It’s a little hard to believe, but today marks 20 years since Sony launched the PlayStation 2 console in Japan.
The PlayStation 2 had a rather hard act to follow. While the first PlayStation’s development was somewhat mired in controversy — formed from a relationship with Nintendo that went sour — it was stilling selling in the order of tens of millions when Sony presented the PS2 at the 1999 Tokyo Games Show.
One of the games Sony used to demonstrate the PS2 prior to launch was Gran Turismo 2000. Revealed even before Gran Turismo 2 hit the shelves, GT2000 was a showcase for the PS2’s much more advanced capabilities. With 16 times the system memory and a 64-bit processor running a full order of magnitude higher, the PS2 was a monster compared to the PS1 — though far from the most powerful console out there.
Like the original PlayStation though, which celebrated its own milestone birthday in December, the PS2 had a technological hook. The console used a DVD drive, rather than the CD-based games it had helped pioneer with the first PlayStation. DVD was the growth market in home media at the time, bringing better image quality and — more importantly — the ability to store much more data. The console, at $299 at launch, provided an inexpensive way to get a home DVD player.
For gamers, the PS2 had an unusual bonus feature too. The console could play all previous PlayStation games, thanks to backwards compatibility. This gave players a full back catalogue to play in addition to whatever PS2 games they owned. A new approach to the memory card system, used to store game progress, allowed for as many saves as you could physically fit onto the 8MB card, rather than a maximum of 15 in discrete blocks.
Over time, the PS2 introduced online gaming to the PlayStation world. Although the original console only supported the iLink protocol, for LAN play, a Network Adapter later became available for the first PS2s — while the second-generation, slimline PS2 had an integrated ethernet port. There was no overarching network infrastructure for the console, and each game in the PS2 Online library ran on third-party servers. That would later include the first true online play in a Gran Turismo game, with the invite-only Gran Turismo 4 Online Test Version.
That all contributed to incredible sales figures that look unlikely to be surpassed. Although the PS4 took the record for the console quickest to sell 100 million units from its grandfather, the PS2’s absolute record still stands. With 155 million consoles sold, the PS2 outstrips second place — the PS4 — by more than 40%.
GTPlanet wishes the most successful console in Sony’s history a happy 20th birthday!
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