15 Years With The PlayStation 2
The Beginning Of An Unprecedented Era
Despite the monumental success of the PlayStation 2, it wasn't always guaranteed. The console debuted in Japan on March 4, 2000 to wild anticipation, but Sony was unable to meet demand. This continued for the North American release later in the year when Sony cut its launch day stock from a million to 500,000 units.
The high demand was a good sign, but a weak launch lineup (remember Fantavision?), competition from the Dreamcast, and the specter of history (no console manufacturer to that point had dominated in back-to-back hardware cycles), meant victory wasn't assured.
I was in Japan for the console's release, with the task of securing a unit for the office so we could review the launch titles in the magazine. What could be easier than walking into a store in Akihabara and buying one on launch day? When I got to the famous Tokyo electronics district it was absolutely packed with people waiting in lines and milling about hoping to get a PS2.
I made my way into a shop and was told there were no pre-orders for the system; only for software. I returned later that evening with a backpack of supplies and got in the back of a hopelessly long queue. Eventually a store employee got on a megaphone and started shouting instructions to everyone. I couldn't make out what he was saying, but as soon as everyone ahead of me turned around and started running in my direction, I quickly figured it out. The line was being moved from the front of the store to a side entrance in the alley where I was standing – propelling me from the outhouse to the penthouse in the line at the cost of some other poor bastards.
The night was spent reading, talking with others in line, and still wondering if I would actually get a system despite my absolute stroke of luck. In an interesting cultural dichotomy, I found out in Japan it was okay to urinate in public and yet civilized enough that I didn't have to worry about my stuff or place in line getting taken.
Morning arrived, and thankfully there were enough systems that I was able to pick one up. I'll never forget the sense of relief and euphoria while riding the coach to the airport. I'd not only gotten my hands on a new Sony system that was in short supply and ridiculously in demand, but I'd also – in my mind – saved my job. What would our editor in chief Andy McNamara have done if I'd returned empty handed and all that coverage was missing from the magazine?
Luckily, both the PS2 and I have enjoyed some longevity. Click on to enlarge the console's timeline below to find out more.
Despite the weak launch lineup in Japan in particular, the PlayStation 2 would go on to debut and host some great games and franchises, from Grand Theft Auto III to God of War, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, and Devil May Cry. The PS2 era also saw Sony bolster its first-party development ranks with the acquisition and/or initial collaboration with important studios such as Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, Sucker Punch, and Santa Monica Studio.
Here's a look at our Top 25 PlayStation 2 games from 2009:
The Console That Could Do Everything
Sony made the right move in tying the original PlayStation to disc-based content; moving away from the game cartridges that preceded it, and Sony was similarly prescient with the PlayStation 2. The console used the DVD format, which made it attractive as a DVD player at launch and prefigured the do-it-all approach of consoles today.
The PS2 spawned plenty of peripherals in its lifetime – including the EyeToy camera – and some were either early for their time or didn't get the full backing of Sony. The company released a hard disk drive and network adapter (the 40GB HDD required the adapter) that plugged into the back of the original version of the console, but in the U.S. there weren't a lot of titles that used the HDD relative to the overall amount of software. Microsoft took command and initiated Xbox Live for the original Xbox in 2002, but Sony left it to third-parties to provide their own infrastructure for PS2's online games. Sony's PlayStation Network wasn't established until the PlayStation 3.
Sony even released a Linux kit that included the HDD, adapter, keyboard, and other components in order to turn the PS2 into a computer, albeit with limited capabilities.
Even before the Linux kit was released, the PS2's potential power was renowned. A story emerged that Saddam Hussein was amassing PS2s for military uses, and even though this report was debunked, it spoke to people's belief in the capabilities of the console.
The PS2 also saw iterations such as the PSX in Japan (above), which was a PS2 with a digital video recorder and some editing software, and a Europe-only 22" Bravia TV with a built-in PS2.
Although apps like Netflix would become one of the hallmarks of the consoles of the next generation like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Brazilian PS2 owners could actually stream Netflix content on the system via a special Netflix disc.
Fifteen years into its existence, what are your memories of PlayStation 2 gaming?