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Introduction

Scikit-learn is one Python library we all inevitably turn to when we’re building machine learning models. I’ve built countless models using this wonderful library and I’m sure all of you must have as well.

There’s no question – scikit-learn provides handy tools with easy-to-read syntax. Among the pantheon of popular Python libraries, scikit-learn ranks in the top echelon along with Pandas and NumPy. These three Python libraries provide a complete solution to various steps of the machine learning pipeline.

I love the clean, uniform code and functions that scikit-learn provides. It makes it really easy to use other techniques once we have mastered one. The excellent documentation is the icing on the cake as it makes a lot of beginners self-sufficient with building machine learning models.

The developers behind scikit-learn have come up with a new version (v0.22) that packs in some major updates. I’ll unpack these features for you in this article and showcase what’s under the hood through Python code.

Note: Looking to learn Python from scratch? This free course is the perfect starting point!

Table of Contents

Getting to Know Scikit-Learn

A Brief History of Scikit-Learn

Scikit-Learn v0.22 Updates (with Python implementation)

Stacking Classifier and Regressor

Permutation-Based Feature Importance

Multi-class Support for ROC-AUC

kNN-Based Imputation

Tree Pruning

Getting to Know Scikit-Learn

This library is built upon the SciPy (Scientific Python) library that you need to install before you can use scikit-learn. It is licensed under a permissive simplified BSD license and is distributed under many Linux distributions, encouraging academic and commercial use.

Overall, scikit-learn uses the following libraries behind the scenes:

NumPy: n-dimensional array package

SciPy: Scientific computing Library

Matplotlib:  Plotting Library

iPython: Interactive python (for Jupyter Notebook support)

SymPy: Symbolic mathematics

Pandas: Data structures, analysis, and manipulation

Lately, scikit-learn has reorganized and restructured its functions & packages into six main modules:

Classification: Identifying which category an object belongs to

Regression: Predicting a continuous-valued attribute associated with an object

Clustering: For grouping unlabeled data

Dimensionality Reduction: Reducing the number of random variables to consider

Model Selection: Comparing, validating and choosing parameters and models

Preprocessing: Feature extraction and normalization

scikit-learn provides the functionality to perform all the steps from preprocessing, model building, selecting the right model, hyperparameter tuning, to frameworks for interpreting machine learning models.

Scikit-learn Modules (Source: Scikit-learn Homepage)

A Brief History of Scikit-learn

Scikit-learn has come a long way from when it started back in 2007 as scikits.learn. Here’s a cool trivia for you – scikit-learn was a Google Summer of Code project by David Cournapeau!

This was taken over and rewritten by Fabian Pedregosa, Gael Varoquaux, Alexandre Gramfort and Vincent Michel, all from the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation and its first public release took place in 2010.

Since then, it has added a lot of features and survived the test of time as the most popular open-source machine learning library across languages and frameworks. The below infographic, prepared by our team, illustrates a brief timeline of all the scikit-learn features along with their version number:

The above infographics show the release of features since its inception as a public library for implementing Machine Learning Algorithms from 2010 to 2023

Today, Scikit-learn is being used by organizations across the globe, including the likes of Spotify, JP Morgan, chúng tôi Evernote, and many more. You can find the complete list here with testimonials I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this library’s popularity as there will a lot of small and big companies using scikit-learn at some stage of prototyping models.

The latest version of scikit-learn, v0.22, has more than 20 active contributors today. v0.22 has added some excellent features to its arsenal that provide resolutions for some major existing pain points along with some fresh features which were available in other libraries but often caused package conflicts.

We will cover them in detail here and also dive into how to implement them in Python.

Scikit-Learn v0.22 Updates

Along with bug fixes and performance improvements, here are some new features that are included in scikit-learn’s latest version.

Stacking Classifier & Regressor

Stacking is an ensemble learning technique that uses predictions from multiple models (for example, decision tree, KNN or SVM) to build a new model.

This model is used for making predictions on the test set. Below is a step-wise explanation I’ve taken from this excellent article on ensemble learning for a simple stacked ensemble:

The base model (in this case, decision tree) is then fitted on the whole train dataset

This model is used to make final predictions on the test prediction set

The mlxtend library provides an API to implement Stacking in Python. Now, sklearn, with its familiar API can do the same and it’s pretty intuitive as you will see in the demo below. You can either import StackingRegressor & StackingClassifier depending on your use case:

from

sklearn.linear_model

import

LogisticRegression

from sklearn.ensemble import RandomForestClassifier from chúng tôi import DecisionTreeClassifier

from

sklearn.ensemble

import

StackingClassifier

from

sklearn.model_selection

import

train_test_split

X

,

y

=

load_iris

(

return_X_y

=

True

)

estimators

=

[

(

'rf'

,

RandomForestClassifier

(

n_estimators

=

10

,

random_state

=

42

)),

(

'dt'

,

DecisionTreeClassifier

(

random_state

=

42

)

)

]

clf

=

StackingClassifier

(

estimators

=

estimators

,

final_estimator

=

LogisticRegression

()

)

X_train

,

X_test

,

y_train

,

y_test

=

train_test_split

(

X

,

y

,

stratify

=

y

,

random_state

=

42

)

clf

.

fit

(

X_train

,

y_train

)

.

score

(

X_test

,

y_test

)

Permutation-Based Feature Importance

As the name suggests, this technique provides a way to assign importance to each feature by permuting each feature and capturing the drop in performance.

But what does permuting mean here? Let us understand this using an example.

Let’s say we are trying to predict house prices and have only 2 features to work with:

LotArea – (Sq Feet area of the house)

YrSold (Year when it was sold)

The test data has just 10 rows as shown below:

Next, we fit a simple decision tree model and get an R-Squared value of 0.78. We pick a feature, say LotArea, and shuffle it keeping all the other columns as they were:

Next, we calculate the R-Squared once more and it comes out to be 0.74. We take the difference or ratio between the 2 (0.78/0.74 or 0.78-0.74), repeat the above steps, and take the average to represent the importance of the LotArea feature.

We can perform similar steps for all the other features to get the relative importance of each feature. Since we are using the test set here to evaluate the importance values, only the features that help the model generalize better will fare better.

Earlier, we had to implement this from scratch or import packages such as ELI5. Now, Sklearn has an inbuilt facility to do permutation-based feature importance. Let’s get into the code to see how we can visualize this:



As you can see in the above box plot, there are 3 features that are relatively more important than the other 4. You can try this with any model, which makes it a model agnostic interpretability technique. You can read more about this machine learning interpretability concept here.

Multiclass Support for ROC-AUC

The ROC-AUC score for binary classification is super useful especially when it comes to imbalanced datasets. However, there was no support for Multi-Class classification till now and we had to manually code to do this. In order to use the ROC-AUC score for multi-class/multi-label classification, we would need to binarize the target first.

