The PlayStation 2 at 21

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By TE Tomaino on March 4th, 2021


21 is a respectable age in the United States. One can legally purchase and consume alcohol, it is often the age where a trip to Las Vegas is most worthwhile, and you can officially… adopt a child…? Anyway, after 21 years, the PlayStation 2’s legacy, and thus relevance in gaming culture and history, definitely surpasses even the most noteworthy of milestones. So let’s celebrate the 21st birthday of the PS2 with a look at its influence—drinks optional! Kampai!!

Turning Centuries

PS2 initially launched in Japan on March 4, 2000—a year marked not only as a new millennium for civilization but a new era in gaming. The machine is an early entry into the sixth generation of console gaming, which included the Sega Dreamcast, Microsoft’s Xbox, and the Nintendo Game Cube. Those blessed to have survived the “terror” of Y2K witnessed Sony’s follow-up to the PlayStation thrive for over 12 innovative years, making it single-handedly the best-selling console—with the longest lifespan of all time.

Although other regions would receive their PS2 systems later the same year, the USA release on October 26, 2000, would generate $250 million in sales. This single day figure includes total revenue from the console, various accessories, and games. Just like the more recent release of the PS5, manufacturing delays would later make it difficult to come across the coveted system. Many flocked to eBay to sell the console at exuberant amounts—some listing for thousands of dollars.

This massive success, even initially, contributed to the destruction of Sega’s Dreamcast console, forcing the previously popular system to become dwarfed in American perception as PS2 sales quickly exceeded those of the Dreamcast. A mere two years later, Sony dropped the price of the PS2 by $100 USD from $299 to $199, making the system even MORE accessible to consumers. It was also around this time that Sony released a network adaptor to rival the Xbox’s built-in internet connectivity, further making PS2 a choice for gamers worldwide.

Features and Accessories Sometimes Included

The PS2 uses DVD-ROMS to store its software, and the console can play CDs and DVD movies along with games. The PS2’s debut price of a comparable $299 USD to DVD players made the system not only a competitor in the video game business but a rival in the growing home entertainment market. This gave the console another edge over their competition, who did not initially stack up to the PS2’s DVD playing capabilities. The Xbox needs an additional adapter, and the Nintendo GameCube lacks the function altogether.

One of the more notable entry features of the console is its impressive and cost-saving backwards compatibility, a feature rarely seen in console releases prior. If one bought a PS2, their PSX collection would operate on the new console, along with their Dual Shock controllers and memory card—another decision by Sony in retrospect that led to sales records still held to this day. If wanted, the newer PS2 memory cards have an 8mb capacity and match the sleek, cyberpunk color scheme of the console’s matte black and blue. The system would eventually receive an array of diverse colors, boasting even further personalization for the console.

The Dual Shock 2 controllers feature enhanced vibration and a lighter design from its predecessor. The system also supports USB functionality with 2 ports, a firewire port, and an expansion bay for hard disc drives. The PS2 relies on the Emotion Engine CPU, with performance at 3mil-16mil polygons per sec. While a lot of what the system does seems bland now, at the time the system was bleeding edge, outpacing much of what people had seen or expected from games until that point.

In September 2004, PS2 received a literal face lift with the release of a “Slimline” model that contains even greater specs and portability. This update includes built-in network ports for dial-up and broadband internet connections. Although the system lacks a connected network interface akin to the Xbox Live platform, Sony would rely on game developers to supply their own networks, as seen with the release of Final Fantasy XI.

PS2 Resident Evil 4: Chainsaw Controller

Other optional hardware and accessories made available during the PS2’s life span include a DVD remote, external hard disc drive, stands for the console, a USB motion camera called EyeToy, a keyboard, mouse, a headset and the Multitap. As the console aged, and other innovations in software and game play also evolved, other accessories became more and more unique. In the 2000s, rhythm music games were all the rage, with titles like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero featuring fully functional floor pads, microphones, guitars, and drum kit controllers to further immerse players in the experience. The PS2 would also produce light gun and fishing/reel controllers, alongside a multitude of oddball special edition accessories such as a Dragon Quest VIII “slime” controller, a Final Fantasy X-2 “Tiny Bee” dual-pistol controller, an Onimusha 3 katana controller, and the Resident Evil: 4 Chainsaw.

An ancient form of exercise, circa 2006.

Sony was not without its fair share of criticism, however. As is often the nature of the United States, Sony faced a lawsuit regarding the original release of the console in the state of California, because of a frequent “no disc” error that saw many players unable to properly play games. Complaints were also made about the system’s two controller ports compared to the four offered by competitors, the price at launch, and the initial lack of online connectivity.

PlayStation 2 “Fat” Model, PS2 Slimline, EyeToy Accessory

By March 31, 2000, a month after launch, Japan sold over 1.4 million units. Later that year, when the PS2 hit shelves worldwide, Sony saw distribution of over 10.6 million units worldwide. In 2005, PS2 became the fastest selling console of all time, shipping 100 million systems. It held this record for four additional years until 2009, when the Nintendo DS usurped the record. Sony confirmed in 2012 that sales exceed 155 million for PS2 consoles. Later data does not exist beyond this year, as it marks the end of the company’s tracking for the console.

PS2’s Best Sellers

PS2’s influence is not limited to the console itself. Several games still popular to this day were PS2 exclusive and included immensely favorable releases, such as Final Fantasy, and Jak and Daxter. Many titles under these franchises are even the best-selling for the console. Several beloved series still popular to this day also were created on the PS2, such as God of War, Ratchet and Clank, Devil May Cry, and Kingdom Hearts.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

To understand the magnitude of the console’s influence, 163 games on the PS2 have sold over 1 million units, with the following 10 (really 11) titles at the top:

  1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Released October 26, 2004. 17.33 million units.
  2. Gran Turismo 3: A Spec. Released April 28, 2001. 14.89 million units.
  3. Grand Turismo 4. Released December 28, 2004. 11.76 million units.
  4. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Released October 27, 2002. 9.801 million units.
  5. Final Fantasy X. Released July 19, 2001. 8.5 million units.
  6. Grand Theft Auto III. Released October 22, 2001. 8.105 million units.
  7. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Release on November 21, 2001. 7 million units.
  8. Tekken 5, Final Fantasy XII. Released March 31, 2005 and March 16, 2006 respectively. 6 million units each.
  9. Kingdom Hearts. Released March 28, 2002. 5.9 million units.
  10. Final Fantasy X-2. Released March 13, 2003. 5.4 million units.

In November 2006, Sony’s PlayStation 3 would receive a simultaneous release in Japan and United States. The PS3’s lack of PS2 software compatibility on several models would only help PS2 continue to sell well into the future. The last title released officially for the PS2 was in 2014, and just recently, in 2018, Sony of Japan concluded repair services for the console.

Although it has been a long 21 years since its initial release, the impact of the PS2 exceeds anything imaginable or since. So, Happy Birthday to arguably the greatest console ever, not only in terms of sales, but through the memories and warm nostalgia gamers still feel towards it!

TE is a nostalgia-fueled writer, editor, educator, and gamer from Asbury Park, New Jersey. Follow her on ig @thatkissthatkid or @retroanimetropes.


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