PlayStation? Have you died and gone to a place in hell where only PlayStation consoles are allowed? Nope, relax, you’re fine. This is still an Xbox site and your favourite console is right where you left it. However, that shouldn’t stop you or us from celebrating the console that defined the early 2000s in gaming. It’s been 20 years since the PlayStation 2 launched in North America, and to this day it remains the best-selling console of all time, with over 155 million units sold.
For perspective, the PlayStation 4 is Sony’s second best-selling console, with 112+ million units sold. And the Philips CDI sold around one (that’s “1”) million units. Insert a Nelson laugh here. Selling triple digits is a crowning achievement for any console manufacturer, and only four home consoles have ever managed to accomplish that.
We’re at the dawn of next-gen consoles launching in just a few weeks. Whether or not Series X|S and PlayStation 5 surpass these numbers remains in limbo. But for now, we’re travelling back, way back to October 2000, to take a look at the launch of the PlayStation 2 in the West, its launch lineup and the impact it left on the video game industry.
The Launch of the PlayStation 2
With the likes of Demon’s Souls and Miles Morales spearheading its launch, the PlayStation 5 looks set for an excellent start. But did you know the PlayStation 2 launched alongside over two dozen games? Of course, not all of them set the world on fire. But it’s one of the biggest and most diverse line-ups to date and there was something for everyone.
Sports fans got their yearly sporting instalments with Madden NFL 2001 and NHL 2001 – without any obnoxious microtransactions. Racing enthusiasts had the new Ridge Racer V to test their drifting skills in. Meanwhile, Rockstar Games published the very first entry in its Midnight Club series. For some reason, I spent a great deal of time playing MotoGP, something you wouldn’t see me doing today. Electronic Arts, on the other hand, launched its new SSX snowboarding franchise.
Those with an itch for lengthy RPGs were treated to two action role-playing games, Eternal Ring and Evergrace, both by FromSoftware, known today by their punishingly difficult Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls games.
Fighting fanatics were probably spoiled the most, starting with new entries in renowned series with Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore and Street Fighter EX3. Namco released Tekken Tag Tournament, a spin-off to its flagship fighting franchise. This fighter featured an impressive roster of 39 characters and the unique Tag mechanic from Tekken 3.
As for me, while I enjoyed some good old Tekken, I knocked people’s teeth out in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 – a boxing game where you could play as Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson and even Shaquille O’Neal.
TimeSplitters, one of the best multiplayer shooters ever made, also launched with the PlayStation 2. Most of these games weren’t necessarily exclusive to Sony’s new platform, but the variety of genres was mind-blowing nonetheless.
It Only Does Everything
Beyond the vast launch lineup, the PlayStation 2 also doubled as a DVD player. This may not seem like a big deal today, but it certainly contributed to sales back in 2000. Having a video game console that could also play back movies was a bargain at the initial price of $299. Over the coming years, the PlayStation 2 became home to an immensely large library of games. And due to its dominant position on the market, even third-party games were closely associated with it.
It’s much more difficult to imagine today, but titles like Devil May Cry 3 and Metal Gear Solid 3 were either temporarily or permanently exclusive to the PlayStation 2. Even new entries in the Grand Theft Auto series would come to Sony’s console first. Many titles from famous series didn’t release on other consoles for years to come.
Final Fantasy X didn’t come out on other systems until 2016; it didn’t come to Xbox until 2019. How crazy is that? I’m bringing this up to emphasize that, somehow, the Playstation 2 homed exclusive titles until well after its lifetime. In fact, many incredible games, including some of the launch titles, are still only playable on this particular platform.
Some truly excellent games have never left the confines of Sony’s sixth-gen console. Classic horror titles from Capcom, like Clock Tower 3, Haunting Ground and Resident Evil Outbreak are still exclusive to the PlayStation 2. Other horror games, such as Atlus’ Rule of Rose, have gone on to garner cult status, even if they’re not exactly great. And then there’s a Gladiator-inspired gem, like Shadow of Rome. It’s 2020 and there are still many reasons for owning a PlayStation 2.
Make Progress, Not War
Console wars are often viewed as a negative; X is better than Y and Z sucks altogether. In actuality, competition breeds progress. Were it not for Nintendo backing out of a deal with Sony, the PlayStation brand may never have seen the light of day. Without the original PlayStation, even the Xbox brand might not exist. It’s a constant, neverending loop which prompts companies to one-up each other in terms of games, services and design engineering.
And speaking of design engineering, in 2004 Sony released a slimmer, sexier version of the PlayStation 2. This sleek redesign was lighter and smaller in dimensions, with a built-in network adapter. Furthermore, in 2010, 10 whole years after its original release, Sony released a Bravia TV with a built-in PlayStation 2 (why am I only finding this out now?).
A lot of it is also a result of the PlayStation 2’s monumental success and the extensive games library. I have fond memories with the PlayStation 2, from helping Tidus and Yuna amass an army of powerful Aeons to fooling around for hundreds of hours in San Andreas. It holds a very special place in my heart and in the hearts of another 155 million people.