Currently, sklearn has support for two strategies in order to achieve this:

from sklearn.datasets import load_iris  from sklearn.ensemble import RandomForestClassifier from sklearn.metrics import roc_auc_score X, y = load_iris(return_X_y=True) rf = RandomForestClassifier(random_state=44, max_depth=2) rf.fit(X,y) print(roc_auc_score(y, rf.predict_proba(X), multi_class='ovo'))

Also, there is a new plotting API that makes it super easy to plot and compare ROC-AUC curves from different machine learning models. Let’s see a quick demo:

from

sklearn.model_selection

import

train_test_split

from

sklearn.svm

import

SVC

from

sklearn.metrics

import

plot_roc_curve

from

sklearn.ensemble

import

RandomForestClassifier

from

sklearn.datasets

import

make_classification

import

matplotlib.pyplot

as

plt

X

,

y

=

make_classification

(

random_state

=5

)

X_train

,

X_test

,

y_train

,

y_test

=

train_test_split

(

X

,

y

,

random_state

=

42

)

svc

=

SVC

(

random_state

=

42

)

svc

.

fit

(

X_train

,

y_train

)

rfc

=

RandomForestClassifier

(

random_state

=

42

)

rfc

.

fit

(

X_train

,

y_train

)

svc_disp

=

plot_roc_curve

(

svc

,

X_test

,

y_test

)

rfc_disp

=

plot_roc_curve

(

rfc

,

X_test

,

y_test

,

ax

=

svc_disp

.

ax_

)

rfc_disp

.

figure_

.

suptitle

(

"ROC curve comparison"

)

plt

.

show

()

In the above figure, we have a comparison of two different machine learning models, namely Support Vector Classifier & Random Forest. Similarly, you can plot the AUC-ROC curve for more machine learning models and compare their performance.

kNN-Based Imputation

In kNN based imputation method, the missing values of an attribute are imputed using the attributes that are most similar to the attribute whose values are missing. The assumption behind using kNN for missing values is that a point value can be approximated by the values of the points that are closest to it, based on other variables.

The k-nearest neighbor can predict both qualitative & quantitative attributes

Creation of predictive machine learning model for each attribute with missing data is not required

Correlation structure of the data is taken into consideration

Scikit-learn supports kNN-based imputation using the Euclidean distance method. Let’s see a quick demo:

import

numpy

as

np

from

sklearn.impute

import

KNNImputer

X

=

[[4

,

6

,

np

.

nan

],

[

3

,

4

,

3

],

[

np

.

nan

,

6

,

5

],

[

8

,

8

,

9

]]

imputer

=

KNNImputer

(

n_neighbors

=

2

)

print

(

imputer

.

fit_transform

(

X

))

You can read about how kNN works in comprehensive detail here.

Tree Pruning

In basic terms, pruning is a technique we use to reduce the size of decision trees thereby avoiding overfitting. This also extends to other tree-based algorithms such as Random Forests and Gradient Boosting. These tree-based machine learning methods provide parameters such as min_samples_leaf and max_depth to prevent a tree from overfitting.

Pruning provides another option to control the size of a tree. XGBoost & LightGBM have pruning integrated into their implementation. However, a feature to manually prune trees has been long overdue in Scikit-learn (R already provides a similar facility as a part of the rpart package).

In its latest version, Scikit-learn provides this pruning functionality making it possible to control overfitting in most tree-based estimators once the trees are built. For details on how and why pruning is done, you can go through this excellent tutorial on tree-based methods by Sunil. Let’s look at a quick demo now:

from sklearn.ensemble import RandomForestClassifier from sklearn.datasets import make_classification X

,

y

=

make_classification

(

random_state

=

0

)

rf

=

RandomForestClassifier

(

random_state

=

0

,

ccp_alpha

=

0

)

.

fit

(

X

,

y

)

print

(

"Average number of nodes without pruning

{:.1f}

"

.

format

(

np

.

mean

([

e

.

tree_

.

node_count

for

e

in

rf

.

estimators_

])))

rf

=

RandomForestClassifier

(

random_state

=

0

,

ccp_alpha

=

0.1

)

.

fit

(

X

,

y

)

print

(

"Average number of nodes with pruning

{:.1f}

"

.

format

(

np

.

mean

([

e

.

tree_

.

node_count

for

e

in

rf

.

estimators_

])))

End Notes

The scikit-learn package is the ultimate go-to library for building machine learning models. It is the first machine learning-focused library all newcomers lean on to guide them through their initial learning process. And even as a veteran, I often find myself using it to quickly test out a hypothesis or solution I have in mind.

The latest release definitely has some significant upgrades as we just saw. It’s definitely worth exploring on your own and experimenting using the base I have provided in this article.

Related

You're reading Everything You Need To Know About Scikit

Everything You Need To Know About Twitter Advanced Search

And while many still view Twitter as a mere social media platform for following friends and being followed, a significant number are exploiting its immense potential as a business marketing platform, specifically for lead generation.

In fact, 82% of B2B marketers preferred using Twitter in 2023, which makes it second only to Linkedin for that audience.

Who Will Marketers Find With Twitter Search?

Contrary to earlier expectations – that Twitter growth would decline or flatten out – statistics show that Twitter growth is anything but stagnant.

Based on Twitter’s most recent quarterly filing, usage data shows that the platform grew by 24% relative to the preceding quarter, representing an additional 14 million users.

In the US, as of September 2023, 52% of Twitter users reported accessing (and probably using) the social media platform every, single, day.

And the Twitter Search function— specifically its Advanced Search feature— has huge business potential, through lead generation, for changing the marketing landscape.

What Exactly Is the Twitter Advanced Search Feature?

There are two Search features: the general Search feature (that you’ve most likely used) and the Advanced Search feature.

Let’s first explain the general Search feature.

The general Search feature is on the right-hand side of your laptop.

If you’re using a smartphone, however, the general Search is represented by the magnifying icon at the bottom of your mobile phone screen.

You can’t glean much from these general searches because your search range is limited.

That’s where the Advanced Search feature comes in.

How to Access Twitter’s Advanced Search Feature

You can access the Twitter Advanced Search by first using the general Search feature referenced above.

On your laptop, key in your search phrase. Let’s choose [Tesla], the company associated with Elon Musk.

After typing [Tesla] in the general search field, you’ll spot some three straight dots on the right-hand side of the screen.

If you point your cursor at the three dots, the word “more” will pop up.

By now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s great for desktop users. But what about mobile?”

Advanced Search Fields

You’re going to get a pretty long list of search fields to choose from, which can be a little overwhelming. For example, under the heading “Words,” this list appears:

All of these words.

This exact phrase.

Any of these words.

None of these words.

These hashtags.

Written in (language).

