Sunday, August 21, 2022

Media and Console Longevity - Lengthy Support for Cartridges and Discs from Certain Consoles

Some consoles, even some of the most popular ones, can only have their games played on those consoles within that "family" of consoles.  Other games, through backwards compatibility, can be played on a more advanced family of consoles.  Some game had hardware made to play them for an exceptionally long period of time.  Today we will explore some of the console systems whose games' medial were given an exceptionally long (about 10 years) official lifespan.

Atari 2600

The Atari 2600 and its first cartridges were released in September, 1977.  In 1977 the first nine cartridges for what was then called the Atari Video Computer System came with text labels a number next to the game's name on the end label.  

Through the "VCS Cartridge Adaptor" Atari 2600 cartridges could be used on Atari 5200s.  Atari 7800 consoles supported Atari 2600 cartridges directly.  The Atari 2600 was sold alongside the 5200 and the 7800 for the entirety of their lifespans.  The Atari 5200 had a short lifespan, from November 1982 to May 21, 1984.  The Atari 7800 was test marketed in May and June of 1984 but was not released nationally until May, 1986.  

The Atari 2600 also had a gap in its release from late 1984 to early 1986 due to the video game crash and the purchase of Atari's home and computer video divisions by Jack Trammiel, who formed Atari Corp.  Atari Corp's initial focus was on the home computer market and only but the 2600 and 7800 back in the market when the NES was proving successful in 1986.  The 2600 console was redesigned as the 2600jr for this period.  

Atari Corp. dropped all support for all its 8-bit systems as of January 1, 1992.

Atari 8-bit

The original Atari 8-bit home computers, the Atari 400 and Atari 800, had their own cartridge slot.  They were released in November of 1979.  This cartridge slot would carry over to all other iterations of the Atari 8-bit home computers : Atari 1200XL, Atari 600XL, Atari 800XL, Atari 65XE, Atari 130XE, Atari 800XE, and Atari XEGS.  The Atari XEGS had line of 32 game cartridges for the system, but these cartridges also worked in XL and XE systems but many were incompatible with the 400 and 800.

As with the 8-bit home consoles, Atari Corp. dropped all support for all its 8-bit systems as of January 1, 1992.

Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 was similarly long-lived, it was released in November of 1982 and was discontinued only when Commodore International filed for bankruptcy in April 1994.  Few cartridges had been made for it since 1984 and those that were were almost exclusively in Europe.  Games on floppy disk and in Europe for tape were consistently made throughout the computer's lifespan, although software in the US for the system had died by 1990.


The Mattel Intellivision was introduced in the fall of 1979 and hit stores nationwide in 1980.  Mattel sold off the Intellivision assets during the video game crash in 1984, and the buyer, INTV Corporation, continued to sell Intellivision games and consoles (Intellivision II).  It developed the INTV System III and new games throughout the mid-to-late 1980s, only stopping production in 1990.

Famicom & Super Famicom

Nintendo's Famicom holds the record for the longest manufactured console between the original, released on July 15, 1983 and the New (AV) Famicom (December, 1993), whose changes were mainly cosmetic.  Sharp also released three licensed devices that could play Famicom games from 1983-1991, the My Computer TV C1, the Twin Famicom and the Famicom Titler.  The TV made it over to North America in a slightly modified form as the Sharp Nintendo Television.  Nintendo actually made Famicoms in the 21st century, my AV Famicom has date codes from 2001.  Its successor, the Super Famicom, released November 20, 1990 and its cost-reduced variant, the Super Famicom Jr. (March 27, 1998), had a long life as well.  Sharp made a TV-console for the Super Famicom, the Super Famicom Naizou TV SF1.  Both consoles were manufactured and offered for sale until September 25, 2003.  

Game Boy/Game Boy Color

Nintendo first released the Game Boy in Japan on April 21, 1989.  Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges could also be played in the Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Advance SP, Super Game Boy, Super Game Boy 2 and Game Boy Player.  Sales of the Game Boy Advance (SP) consoles ended for Europe at the end of 2008.  

It should be noted that the original "DMG" design of the Game Boy was still being manufactured as later as March, 1999, almost ten years after the Game Boy's release and well after the Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color had been released.

Game Boy Advance

Nintendo first released the Game Boy Advance in Japan on March 21, 2001.  Game Boy Advance cartridges could be played in the Game Boy Advance SP, Game Boy Player, Game Boy Micro, Nintendo DS and Nintendo DS Lite.  There was also a rather rare but officially-licensed device called the Visteon Dockable Entertainment sold at car dealerships in North America that plays DVDs and GBA games.  It appears the DS Lite was discontinued in April of 2011.

Nintendo DS

Nintendo first released the Nintendo DS in North America on November 21, 2004, and DS Game Cards can be played in the DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL and all models of the Nintendo 3DS family, first introduced on February 26, 2011: 3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS, New 3DS, New 3DS XL, New 2DS.  The final console in the 3DS family was discontinued on September 17, 2020.


