Monday, January 3, 2011
10 Reasons Why PS2 Is The Best Selling Console Ever
Will the world ever see a more successful console than the PlayStation 2? Even the mighty Nintendo DS still needs to move another 10-12 million units to reach PS2's lofty heights -- and that's a portable system, where you buy one for every player rather than one for every household. The PS2 may well go down in history as gaming's pinnacle, not just for its sales but for being the console that offered the best of all that had come before while paving the way that would follow. Not a bad decade, if you ask me.
Yes, ten years ago today, Sony launched the PlayStation 2 in America. It was the single most heavily hyped console launch ever, defined by impossible hyperbole. Remember how the Emotion Engine would make games smarter and give us CG-quality cutscenes as game play? Remember how Saddam Hussein was supposedly importing them by the boatload to strip their processors for missile guidance systems? Good times. Yes, the world was simpler and sillier back then, but even if the PS2 didn't live up to the hype Sony (and, we admit, the gaming press) heaped upon it before its arrival, the system still justified the excitement that surrounded its launch. And then some! So, to mark ten years of the world's most popular console, let's celebrate the ten best things about PS2.
10. It Played DVDs
This may not seem like a big deal now, but at the time of its launch the fact that the PS2 could play videos was a huge selling point. Sure, previous disc-based systems had played music and video CDs, but those were almost entirely superfluous features. Back in 2000, the DVD format was still getting off the ground, and most standalone players cost more than the PS2. The prospect of getting hold of a full-featured DVD player capable of RGB and component output that also happened to play the complete libraries of two game consoles, all for $299 -- that was quite a sales pitch. To this day, I still keep a slim PS2 attached to a tiny TV in my bedroom just to watch movies.
9. It Helped Sony Define Its Online Strategy
Did you shell out for the Sony network adapter and HDD add-ons? I'm sorry to say it, but you paid big money to be a guinea pig. Sure, the PS2 had a handful of innovative online games -- including the original Monster Hunter, the first true console-based MMO in Final Fantasy XI, and the ambitious SOCOM series -- but for the most part, it was a dry run for PlayStation Network. The PS2's Internet functionality was underutilized and underpowered, but what Sony learned from its experiments there helped make its successor's PlayStation Network a respectable online service.
8. It's Cheap as Hell, and So is Its Library
Outside of a handful of select titles (mostly import games), the PlayStation 2 library is ridiculously cheap these days. You can build yourself a massive library of great games for pocket change by trawling eBay, Amazon, and used game shops. Granted, only a small percentage of the system's thousands of releases are worth the trouble, but the sheer quantity of PS2 software guarantees that you can sweep your arms across a GameStop shelf and snag a few cheap gems with your eyes closed.
7. It was Backward-Compatible
The PS2's disc format didn't just come in handy for playing DVDs -- Sony prudently used it to add backward compatibility with the entire PlayStation library, too. Not only did the PS2 have a vast, instant, playable library on day one, it was actually the best way to play PS1 games. It offered faster-loading disc access, graphical enhancements, and the ability to output component video -- features all lacking in the original PS1. And to top it off, PS1 accessories worked with the new hardware, too, preserving players' 32-bit investments.
6. The DualShock 2 Was a Sweet Controller
Will there ever be a controller as great as the DualShock 2? Sure, the Xbox 360's pad is amazing for first-person shooters, but its D-pad is junk, and those shoulder bumpers are a joke. And the DualShock's SIXAXIS successor was a flimsy piece of plastic. Nope, the DualShock 2 had everything a controller needs: a comfortable fit in the hands, great responsiveness for both 2D and 3D games, just enough heft to make it feel solid but not tiring, and perfect button and trigger placement for every genre. It was the ultimate refinement of the PS1's flawed first attempt of a controller... and most importantly, it came standard with every system sold.
5. It Had a Built-in 5.1 Decoder
Though easily overlooked, Sony's inclusion of a 5.1 Dolby surround decoder in the PS2 hardware meant the console was audiophile-friendly right out of the box. No expensive external decoding hardware required; players could simply hook their systems up to a surround speaker setup and enjoy high-end audio with no hassles.
4. It Gave Us Grand Theft Auto III
Few games have left as lasting a mark on the games industry as DMA/Rockstar's masterpiece Grand Theft Auto III. It seems an almost laughably clumsy work today, with grimy visuals and rough controls, but it changed console gaming forever. It was one of the first true breakout console hits for a western developer -- the medium having largely been dominated by the Japanese since the NES launched in 1985 -- and it helped precipitate the popularity of "sandbox" style games. It also marked a change in tone for gaming from cartoonish and lighthearted to dark and violent, along with the advent of middleware development solutions. Not that GTAIII created any of these things! But never before had they been so successful, so popular, and so visible. If nothing else, it symbolized a major sea change in gaming whose effects we're still feeling today.
3. It Was the Ultimate Arthouse System
With the international success of the PS2 came certain perks, one of which was the freedom developers had to experiment. Hence, the system quickly became a hotbed of creativity and innovation, with major publishers pouring hefty resources into quirky arthouse games that they must have known were doomed to middling sales at best. But Sony went ahead and published Ico and Shadow of the Colossus anyway! Capcom foolishly poured its resources into Clover's Okami! Konami created one of the most riveting psychological thrillers ever in Silent Hill 2! And the majority of the PS2 user base ignored these games, but those who tried them loved them. These days, you can't swing a dead cat without knocking over a few artsy-fartsy indie games, but the PS2 was where high-fallutin' releases enjoyed equally high budgets.
2. A Huge-Ass Library of Great Games
The PS2 wasn't only about the artsy games, though. The strength of the platform is that something like Okami could sit on the same shelves as Madden NFL, Klonoa 2, Disgaea, Beyond Good and Evil, Killzone, and Odin Sphere. The PS2 library was vast and all-encompassing, and no other platform has seen the sheer variety of content present on PS2. From big-budget blockbuster to bargain-bin bomb, from licensed drek to stunningly original masterpiece, from classic platformer to cutting-edge music game, the PS2 was and is a system that offered something for everyone. Actually, it offers something for everyone, as third parties are still publishing new games for the platform. That's right: A decade later, it lives on.
1. It Marked the End of Gaming's Classic Era
The PS2 is perhaps most remarkable for the way it sat astride two very different eras of gaming. This divide has nothing to do with the bit count of consoles and everything to do with methodologies. You see, the PS2 brought the classic age of gaming -- the one defined by the likes of Nintendo and Sega -- to its close, while ushering in the modern era embodied by HD consoles. The classic development approach employed by the predominantly Japanese companies that ruled the console market reached their acme on PS2, resulting in classic masterpieces like Metal Gear Solid 3, Final Fantasy XII, and Monster Hunter. Yet those processes don't mesh well with the PS3 and Xbox 360 and modern gaming PCs, which is probably why so much the old guard seems more comfortable working on the PS2-like PSP and Wii. The lower cost of development for PS2 games also gave us the aforementioned artsy games like Ico, and weird little experiments like Mister Mosquito, crazy vanity projects like Unlimited Saga, and a host of other games developed in a world without focus groups. As the PS2 began to fade away in 2005, so too did a 20-year legacy of games for games' sake, supplanted by a new age of conservative design and development by committee.
(copy & paste news from 1up.com, by Jeremy Parish)