Other headings include:

People.

Places.

Dates.

Other.

What’s cool about these fields is that you aren’t limited to choosing just one. So, for example, you could perform a search that combined an exact phrase, from specific accounts, during a specific date range.

Before moving on to what happens after you hit Search, let’s explore some of the common search queries and how you can use them to refine your searches.

How to Use the “Words” Field in Advanced Search

Perhaps the most commonly used search feature, there are six fields under the “Words” Search category on Twitter’s Advanced Search.

Let’s take a look at each so you understand what they mean.

All of These Words

Use this field to find tweets that include the words or phrase you type. To ensure the best search results, use quotation marks.

If you’re searching for tweets and you aren’t sure of the exact phrase, you can query some relevant and specific words — whatever you think the original tweet or tweets must have contained.

This Exact Phrase

Use this field to enter a very specific phrase.

So if you were searching for tweets about Heisman Trophy winners that attended USC, for example, you would enter [USC Heisman Trophy Winners] instead of just [Heisman Trophy Winners].

One cool thing is that quotes are automatically added in this field.

Any of These Words

Use this field to search for a group of related words.

The search field would add the word “or” between each word or phrase you typed to trigger the most specific results.

None of These Words

If you want to search Twitter but omit certain words or phrases, this is your search option. Using this field will eliminate any tweets that contain words or phrases you don’t want to be included in a search result.

For example, you may want results for [USC] but exclude any mention of [USC football].

This is an effective way for businesses to exclude search results for the names of other companies in the same industry.

These Hashtags

If you want to search for a hashtag, whether it’s a hashtag of your brand or the hashtag of a competitor, this is the relevant search option. For example, if you’re a sneaker company and you want to check out what people are tweeting about regarding a big brand, you could type [#Nike] to get results.

Any Language

Use this field if you want to get information about tweets written in one of the more than 50 foreign languages listed.

This may help if you are analyzing the foreign market in your industry or have a brand that operates in multiple countries.

How to Use The “Account” Field When Doing Advanced Search

Formerly named “People,” under “Accounts,” there are three different fields that can alter your search results depending on what you type.

Just type the username of a person with a Twitter account, or several usernames separated by a comma.

Then choose whether you want results exclusively sent by that account, to that account, or that mentioned that account.

Just remember to use proper Twitter accounts that begin with @.

How to Use The “Engagement” Field When Doing Advanced Twitter Search

The depth of engagement is measured by the number of retweets, replies, and likes a tweet receives. A tweet that generates thousands of retweets is doubtless an engaging tweet.

The way to do this is to specify the minimum number of retweets, likes, or replies in the search field or any combination of those three.

By doing this, you will absolutely weed out posts that add more noise and don’t add value to your search.

How to Use The “Dates” Field When Doing Advanced Twitter Search

If you remember a tweet but you can’t remember the exact date it was tweeted, the “Date” option has you covered, that is if you can remember the period within which the tweet was sent out.

Under the heading ‘Dates,’ you can select a specific date range and only receive search results from that time.

You’ll simply enter the date ranges, and the relevant tweet will be displayed, regardless of how long ago the phrase was tweeted.

One thing to note is that the first tweet was sent on March 21, 2006, so the system would default to that date if you entered a date earlier than that one.

Don’t Forget the Search Operators

These will help you weed out the useful tweets from the pics of what users had for dinner.

How to Understand Advanced Twitter Search Results

Twitter has an algorithm that will determine how you get the search results and in which order.

While what drives the nature and order of Twitter’s Advanced Search results isn’t known with certainty, several metrics may play a role.

These may include tweets that have elicited a certain level of reaction, relevance, time-lapse of the tweet, and location, among others.

After you have typed in all the information to generate a search, the results page will include the headings:

Top: This is a list of what Twitter considers the tweets that are triggering the most reaction.

People: These are the accounts of users based on your search criteria.

Videos: These are tweets with links to videos on other websites.

After reviewing the results, you may realize that you need to refine or broaden your search. You can do that by simply going back to the Advanced Search page.

Depending on the level of analysis needed, there are also paid programs that can email alerts based on hashtags, business name, etc. An example of this is Twilert, which is basically a Google Alerts for Twitter.

There are several ways to use this Twitter search feature to drive revenue through lead generation.

One way to do this is to assess what customers complain about regarding your competitors’ products. Then you can use this information to improve your product.

The Advanced Search feature can provide your business with valuable demographic information, information about prospects in your local area, and lead generation opportunities.

When your goal is lead generation, you will want to focus on these areas:

People.

Places.

Dates.

Other.

1. Competitor mentions

2. Product or service mentions

Type in the name of a product or service you offer under Words. If you sell computer security software, you would type that phrase + a “?”.

You can use the results to create a database of people who have made inquiries about products or services you sell and reach out to them about what you can offer.

But they are effective because they identify people who are unhappy with products or services they purchased or people who have expressed interest in those products and services but may have not yet engaged with a seller.

But there are other ways.

Check out these 8 Terrific Tips to Optimize a Twitter Business or Brand Profile.

Another Tool in the Your Marketing Tool Chest

Twitter Advanced Search helps you to analyze your market, judge how your competitors are doing based on positive or negative sentiment, and improve your geotargeting based on the number of tweets in specific locations.

It may take a few searches before you understand all the ways you can manipulate the results.

But once you do, you can hone in on the information you need to help boost your Twitter marketing efforts.

More Resources:

Image Credits

Everything You Need To Know About Nintendo And Its Consoles

Nintendo at a glance

Nintendo isn’t the only console manufacturer on the market, but it’s definitely been around the longest. First formed in 1889, the company created its first games in the 1970s before launching its first dedicated home console in 1983. Fast-forward to 2023 and the Nintendo Switch is a major sales sensation, reinforcing the company’s position in the market.

Unlike Sony and Microsoft though, Nintendo’s gaming business is its only real business, to begin with. So it doesn’t have the ability to fall back on businesses like TVs, computing, movies, and music when the going gets tough.

Nintendo consoles

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

NES

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was the company’s first proper home console, having previously launched arcade machines and the Game & Watch handheld. 1983’s NES delivered 2D visuals and support for up to 512 colors, with games coming on a cartridge.

Nintendo’s machine revived a console space that had been decimated by the videogame crash of 1983, owing to a relatively competitive price as well as quality games like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid.

SNES Nintendo 64

GameCube

Nintendo’s successor to the N64 was the GameCube, coming in late 2001. And its design made for a breath of fresh air compared to the serious black boxes touted by Sony and Microsoft. The GameCube instead was a purple cube, featuring powerful hardware that was easy to work with, a carry handle on its back, and a disc-based format (albeit holding 1.4GB of data) for the first time in Nintendo’s home consoles.

