A Brief History of: The Sony PlayStation 2

How does a company make a follow-up to the most successful console (at that time) of all time?

If you’re Japanese electronics giant Sony, you add a DVD player and the vaunted Emotion Engine to the PlayStation 2, the best-selling console of all time with 150 million units sold and over 3800 titles to its library.

Released March 4, 2000 in Japan, the PlayStation 2 was an instant market sensation. Featuring backwards compatibility with the uber-popular PlayStation, the PS2 also had the new Dualshock 2 controller in a form factor that many consider an industry standard today.

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PS2 Dualshock Controller

Initial development work for the PlayStation 2 began as soon as the first PlayStation was released with details about the console finally leaking to the press in 1997 with the official announcement coming in March 1999. Sales for the PlayStation 2 consoles, games, and related accessories topped $250 million on its first day as opposed to the $95 million debut for Sega’s Dreamcast, largely putting the figurative writing on the wall for that console’s fate.

Though the PS2 was initially launched as a competitor for Sega’s new system, it ended up actually competing against Nintendo’s GameCube and Microsoft’s Xbox – both of which were best handily in the marketplace.

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Two factors played into the sensation surrounding the PlayStation 2’s launch – the DVD capability and the backwards compatibility with PS One games. Giving the console a huge installed base of titles from day one and offering DVD playback capabilities at a total unit price equivalent to or less than many DVD units on the market, the PlayStation 2 was a potent device indeed.

Video game industry watchers initially thought that the competition between the three main systems would be quite intense, especially given Nintendo’s established brands and the Xbox’s powerful specs but, in the end, the PlayStation 2 really ran away with the show in the 6th generation of home consoles.

The initial round of games for the PlayStation 2 did a lot to show off the system’s power but very little to advance gameplay – or even offer a revolutionary experience, for that matter.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

This was to change with the release of games like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Final Fantasy X, and Grand Theft Auto 3 – titles that truly made a huge impact when they were released and are among the pantheon of classics.

Metal Gear Solid would go on to introduce another title in the series on the PS2, Snake Eater, while Grand Theft Auto would have no less than three total showings on the Sony hardware, all of which are among the most highly acclaimed titles on the system.

The PlayStation 2 is largely credited with bringing video games to critical mass, catapulting what was once a niche segment of the entertainment industry into the popular consciousness in a whole new way. Video games were always popular, but during the PlayStation 2 era they began to challenge Hollywood’s dominance of popular mass entertainment for the first time. Cinematic experiences and deep, film-like storytelling got its kickstart during the PS2, and modern video games still reflect the influence of that system even now.


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