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How the PlayStation 2 Changed the World of Gaming – 20 Years On

On March 4th, 2020, the PlayStation 2 turned 20 years old. It is one of the most successful consoles ever made. The console is still heralded today as the pinnacle of gaming and has impacted the industry in many different ways. So, why was it so successful? This article attempts to explain this.

What is PlayStation 2?

The PlayStation 2 is a games console made by Sony, released on the 4th March 2000 in Japan, and then 24th November 2000 worldwide. It is infamous for its design, ridged edges and black or silver design. The controller is also infamous in its design, not changing too drastically ever since its launch. The first PlayStation was successful but not until the second was it so widespread and cemented the PlayStation and Sony as industry-leading game makers. Over the years it has gained a mass catalogue of games, which has been one of the many reasons why it becomes so successful.


What did it Bring to the World of Gaming

So, the console introduced many new things to what it meant to be a games console. However, one of the stand out features that it offered, was the ability for the very first time to play games, but also play DVDs. It was widely praised for this ability, as for price-sensitive consumers, they were happy that they did not have to buy two machines in order to play two different media. You could play a game, then have some yakiniku for dinner, switch to a movie in a few simple steps, and this was not available as a feature before this, so this was a huge factor for its success.

When the console launched it actually launched with not the best collection of games, with the Sega Dreamcast machine having many more innovative titles at launch. However, as time progressed developers started to take advantage of the great power and new formula that this machine had created, and the history speaks for itself. The machine was $499 at the time at launch, and this made it very attractive to the consumer as it was not much more expensive than DVD players of the time. So, arguably the PS2 became the first console to really become a household staple, rather than a teenage obsession.

Another feature that the PS2 added was support for online gaming. This was at the time the internet was still in its infancy, so it took a while for this feature to be fully accepted by the masses. Final Fantasy XI came with this feature and showed a fully functional multiplayer for the first time. Then, to add the cherry on top, PlayStation One legacy game support was supported, so you could play PS1 games on the PS2, which pleased Sony brand-loyal fans.

Why was it so Successful?

So, why was it so successful? The features above really marked it differently from the competition at the time. From the DVD functionality to the technology inside that made it superior to the other machines on the market. Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft Xbox were innovating as well, but the PS2 eclipsed their sales. Over 3 million units were sold in its first year, and that was Japan alone. At the end of 2001, 20 million units were sold of the PS2 worldwide. The machine had ushered in a new era for gaming, gone were the days of ping pong, and it was the start of cinematic titles such as the first versions of Grand Theft Auto like Vice City. Metal Gear Solid 2 and Devil May Cry were thrilling new titles that had not been seen before in the world of video games.

Graphics of the title games, the sleek design of the exterior of the machine. The specs of the technology inside the casing, to the online capabilities and DVD capability. All of these and more combined secured the PS2 as the most popular and most successful video console of all time, and it still holds this record to this day. As we on the verge of the PS5 launching today, we can see clearly the legacy of the PS2 which started 20 years ago.

A Cultural Landmark

Because the console sold so well, it allowed developers to really experiment and build new, never seen before games for a huge pool of PS2 players. These games really pushed the specs of the machine, and used its key feature, the ‘Emotion Machine’ (Processor), in many different ways. Silent Hill 2 was a psychological horror game that took the world by storm. The market then filled with more independent publishers, rather than the big publishing companies. More and more people were inspired, and some of these titles are still going today, with new series’ and generations of these classic games that all started with the PS2.

Not only did it usher in new formats and new games, but also pushing the boundaries in User Interfaces with games such as guitar hero showing off brand new ways to interact with a game. Singstar with its USB microphones, EyeToy camera which showed the first uses of AR.

Xbox and Nintendo were racing to keep up, and released equally great games, but the PS2 still dominated. Overall, it sold 160 million units, again a number that has not been matched since, and still remains to this day the most popular console ever made.

The console has become a staple to many people’s lives. Memories of playing it as a child, to the games we still play today. Grand Theft Auto 5 and the new 6th version coming soon. To the controller, virtually unchanged. Many people still play the console today, and still, use it as their primary console to play on, and it’s not hard to see why. The PlayStation 2 really did change the world of gaming as we knew it, and twenty years later, we can still feel its impact. Will its record ever be broken, most likely no as consoles become more and more focused on professional gaming, but the world of gaming is still changing and evolving with the new technical age. But, the PS2 still lives on, and on its 20th birthday, thank you for the cultural, technological and societal impact!