The GameCube saw Nintendo slide further down the rankings, as the PS2 and even the original Xbox beat it at the sales tills. In any event, people who bought the Cube were treated to top-notch wares like Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Animal Crossing, and Super Smash Bros Melee.

Wii

Nintendo’s fortunes were revitalized in late 2006 when the company launched the Wii as a follow-up to the GameCube. The new console had a modest power boost over its predecessor, but the real game-changer was the TV remote-style controller that offered motion gestures.

This simple input method meant you could swing the controller to swing a baseball bat, point the controller at a specific area on the screen to aim an in-game weapon, or conduct a bowling motion to get a strike in ten-pin bowling.

This premise meant that the Wii was the most popular console of its generation, out-selling the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The Wii’s initial performance was no doubt helped by the inclusion of Wii Sports as a pack-in title, and this combo even gained popularity in some old-age homes. We also got gems like the Super Mario Galaxy games, Xenoblade Chronicles, Metroid Prime 3, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

Wii U

Odd name aside, 2012’s Wii U delivered an interesting concept, featuring a gamepad with a tablet-sized screen as well as supporting Wii remotes. This allowed for asynchronous gameplay, such as the remote-toting players using the TV to search for the gamepad-toting user (who was using the controller’s built-in screen). You could also use the gamepad’s small screen to play full-fledged games in case the TV was being used.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, the combo of a weird, unpolished controller (it had poor battery life and a resistive touchscreen) and underpowered internals resulted in the Wii U being the firm’s least successful home console since the Virtual Boy. It nevertheless hosted some quality games and arguably remains the best place to legally play retro games owing to backward compatibility with Wii games and the expansive Virtual Console digital service.

Switch Game Boy Advance

How do you top the Game Boy and Game Boy Color? Nintendo’s thinking was to essentially make a handheld that was more than a match for the SNES. That meant a 32-bit CPU, support for 32,768 colors, and the addition of L and R shoulder buttons. In fact, the GBA was powerful enough to run a variety of SNES ports and even a host of 3D games like Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, and more.

One particularly smart feature was backward compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, so consumers could still play their old library of titles after upgrading to the new machine. Toss in roughly 15 hours of juice via two AA batteries and you had a really solid machine that destroyed all comers at the time.

Nintendo DS

The follow-up to the GBA saw Nintendo rip up conventions and decide that two screens were better than one. That was the premise of 2004’s Nintendo DS, featuring a clamshell design with a traditional display up top and a resistive touch-screen at the bottom. Nintendo also added extras like a stylus (complete with stylus slot), a microphone, and a second cartridge slot for backwards compatible GBA games.

This all made for a very quirky design, and the console wasn’t a runaway hit at first. But games like Brain Training, Nintendogs, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and more resulted in the console capturing a vast casual gamer market and becoming a massive sales success. Nintendo would go on to offer a variety of variants, such as the DS Lite and DSi range.

Nintendo 3DS

2011’s 3DS saw the company pick up where the DS left off, with the new console having a similar clamshell design featuring one screen up top and a touchscreen below. This also enabled backwards compatibility with legacy DS games.

But the big trick with this new handheld was glasses-free 3D visuals, giving you a cool sense of immersion and offering a slider switch so you could adjust the strength of the effect. The handheld had a respectable level of power too, even seeing ports like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D, and Luigi’s Mansion.

Nintendo later offered variants like the New Nintendo 3DS range (featuring more power and an integrated right control pad), as well as the 2DS. The latter device dropped the 3D functionality and abandoned the clamshell form factor, but offered a significantly cheaper price tag.

Nintendo controllers

Unlike Sony and its PlayStations, Nintendo has generally steered clear of using the same basic controller design for most of its consoles. Instead, with a few exceptions, we’ve seen new gamepad designs for each generation.

The NES controller back in the 1980s introduced the D-pad for the first time, while also featuring Start and Select buttons and two face buttons. Nintendo would build on this with the SNES controller, bringing four face buttons in total as well as a pair of shoulder buttons. This gamepad also delivered a more rounded design as opposed to the NES controller’s sharp corners.

Nintendo hasn’t been shy about coming up with some crazy controller designs.

What would the controller for the Wii’s successor look like? Well, the Wii U would bring a huge controller that had a tablet-sized touchscreen on it (seen above). This allowed users to either get a different perspective in games or play titles on the smaller screen entirely if the TV was in use. The rest of the Wii U controller was pretty traditional, featuring two analog sticks, four shoulder triggers, four face buttons. The gamepad did however feature a selfie camera.

Nintendo’s Switch also has some radically different controller designs, as it offers two so-called Joycon controllers. These controllers enable handheld gaming when they are attached to the Switch. But slide them off and they can be used separately, such as for local multiplayer. Each controller has two shoulder triggers, an analog stick, and two more hidden shoulder buttons that are only visible when the controllers are detached from the Switch itself. These controllers still maintain motion functionality and also offer so-called HD Rumble for better vibration.

What about Nintendo accessories?

The house of Mario has sold numerous accessories for its consoles over the years. The NES got a lightgun, Robotic Operating Buddy toy, a modem, and multi-tap. But perhaps the most notable add-on was the Famicom Disk System for Japan, which was an add-on that offered disk-based games. These disks were rewritable and consumers could buy games via vending machines with their old disks.

SNES owners had quite a few accessories too, depending on their region. This included a mouse, light gun, and the Satellaview satellite modem for downloading new games and content. One noteworthy accessory was the Super Game Boy, which allowed users to play their Game Boy games via the home console.

The Nintendo 64 also had its share of accessories released throughout its lifespan, including quite a few being quirky and/or technologically interesting. Prominent accessories in this regard include the Expansion Pak (giving 4MB of extra RAM for sharper visuals or better performance), the Rumble Pak to enable controller vibration, and a microphone for voice commands in Hey You Pikachu. This console also received a Japan-only add-on dubbed the Nintendo 64DD, using proprietary rewritable disks and offering online functionality.

1-Up Studio (Mother 3, Sword of Mana)

Entertainment Planning and Development (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Splatoon 2)

Nintendo Software Technology (Mario vs Donkey Kong, Wave Race: Blue Storm)

Monolith Soft (Xenoblade Chronicles series, Project X Zone)

NDCube (Clubhouse Games, Super Mario Party)

Next Level Games (Luigi’s Mansion 3, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Super Mario Strikers)

Retro Studios (Metroid Prime series, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze)

Notable competitors

The Kyoto company has had several major rivals over the years,  spanning both home and handheld console arenas. Some of these rivals are no longer in business, but there are still a couple of active contenders worth knowing.

Sony

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

You could definitely argue that Sony is Nintendo’s arch-rival in the last three decades. The rivalry was actually born out of a scuppered partnership between the two in the early 1990s. Nintendo and Sony were working on a CD-based add-on for the SNES, but contractual disputes between the two companies meant that Nintendo halted the tie-up at the last minute.

