded gaming computer can cost more than $10,000.
  • Consoles tend to load games faster than most PCs -- expensive gaming computer rigs are the exception, of course.
  • Video game systems are designed to be part of your entertainment system. This means that they are easy to connect to your TV and stereo.
  • There are no compatibility issues, such as operating system, DirectX drivers, correct audio card, supported game controller, resolution and so on.
  • Game developers know exactly what components are in each system, so games are written to take full advantage of the hardware.
  • The degree of technical knowledge required to set up and use it is much lower. Most game consoles are truly "plug and play."
  • Most video game systems have games that allow multiple players. This is a difficult process with a typical home computer.

Check out the next section for a short history of the video game (remember Pong?).