Ask any PlayStation fan worth their salt about Sony’s console history and, specifically, which system they consider the most important — the one that signalled a watershed moment, if you will — and they’ll likely revert to the PS1.
More than two decades ago, the original PlayStation birthed a gaming ecosystem that continues to thrive to this day, with the PS4 Slim, PSVR and the oncoming PS4 Pro being the latest additions to the burgeoning family. But as this is October 26, our attention is drawn not to the trailblazing PS1, but rather its wildly successful big brother, the PlayStation 2. Welcome to This Day in PlayStation History, your window into the archives of all things PlayStation. In the time since this original feature began, we’ve placed the spotlight on entire franchises, industry icons, and bona fide gaming mascots in Sly Cooper and Crash Bandicoot. Now, 16 years after it first landed on these shores, it’s about time we ushered PS2 into the limelight.
So crack out those rose-tinted glasses and get ready to bask in some nostalgia. Cast your mind back to an era when 8MB memory cards were your most treasured possession; a time when booting up the system often involved praying to gods old and new that your scratched disc made it past that iconic PS2 start-up screen. Cue the Tiger Woods celebration.
When PS2 touched down in the market at the turn of the millennium, it introduced the concept of backwards compatibility to the PlayStation faithful, ensuring that all those treasured libraries of PS1 games weren’t suddenly rendered redundant. Remember, this was in the years before the Internet and digital gaming became ubiquitous, meaning those who wished to collect and archive a slice of pixelated history had to do so the old-fashioned way.
Perhaps the major draw that helped fire PlayStation 2 into the stratosphere was the inclusion of a built-in DVD player, and though Sony tried to replicate that feat with the PS3 and Blu-ray years later, the fact that the PS2 was initially available for around the same price as a standalone DVD player expanded its audience far beyond the gaming industry.
That’s something its chief competetors struggled to come to terms with. One year on from the PS2’s launch, SEGA confirmed plans to discontinue the DreamCast only 18 months after it muscled its way into the market, opening up the field for Sony’s PlayStation 2 to become the only active piece of hardware in the sixth generation for a period of six months. Indeed it wasn’t until the advent of Microsoft’s Xbox and the GameCube that competition spiked and even then, thanks to the system’s strong head-start and developer support, PS2 fast climbed into a league of its own.
A League of Its Own
Truth be told, the 2000 launch library was fairly lacklustre — remember The Bouncer? — but by the following year, Sony had temporarily nailed down Grand Theft Auto 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty as PS2 exclusives, ensuring it boasted the necessary software to see of its new hardware rivals. As time wore on, that strong lineup continued to grow and evolve, and the wildly successful console even hatched all-new PlayStation franchises in the name of Sony Santa Monica’s God of War, Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter and the über-stylish Devil May Cry series.
By 2002, stirred by the Xbox’s online functionality, the Japanese platform-holder then launched a network adapter that allowed select first-party games — SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs included — to be playable online. It was, of course, fairly rudimentary by today’s standards, but it proved to be another example of Sony pushing the envelope with the PlayStation brand.
Though it’s become a hackneyed cliché by now, PS2 introduced the concept of a gaming device that could comfortably occupy the living room what with its built-in DVD player and massive library of games. The big question now is, can PlayStation 4 possibly emulate its runaway success? Early reports indicate that, at least based on the current sales trajectory, Sony’s current flagship hardware is well on course to break past 100 million units — a feat that’s only been achieved by five systems: the Wii, PlayStation, Game Boy and Game Boy Color, Nintendo DS and of course, the undisputed champion, the PS2.
It plateaued in the region of 155 million sales, and even if PS4 falls short of that eye-watering total, Sony boss Kaz Hirai believes that “it is likely that PS4 will become the platform which exceeds the profits earned with PS2.” And people said console gaming was dead and buried…
Capping off our rather nostalgic retrospective, we know that the PlayStation 2 remained in active production for the better part of 13 years, and continued to hold a strong presence across international markets — Brazil and South Africa, to name but two — long into the seventh generation. Alas, PlayStation 2 was officially discontinued across the globe on January 4, 2013, just a few weeks shy of the moment when Sony peeled back the curtain on the PS4. Good night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
This Day in PlayStation History is a new and recurring feature here on PlayStation LifeStyle that will be acting as your window into the archives of all things PlayStation — birthdays, anniversaries, milestones and more.