Rather than let all its development work go to waste, Sony kept working on a CD-based console. This became the PlayStation, launching in 1994 in Japan and 1995 in the US. The original console would beat the Nintendo 64 in terms of global sales, while 2000’s PlayStation 2 would absolutely obliterate the competition (Nintendo’s GameCube included).

Microsoft

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The house of Windows was a late entrant to the console wars, joining with the original Xbox back in 2001. The company’s first effort pioneered several features that are now commonplace in the console gaming space, such as an integrated broadband adapter and hard drive.

Unbelievably, Microsoft’s first home console actually out-sold the GameCube, although it was a distant second to the all-conquering PlayStation 2. Nevertheless, this showed that the Xbox name was here to stay and that Nintendo couldn’t rest on its laurels.

Other rivals over the years

Best moments in Nintendo history

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The NES revives the industry

How many companies can say they’re responsible for revitalizing an entire industry? Nintendo is one of them, as the NES was launched just after the great video game crash of 1983. The crash was caused by a flood of low-quality games and a ton of consoles, resulting in the industry almost destroying itself.

But the release of the NES in the early to mid-1980s rejuvenated the industry in a massive way, owing to competitive pricing and a slew of high-quality games. It’s tough to argue that the years that followed would be as fruitful for the industry if the NES weren’t released.

Pokemon runs rampant Nintendo DS beats Sony PSP

Nintendo’s home console business was a disappointment in the early 2000s due to the flagging performance of the GameCube relative to the PS2. But one bright spot was its long-running handheld division, with the Game Boy Advance line proving to be extremely popular.

Then Sony announced and launched its first handheld, the PlayStation Portable, in 2004. It’s easy to forget right now, but there was a real feeling from many observers that Sony would beat Nintendo if it ever got into the handheld space.

The PSP indeed sold very well, but there’s no denying that the DS was more popular. According to VGChartz, the DS sold over 150 million units compared to the PSP’s 81 million. Nintendo would maintain this momentum with the 3DS, which absolutely obliterated the Vita and resulted in Sony leaving the handheld business.

Nintendo Wii destroys everything

It’s not exactly one moment, but the Wii’s massive success was a huge story from 2007 onwards. The console was hard to get at its November 2006 launch and this continued to be the case for months down the line. In fact, the machine wound up selling just over 100 million units, ahead of the PS3 and Xbox 360.

The Wii’s success was all the more satisfying due to the fact that the previous console (GameCube) had sold so poorly while the N64 also played second-fiddle to the PS1. So it represented Nintendo returning to the top of the industry.

Nintendo’s Switch is a sales sensation

It’s not necessarily one moment, but Nintendo obliterating all comers with the Switch certainly has to be up there. The company’s previous console, the Wii U, had been a disastrous commercial failure, so the pressure was on for the company to deliver on the Switch.

That’s indeed exactly what happened from 2023 onwards, as the new hybrid console quickly flew off the shelves and became tough to get. It was a very welcome change from the Wii U era, showing that Nintendo still had what it took to blow the industry away.

Worst moments in Nintendo history

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The Virtual Boy is a horrible failure

Nintendo would probably like to forget that the Virtual Boy ever happened. The 1995 console offered stereoscopic 3D visuals years before the 3DS would do the same. But the console proved to be a massive failure and was discontinued after less than a year.

A big part of its failure was the limited color palette, only displaying red and black colors that resulted in headaches being reported by consumers and reviewers. Then there was the weird head-mounted display, which was mounted on a stand and required you to put it on a table. No wonder it failed.

The Wii U stumbles and falls (hard)

Nintendo was fresh off the massive success of the Wii when it opted to release the radical Wii U console. Featuring a decent graphical bump over the Wii and a controller with an integrated screen, it felt like Nintendo was onto something really cool at first. And quite a few studios hopped aboard to support the machine.

But the Wii U stumbled out of the gate, and third-party developers gradually dialed back support for the console as a result. Toss in the Xbox One and PS4 out-shining Nintendo’s console, and it was a repeat of the GameCube all over again. Except the Wii U somehow sold fewer units than the purple cube.

JoyCon drift

When the Nintendo Switch was launched in March 2023, some owners quickly discovered an issue that became known as JoyCon Drift. To put it simply, the JoyCon analog stick would drift uncontrollably, meaning that an in-game character would move without you wanting to do so.

It was a disappointing flaw but what made it much worse was the fact that Nintendo didn’t make any real attempt to address the issue for a long time. It’s since revised the design of the Switch OLED variant’s JoyCon to combat this issue, but says the issue won’t ever go away as it’s related to wear-and-tear.

Flying Robots 101: Everything You Need To Know About Drones

The armed RQ-9 Reaper MQ-1 Predator, seen on the left, is visually distinct from the Aeryon Scout Quadrotor. The Reaper is also six almost eleven times as long. Wikimedia Commons

When an unmanned aerial vehicle reportedly flew within about 200 feet of an airliner earlier this week, outlets like Time and CNN chose to accompany their stories with a picture of the RQ-9 Reaper–this, despite that initially, there was no concrete description of the unmanned aircraft.

It’s not terribly surprising that news outlets would default to an image of the Reaper; it’s perhaps the most widely recognized drone in operation. But as more details of the incident surfaced, this simplification proved incredibly wrong. The unmanned craft is now described as a 3-foot-long quadrotor–a four-blade copter–which is wildly distinct from the 36-foot-long Reaper; a bit like the difference between a Johnny Seven O.M.A and an AK-47. That’s when I realized: drones are really confusing. Even to people who get paid to write about them! So here’s a primer on what is and isn’t a drone, the differences between common types of drones, and a bunch of other stuff you need to know to sound smart talking about these things:

Where does the term drone come from?

When unmanned flying vehicles were first introduced to the U.S. military, the ability to control them from afar wasn’t very sophisticated. So the first drones flew along pre-set paths, operating off an internal navigation system. This led to servicemen informally referring to any machine that flew without human control a “drone,” and Germany still has some like this in service today. That said, the “not being controlled by a human” part of the definition has since been lost to everyday use.

What exactly are drones?

“Drone” as a category refers to any unmanned, remotely piloted flying craft, ranging from something as small as a radio-controlled toy helicopter to the 32,000-pound, $104 million Global Hawk. If it flies and it’s controlled by a pilot on the ground, it fits under the everyday-language definition of drone.

Global Hawk

Wait, does that mean model airplanes are drones?

Almost! Actually, under the law as it stands, any unmanned, remotely piloted vehicle in the United States flown for hobby or recreational purposes is a model airplane, thanks to the 2012 FAA re-authorization act. In 2024, the FAA will suggest new, drone-specific regulations, at which point model airplane law and drone law will probably diverge. Until then, though, all small drones used by private citizens in the U.S. are legally model airplanes.