The Nintendo GameCube was first released in Japan on September 14, 2001.  GameCube games were playable on Wiis until Nintendo removed the GameCube controller ports with the Wii Family Edition.  The original Wiis were discontinued in August of 2011.  

The GameCube's standard controller bears special mention, as they were manufactured until early 2012 due to their popularity with Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube) and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii).  Then in 2014 for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and again in 2018 for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Switch Nintendo released GameCube compatible controllers.  While on the Wii U and the Switch you had to plug the controllers into a GameCube to USB converter, the controllers are still compatible with the GameCube and Wii.


The Nintendo Wii was first released on November 19, 2006 in North America.  Wii games are playable on the Wii Mini and the Wii U.  The Wii U was discontinued on January 31, 2017.  

Sega SG-1000

Sega released the SG-1000 on July 15, 1983.  SG-1000 cartridges can be run in an SC-3000, a Mark III or Japanese Master System.  Sega discontinued support for its 8-bit home consoles in Japan in 1991.  

Sega Mark III/Master System

Sega released Mark III on October 20, 1985.  Mark III/Master System cartridges or cards can be run in a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Model 1 or 2 with an appropriate Power Base Converter.   The Genesis/Mega Drive were discontinued in 1997.  A Game Gear using a Master System converter will run non-Japanese games, and the Game Gear was not discontinued until the year 2000.  The Master System was first released outside of Japan, in North America, in September 1986.  

Special mention must be made of the Brazilian Sega Master System variants.  The Master System was introduced into Brazil on September 4, 1989 by distributor Tec Toy.  Even after the system was discontinued everywhere else in the world, Tec Toy continued to make variants, usually with more built-in games.  Its line of Master System 3 Compacts and Collections and the Super Compact/Girl would be sold with functional cartridge slots until 2006.  

Sega Genesis

The Sega Genesis was originally released in Japan on October 29, 1988 and in North America on August 14, 1989.  While the console was discontinued world wide in 1997, in North America it games could still be played either by the Sega Genesis Nomad portable or the Majesco-released Genesis 3.  Those devices were not discontinued until 1999, giving the North American market a more-or-less ten years of continued Sega 16-bit availability.  Majesco also released budget cartridge versions of several games for the SNES and the Genesis during the late 1990s, giving people an opportunity to pick up some good games they may have missed their first time around.


Sony first released the PlayStation in Japan on December 3, 1994 and its discs could be played in the PS One, the PS2, the PS2 Slimline, the PS3, PS3 Slim and PS3 Super Slim.  The PS2 incorporated PS1 hardware until the SCPH-7500x models (Slimline), when it turned to software emulation at least in part.  The PS3 may always have been fully or partially software-emulation based.  The PS3 was last discontinued in Japan on May 29, 2017.  

PlayStation 2

Sony released the PlayStation 2 in Japan on March 4, 2000. PlayStation2 discs could be played in early "Phat" models of the PS3. Those models were the 20 and 60GB CECHBxx launch models (November, 2006) and CECHAxx (full hardware support) and the 60GB and 80GB CECHCxx and CECHExx models (partial software emulation).  Those models would have been discontinued soon after the introduction of the PS2-incompatible models in October-November 2007.  The PS2 Slimline was discontinued on January 4, 2013.  

PlayStation 3

The PlayStation 3 was introduced into the world on November 11, 2006 in Japan but not discontinued in that country until May 29, 2017.  Other parts of the world were still able to obtain the console for nine years.

PlayStation 4

While the PlayStation 4, first released on November 15, 2013, is not backwards compatible with the PlayStation 3 or its predecessors, the PlayStation 5, released on November 12, 2020, is backwards compatible with almost all PlayStation 4 games.  


The Xbox was launched in the US on November 15, 2001 and discontinued by mid-2006.  Its successor, Xbox 360 had backwards compatibility for certain Xbox games via software emulation on a hard-drive capable Xbox.  The Xbox 360 was launched on November 22, 2005 and discontinued on April 20, 2016.  The Xbox 360 managed to play just over 50% of its predecessor's games but some games exhibit glitches.

Xbox 360

Similarly, the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X/S also have emulation capabilities for certain Xbox 360 games.  The Xbox One was released on November 22, 2013 and discontinued it by the end of 2020.  The Xbox Series X/S were introduced on November 10, 2020.  These consoles have some compatibility with Xbox games, but less compatibility than an Xbox 360.  They are compatible with about 25% of Xbox 360 titles but only 5% of Xbox games.  

Xbox One

Xbox Series X/S consoles are fully backwards compatible with Xbox One games and have the same backwards compatibility capabilities as the Xbox One.  It should be noted that the systems without an optical drive, like the Xbox Series S, are not compatible with games which came on disc.  

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