Republished on Monday, 26th October 2015: We're bringing this feature back from the archives to celebrate the PS2's big 15th Anniversary in North America today. The original text follows.
Originally published on Saturday, 29th December 2012: It was evident from the moment that the PlayStation 2 first arrived on store shelves that Sony had created something special. The manufacturer's first console – still going strong in the hazy days of 2000 – was a triumph on an industry upsetting scale, but its drab exterior and aging visuals appeared almost prehistoric when compared to the electric blue packaging and revolutionary graphics of its successor.
There was a tangible arrogance to the PS2 that augmented it with an almost magnetic quality – it was tough not to be taken in by the system's rigid angles and sharp logo. That confidence was reflected in Sony's marketing. The platform holder didn't need gameplay footage to usher you into what it had dubbed 'The Third Place' – instead it hired legendary oddball David Lynch to create a commercial with smoke, mirrors, and talking ducks. Incredibly, it worked.
Over 13 years and 150 million units later – a record in the home console space – the PS2's spell in the spotlight is still not quite over. Sony's announcement that it is to cease shipping the platform in Japan – a territory where it's commanded a healthy advantage over the considerably more modern Xbox 360 for some years – signals the beginning of the end, but there's still business left in the aging platform. It will continue to find a market in developing nations, and will always be popular as a collector's piece.
But the console is now firmly in its twilight years, with the promise of a bed bath at the local retirement home looking more tantalising by the minute. That gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on its many achievements, and look back on some of the attributes that led to its seemingly limitless success.
Variety certainly played its part. While the PS2 was host to a wealth of hardcore hits – including Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and Silent Hill 2 – it also unlocked the mainstream market for the very first time. The likes of Buzz! and SingStar weren't necessarily video games, but they attracted an audience that had never played before. In the same way that the original PlayStation made gaming attractive to mid-nineties hipsters, its successor captured a whole new audience.
Doubling as an affordable DVD player didn't hurt. Many families purchased their first PS2 as a means to watch movies, and that provided Sony with a baked-in audience to target. Up until the Xbox's arrival a few years later, no other standalone player offered the hook of being able to play games in addition to films. It was an unavoidable option for a large chunk of the market.
And it was those people that Sony was trying to capture with the EyeToy in 2003. The precursor to the PlayStation Move, Kinect, and, of course, Nintendo Wii – Sony's motion camera arguably should have been a bigger success than it was. It still managed to shift over 10 million units – a drop in the ocean compared to the system's install base – but it highlighted the manufacturer's intent to grow gaming beyond its traditional roots.
Everything about the PS2 oozed style and substance, and it reflected a company at the very peak of its potential
Despite all of that, though, it was the sheer selection of software that made the PS2 a force to be reckoned with. A combination of enormous market share and manageable development budgets meant that the system became the de facto platform for third-party publishers – and it garnered a huge catalogue of exclusives as a result. Even those titles that ultimately went multiplatform – the Grand Theft Auto games, for example – enjoyed timed exclusivity windows on Sony's console. With development costs soaring, such dominance is unlikely to ever occur again.
Indeed, it's hard to imagine any forthcoming platform controlling the market quite as effortlessly as the PS2. Everything about the system oozed style and substance, and it reflected a company at the very peak of its potential, when everything it touched turned to gold. It's for that reason that the console is one of the greatest ever made.
Do you think that the PlayStation 2 is greatest games console of all time? What are some of your fondest memories of the machine? Let us know in the comments section below.