So is the military using model airplanes?

No. The military is not considered a private citizen, so it plays by different rules, and uses different terminology.

Okay, so what terms does the military use?

The military has described drones, variously, as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs), Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), and Remotely Piloted Systems. (The FAA uses some of these terms, too.) The difference between UAV/RPV and UAS/RPS is that the former terms refer to the vehicle itself, and the latter terms describe the vehicle as well as the pilot and support staff. These are useful distinctions for specialists, but not for regular people.

What are the different types of drones the military uses?

The United States military alone maintains three different classifications, one each for the Air Force, Army, and Marines. Part of the confusion in drone terminology is overlapping and competing definitions. The Air Force files drones under five different tiers; the Army and the Marines file drones under three tiers, and none of those tiers perfectly overlap. That’s boring and technical. Instead, here are some of the most commonly used or iconic drones:

The RQ-11 Raven weighs 4 pounds, is launched with a throw, and is piloted with a hand-held unit that resembles a video-game controller. The Raven isn’t the most iconic military drone, but it is probably the most used: more than 19,000 have been built. It’s mainly useful for seeing around corners and sending footage of rooftops back to troops moving through a city.

It also looks like an awkward model airplane, and it breaks apart like LEGOs when it lands:

The RQ-7 Shadow is approximately man-sized, and can fly almost 80 miles away from its commander while providing near-instant video to give a good picture of the battlefield.

Shadow 200

The MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are the most iconic drones, and odds are if there’s a news story about a drone, it’s going to have a picture of one of these. These guys can be armed so that makes them largely, though by no means exclusively, the preferred tool for what we call drone strikes. The main difference between them is that the newer Reaper is larger, has a more powerful engine, and can carry much, much more. They still both look like someone slapped a giant wing on a match, though.

MQ-1 Predator UAV

The Rq-4 Global Hawk is the leviathan of the drone fleet. As mentioned above, it weighs more than 32,000 pounds, has a 130-foot wingspan, and can fly for more than a day. It can reach up to 60,000 feet, and from high elevation it can take high-resolution images of the land below, as well as detect and track moving targets.

Though not in use by the United States, let’s take a look at the Aeryon Scout. It’s a small quadrotor that NATO allies supplied to the Libyan rebels in the recent campaign to overthrow Gaddafi. The scout weighs less than 3 pounds and can fly for about 25 minutes, making it useful for checking around corners. It’s operated with a touch screen, too.

Aeryon Scout

That’s by no means a comprehensive list of military drones, but it should get you through a dinner party.

What about private industry? Does it use simpler terms?

As of last week, yes! Not because the drone industry doesn’t have weird or obscure terms, but on Friday the drone lobbyist Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conceded that “drone” is what people are calling unmanned aerial vehicles, so “drone” is now begrudgingly the industry term.

So what should I call them?

Ultimately, depends on your audience. In everyday conversation or casual writing, “drone” is fine. If the audience is military or industry, or knowledgeable policy makers, it might be best to skip the informal terms, crack open Google, and figure out exactly how these people are going to talk about flying robots.

Everything You Need To Know About The Apple Watch Ultra

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Bigger and tougher

The Apple Watch Ultra is bigger and more durable than the Apple Watch Series 8. Apple

Apple Watch Ultra is big. While the difference between the 45mm chassis of the Watch Series 8 and the 49mm Watch Ultra may not sound substantial, it should feel positively huge to standard Apple Watch users. Keep in mind: Apple expanded the case size by 1mm with the Watch Series 7, and that made a very noticeable difference. 

It’ll also have a much thicker chassis to incorporate new components, including a larger, louder speaker and a three-microphone array to improve voice clarity when making calls on the watch in less-than-ideal conditions. The Watch Ultra only comes in one hardware configuration, which includes cellular connectivity, so the expectation is that people will want to use the Watch Ultra to make calls at any time.

Presumably, the larger case also allowed Apple to give the Watch Ultra a bigger battery, which it estimates will last up to 36 hours on a single charge, or up to 60 hours with a low-power feature (available later in the fall).

The Apple Watch Ultra has a new “Action” button and a redesigned Digital Crown. Apple

The redesigned watch will also feature some design tweaks for the sake of durability, and usability in extreme conditions. The titanium case extends up to cover the edges of the sapphire crystal display to minimize cracked edges. The Watch Ultra is rated to operate on-wrist at temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, or as high as 131 F. It’s also IP6X and MIL-STD-810H certified—a military-grade durability rating used for many “rugged” tech products—indicating it’s prepared for some conditions, including rain, humidity, immersion in sand and dust, freezing, shock, and vibration, among others.

The buttons—yes, plural—are also getting an overhaul. The Digital Crown is larger and features grooved notches to make it easier to manipulate with a gloved hand. There’s also a second input: a large customizable “Action” button, that will allow you to start tracking workouts and perform other functions quickly. For example, triathletes can switch from running to cycling to swimming by simply pressing the button.

Last, but not least, Apple has created three new, activity-specific Apple Watch Ultra bands—the stitch-free hook-clasped Alpine Loop Band, the wetsuit-ready rubber Ocean Band, and the ultralight stretch Trail Loop band.

Built for survival

The new compass app allows you to set waypoints to help you find your way back to your camp or car. Apple

The Apple Watch Ultra offers some specialized features, many of which seem designed with safety and survival for hikers and climbers in mind. It uses a more precise “dual-frequency” GPS tracking that allows the watch to maintain tracking when you’re surrounded by tall structures or mountains.

As part of watchOS 9, the Watch Ultra will feature a redesigned version of the compass app that allows you to set waypoints, like your home, your camp, or your car, and allow you to orient yourself in relation to those locations. It will also be able to use a feature called backtrack that can use GPS to create a path retracing your steps in real-time. If you find yourself fully lost or hurt, the larger speaker can now play an ultra-loud 86-decibel siren that sends a distinctive SOS alarm (audible up to 600 feet away).

During the day, the display is brighter, up to 2000 Nits, which should make it easier to see regardless of glare. It also features a night mode, which turns the whole interface red, making it easier to see without interfering with your own night-adjusted vision.

Diver’s delight

The Apple Watch Ultra also seems to be an especially useful tool for divers. It’s waterproof up to 100 meters (WR100) and has an EN13319 depth gauge certification for diving accessories. Using a new depth app, you’ll be able to see your depth, time underwater, and max depth. In conjunction with an upcoming app, Oceanic+, the Watch Ultra will reportedly work as an effective dive computer, letting you plan and share dive routes and providing safety stop guidance.

