The Playstation 2 is the most successful console of all time. It has sold over 150,000,000 units. Just let that sink in – one hundred and fifty million. It was in production for roughly 13 years, despite its successor, the Playstation 3, being released 6 years after launch. 1,500,000,000,000 (1.5 billion) copies of the 4000 games released for it have been sold. Not too shabby. Basically, the Playstation 2 did fairly well. For the benefit of our younger readers, and the nostalgia of the older ones, this article will be analyzing and explaining why the console was so successful.
Some raw numbers firstly: the PS2’s CPU clocked around 300 MHz, it had 32 MB of RAM, 4 MB of eDRAM, and its memory cards were 8 megabytes. In case you misread, I thought I’d point it out for you. This was all in megabytes. A megabyte is 1/1024ths of a gigabyte, the measurement that all of the parts in your current PC or console will be in. To put that in proper scale, the average smartphone (Galaxy S3) is five times as fast on two to four times more processors, has 32 times more RAM, and 2048 times more storage. While nowadays, these specs may seem infinitesimal, at the time they came out they were far better than the competition, the Sega Dreamcast. While the PS2’s hardware edge was surpassed in the following years by the original Xbox and the GameCube, it had one advantage over all three: it played DVDs. The Xbox required the additional purchase of an adapter for usage as a DVD player, and the GameCube and Dreamcast just didn’t support it at all.
It cost roughly the same as a standalone DVD player, and played DVDs right out of the box. It appealed to people in a way that modern consoles are still trying to replicate today; to sell to non-gamers. It was easy to set up, and worked fairly well. People wanted to buy it, just so they could use it as a DVD player. This also swayed people when choosing a games or movies player. Gamers could play loads of games, and could watch films. Film-watchers could watch films, and hey, the kids could play that driving game thing on it. The addition of the DVD player changed the industry, and can be pointed to as part of the success of DVD in general, due to the number of people who bought a PS2 to play DVDs. This helped sell the Playstation 2, both to gamers and the general public.
The PS2 had another advantage over the competition: backwards compatibility. As the Xbox had no previous generation to be compatible to, and the GameCube just wasn’t able to support it, the PS2 had the monopoly on PS1 fans. The original Playstation had a massive user base, and was hugely popular. It had brand identity and great backing from developers. Both of these transferred over to its successor. It was the perfect storm: developers wanted to make games for both consoles and people wanted to buy Sony consoles. This resulted in there being a stream of games that could be played on the PS2 that just kept coming out.
It also had some spectacular exclusives: Final Fantasy X and XII, God of War 1 and 2, Shadow of the Colossus, and Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, to name a few. These lasted throughout its lifecycle. Sony’s wise move in paying for exclusivity with big games payed off, and the console sold off of the backs of titles like these. Many of these games went on to become cult classics, and sequels have and are being made for all of the mentioned titles. Combined with its strong developer support, the PS2’s software was rock-solid despite competition. And despite the DVD player functionality, it’s still the games that sell a console, and the Playstation 2 had loads of them.
Launch and Beyond
The PS2’s launch was staggering. The box itself cost $300. However, on sites like eBay people were paying up to $1000 for one. October/November 2000 was the NA and EU launches, and was a good year to work at Sony. Unless you were assembling units, in which case your fingers were most likely stubs. Despite the console having supply issues, its combined income from consoles, accessories, and games generated $250 million dollars. On the first day. The PS2’s launch line-up also served it extremely well. It had 6 launch games with a Metacritic score of 80 or above. Not only this, but many of its launch games resulted in the creation of highly successful franchises, or at least brought them to the fore. Ever heard of Tekken? How about Unreal Tournament? Or these couple of indie series called FIFA and Madden?
While not all of these were built on a PS2 foundation, it helped boost these series along, with graphical improvements and publicity boosts. Launch games like these were integral in the massive launch windows success of the Playstation 2. In fact, the PS2 was so successful that the Dreamcast, which had launched a year prior, was out of production 6 months later. The Playstation 2 also sold nigh-on a million units on its March launch day in Japan. The Dreamcast going under meant that PS2 was the only gen-6 console for several months, meaning that it had a strong player base to combat its rivals. This served it well, as the Xbox had better specs, and the GameCube was cheaper. In 2001, Sony also had a collection of titles to combat Microsoft and Nintendo’s lineups, such as Grand Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Crazy Taxi. This meant that the PS2 continued to sell well post-launch despite cheaper or better-kitted consoles launching in the mean time.
The PS2 was a staggering success. Everything about it sung sales. It had the added functionality of a DVD player, something that sold the console both a as home theatre device, and as a modern gaming machine. Its games were great on launch, and kept staying that way. It got amazing exclusives that people still talk about and develop sequels for to this day, 13 years after launch. While it had some shortcomings in its lack of a unified online service and some technical faults, it was a masterpiece. It was, and is, the console all other consoles dream to be.
Thank you, Playstation 2.