Plus the best of Apple Watch Series 8 and watchOS 9

In addition to all of its exclusive changes, the Apple Watch Ultra will feature all of the upgrades in the upcoming Apple Watch Series 8. Most notably, that means new motion sensors that can detect if you get in a car crash and automatically call for help. They include a gyroscope and a highly sensitive accelerometer. Even the Watch Ultra’s built-in barometer plays a role in detecting crashes by detecting pressure changes typically associated with airbag deployment. There is also a temperature sensor that improves menstrual cycle tracking and enables ovulation tracking through the Health app (information Apple stressed is encrypted on the watch and only accessible with a user’s passcode/Touch ID/Face ID).

What does all this mean?

Apple will sell three activity-focused bands for the Apple Watch Ultra: The Trail Loop, the Alpine Loop, and the Ocean Band. Apple

At a glance, the people who should get most excited are iPhone-using fans of multisports smartwatches from brands like Garmin and Suunto. Those brands already make watches with many of these features, but their flagship watches cost even more than the $799 Apple Watch Ultra and don’t offer the same level of connectivity and convenience as an Apple Watch and iPhone working in sync.

The question remains: Is the Apple Watch Ultra worth buying? We will hopefully get our hands on the Apple Watch Ultra in the coming weeks, so we’ll have a full review with our thoughts on whether or not it’s worth that higher price. In the meantime, the Apple Watch Ultra is available on Amazon for $799.

Sony Playstation: Everything You Need To Know About Sony’S Gaming Consoles

Sarah Chaney / Android Authority

For many people around the world, video games are synonymous with the Sony PlayStation. The Japanese company has been a major player in the home console scene for more than 25 years now, and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere soon with the release of the latest PlayStation 5 console late last year.

Many of you reading this have probably used or owned a PlayStation at some point in your lives, but how much do you really know about the gaming titan? Here’s what you need to know about the Sony PlayStation, from console history to first-party studios and more!

Sony PlayStation brand at a glance

PlayStation as a brand dates back to 1994 when the first PlayStation console came out in Japan. After a failed attempt at teaming up with Nintendo in 1991, Sony decided to release its own console to usher in the 3D era. Thanks to aggressive pricing and a more developer-friendly platform than rival consoles, the PS1 was a huge success, setting up the company to take a spot among the top gaming companies in the world.

Since then, the PlayStation brand has expanded considerably. The PlayStation 5 is the latest home console to enter the mix, with two handheld consoles and several services added to the mix.

PlayStation consoles

PlayStation 1

The PlayStation story started with 1994’s PlayStation. It popularized 3D visuals at a time when 2D games were the standard on consoles. The first PlayStation also used the CD format, allowing for more game content as well as expansive use of audio tracks and videos. And the console also played audio CDs at a time when the format was at the height of its popularity.

This combination of the CD format, audio disc support, and a relatively friendly development environment made the original PlayStation a smash hit. And it attracted a slew of console-exclusive games at the expense of rival platforms at the time.

PlayStation 2 PlayStation 3

More reading: PlayStation history — Every Sony console from PS1 to PS5

The console’s poor technical performance at first was due to its specs, which included a custom-made Cell processor along with seven satellite processing units dubbed SPUs. But price drops, killer exclusives, and developers gradually getting to grips with the exotic hardware resulted in the PS3’s sales picking up in a huge way.

PlayStation 4 PlayStation 5

The proper next-generation experience would arrive in November 2023 when Sony launched the PlayStation 5. The current-generation console is available in two flavors, namely with a disc drive or a digital console without a disc drive.

We also see a massive horsepower upgrade as the new console adopts AMD’s powerful Zen 2 octa-core CPU, as well as support for 4K gaming and ray tracing technology. Another notable upgrade is the Tempest 3D Engine for 3D audio, allowing for more immersive in-game sound. We also get an upgraded controller that offers a number of cool features and the biggest design change in a long time.

But storage is one of the biggest upgrades, as the PS5 uses a cutting-edge SSD with dramatically faster read/write speeds. This has several direct benefits, with lightning-fast load times in open-world games and much smaller game installs thanks to the SSD’s compression tech. It even opens the door for much faster traveling through open worlds.

Handheld

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

PlayStation Portable

Sony has also offered handheld PlayStation devices, starting with 2004’s PlayStation Portable. The console was a powerhouse compared to the rival Nintendo DS, and often saw PS2 ports of popular games. The machine offered a variety of other features, such as storage expansion via the Memory Stick Duo and Pro Duo format, MP3 support, video playback, and a web browser.

Sony’s first handheld did have a couple of challenges though, with the first being that it became a haven for piracy. The company would constantly play whack-a-mole by trying to patch vulnerabilities with firmware updates. The biggest downside to the PSP though is that it used the UMD format which delivered almost 2GB of storage but also resulted in excruciatingly long loading times.

PlayStation Vita

PlayStation services

Sony offers a few services on its consoles, starting with the PlayStation Store. This storefront allows users to buy digital versions of games, add-ons for games, access demos, and more.

Another prominent service is the PlayStation Plus subscription service. A PS Plus subscription enables online gaming on PlayStation consoles from the PS4 onwards (the PS3 didn’t require a subscription for online gaming). PlayStation Plus subscribers also receive exclusive discounts as well as two PS4 titles and one PS5 game each month. PS5 owners also get access to a collection of 20 critically acclaimed PS4 titles as part of the subscription.

Sony also offers the PlayStation Now subscription gaming service, allowing users to stream a variety of PS2, PS3, and PS4 titles via the cloud. Thankfully, many PS2 and PS4 games can be downloaded too if the streaming experience isn’t for you.

PlayStation controllers

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

The first PlayStation controller started out as a digital-only affair with no vibration, but the company would add two analog sticks and then vibration a couple of years after the console’s launch. The PS2 generally kept this Dual Shock controller design, but added pressure-sensitive face buttons.

We then saw the PlayStation 3 controller, which switched to wireless connectivity, added a PlayStation button for going to the home menu, and gyroscope functionality. Oddly enough, the initial PS3 controller didn’t have vibration due to a lawsuit. But once this was settled, PS3 controllers gained Dual Shock functionality.

First-party PlayStation games and studios

Sony has a variety of developers under its PlayStation Studios umbrella. These studios and their notable games are as follows:

Bend Studio (Days Gone, Syphon Filter)

Guerrilla Games (Horizon, Killzone)

Housemarque (Matterfall, Resogun, Returnal)

Insomniac Games (Ratchet and Clank, Resistance, Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales)

Japan Studio (Knack, The Last Guardian)

London Studio (Blood and Truth, Singstar)

Media Molecule (Dreams, LittleBigPlanet)

Naughty Dog (The Last of Us, Uncharted)

Polyphony Digital (Gran Turismo)

San Diego Studio (MLB The Show, LittleBigPlanet Karting)

Santa Monica Studio (God of War)

Sucker Punch (Ghost of Tsushima, Infamous)

Team Asobi (Astro’s Playroom, ASTRO Bot Rescue Mission)

A big part of what makes Sony’s PlayStation brand so unique is its deep focus on die-hard gamers, delivering plenty of exclusive titles and often offering high-powered consoles for great visuals.

This approach differs from Nintendo, which definitely rivals (if not beats) Sony for exclusive content but tends to skimp on horsepower. Sony isn’t shy about offering content for mature audiences only, while Nintendo prefers to offer games that are suitable for a wide variety of ages (including children).

Notable competitors

The PlayStation platform has had a number of rivals over its more than two decades on the market. In fact, the firm is also arguably responsible for some rivals exiting the space. We take a look at Sony’s biggest and/or most notable competitors in this space.

Related: Nintendo Switch buyer’s guide — Everything you need to know

Nintendo would strike back in 2006 though, as its Wii became a sales phenomenon and was the most popular console of its generation. It handily beat the PS3 for most of the generation, although Sony did manage to narrow the gap somewhat in its twilight years. This was in large part due to Nintendo’s “blue ocean” strategy with the Wii, targeting gamers and non-gamers alike with the Wii’s motion controls.

Sony would put one over Nintendo with the PS4 in 2013, coming a year after Nintendo launched the ill-fated Wii U console. Unfortunately, the Wii U sold just under 14 million units according to VGChartz. Nintendo would go on to launch the Switch in 2023, and it continues to be a massive success. But the PS4’s multi-year head-start means that Sony’s machine is still the top console in terms of units sold to date.

Microsoft

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Microsoft is the newest rival to the PlayStation brand, but it instantly made a splash with the 2001 launch of the Xbox. Sure, the PS2 dramatically out-sold the Xbox, but the Microsoft console, in turn, was slightly more popular than Nintendo’s GameCube. In other words, Microsoft managed to supplant Nintendo as Sony’s closest rival on its first attempt.

The Xbox also introduced features like a hard drive that would go on to become a staple in future PlayStation consoles. And it also delivered integrated online connectivity in the machine, exclusively supporting broadband connections. Sony initially offered a Network Adapter add-on for the PS2, but the PS2 Slim delivered integrated network functionality as well. And we’d later see the PS3 offer this support out of the box.

Microsoft’s second console, the Xbox 360, was released in late 2005 and is unarguably the closest it has come to toppling Sony. In fact, the console was actually more popular than the PS3 for several years. This was due to its cheaper price tag, polished online service, and better multi-platform ports as developers initially struggled with the PS3’s exotic internals. But the PS3 would get its act together in the second half of this generation, owing to price drops, enticing exclusives, and third-party studios getting better acquainted with the machine’s idiosyncrasies. This resulted in the PS3 actually edging out the Xbox 360 for total sales, according to some tallies.

Best moments in PlayStation history

Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

The decision to go it alone

The PlayStation was originally supposed to be a disc-based add-on for the Super Nintendo in 1991, but Nintendo made a last-minute decision to go with Philips instead. This controversial move angered Sony, but the company eventually chose to channel this anger into creating its own console instead.

The result of course was the first PlayStation, and Sony succeeded at toppling Nintendo on its first try. Interestingly enough, a prototype of the Nintendo PlayStation add-on was auctioned for $360,000 last year.

The PS2 breaks records

Sony generated a ton of hype in the run-up to the PS2’s launch, and the company eventually delivered thanks to a stupendous stream of quality games from first- and third-party studios. From Metal Gear Solid 2, Ico, and Gran Turismo 4 to Ratchet and Clank, Final Fantasy X, and God of War, there was something for everyone.

It seems like everyone bought the console too, as the PS2 became the most successful console of all time in terms of units sold. With almost 160 million units sold, the PS2 is just ahead of the Nintendo DS and sold more than the GameCube and Xbox combined.

PS4 puts Sony back on top

Sony had a major misstep at first with the PS3, but got itself back in order by the tail-end of the generation. The company was still beaten by the Nintendo Wii though. Sony then hit the ball out of the park with 2013’s PS4.

The PS4 fended off competition from the Xbox One and Nintendo Wii U to become the top-selling console of its generation. It also enjoyed a major head-start on 2023’s Nintendo Switch, although there’s a chance that the Switch narrows the gap to the PS4. But it definitely marks a return to form for Sony.

It seemed like the PS1 and PS2’s success went to Sony’s head, and the PS3 was the result of that. The console was massively expensive at $499 (or $599 for the 60GB variant), compared to the Xbox 360’s $299 price tag. It didn’t help when the firm’s Ken Kutaragi reportedly said he wanted consumers to think “I will work more hours to buy one” prior to the price reveal.

Then there was the E3 2005 conference a year before the console’s launch, and that infamous Killzone trailer. Sony claimed the stunning trailer was “real-time footage” running on the console when it was actually a computer-generated trailer for internal use.

Between the price, over-stating the machine’s capabilities, and the exotic hardware that was extremely difficult to work with, the PS3 initially represented a Sony that was out-of-touch with consumers and partners.

PlayStation Network is hacked

Is this the lowest point in PlayStation history? We wouldn’t argue against it at all. Sony’s PlayStation Network was hacked in 2011, with information pertaining to almost 80 million accounts being exposed as a result. Sony only compounded matters by not immediately divulging the hack to users.

The company was forced to shut the PlayStation Network down for almost a month while it secured the service and brought it back online. It was a very ugly affair overall, although Sony gave away free games to users as a form of compensation. It also offered a year of free identity theft protection to users in certain locales.

The Vita gets dropped like a sack of bricks

Sony’s PSP enjoyed a ton of success, but the PlayStation Vita wasn’t in the same boat. The follow-up to the PSP certainly delivered plenty of horsepower and features, but a combo of the Nintendo 3DS, pricey memory cards, and the rise of smartphone games resulted in flagging sales.

Big-name third-party studios ditched the Vita a year or two into its launch. This wouldn’t have been as big a deal if Sony kept releasing first-party titles. Unfortunately, the platform-holder decided to stop releasing games for the Vita too. Sony’s strategy was to attract indie studios and Japanese developers instead, which made the console a niche attraction. Then in early 2023, Sony announced that the PlayStation Store for Vita would be shut down, although it quickly backtracked due to the outcry from fans.

You could argue that Sony was right to drop the handheld at the time, but the Nintendo Switch shows that it’s possible to deliver a successful handheld console, melding this form factor with TV support.

A: The PS5 controller works just fine on PC via Bluetooth or a USB cable, but some features like the resistant triggers and more granular haptic feedback aren’t supported. The PS4 controller also generally works fine. Unfortunately, the PS3 controller is a more hit or miss experience, as it’s supported in Steam but requires a third-party app called ScpToolkit to function correctly outside Steam.

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