The PlayStation 2 (or PS2) is a home video game console from Sony, first released in Japan in 2000. It was released as a successor to their previous console, the PlayStation.
While Sony kept many details regarding the development of the PS2 a closely guarded secret, it is known that the company began working on a successor to the original PlayStation shortly after the release of that console.
Sony officially revealed the PlayStation 2 on March 2nd 1999 during a special, dedicated event held in Tokyo. The presentation was attended by nearly 1500 journalists, analysts and video game industry figures from around the globe. During this unveiling, Ken Kutaragi (often referred to as ‘the father of PlayStation’) introduced the new consoles powerful 128-bit CPU, named the ‘Emotion Engine’, as well as its backwards compatibility with original PlayStation titles.
Sony shared several notable technology demos that showcased the impressive graphical capabilities of the new console; each running entirely in real-time on prototype PS2 hardware. These included the ballroom dance sequence from Final Fantasy VIII, featuring characters Squall and Rinoa; a scene featuring the Ridge Racer series’ Reiko Nagase, strutting along a catwalk; and an almost photo-realistic video by Polyphony Digital demonstrating a speculative next-generation Gran Turismo. The console would release in Japan just over a year later on March 4th 2000.
In addition to the alluring nature of the console’s impressive specs, two significant factors contributed to the PS2’s appeal: it’s backwards compatibility with PS1 games, as well as its DVD playback capability. Not only did this allow the console to have an enormous installed base of PS1 titles right from launch, but being a functioning DVD player also made the platform highly desirable, particularly at a time when the DVD medium was becoming increasingly popular.
Although the consoles early games demonstrated the impressive graphical prowess of the PS2, developers were still exploring and experimenting with this new platform, and many initial titles drew criticism for doing little to advance gameplay. However, as time progressed, the PS2 would gradually begin to receive a string of now-classic, often cinematic, titles that effectively utilised the platform’s unique hardware; games such as Grand Theft Auto 3, God of War, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Final Fantasy X.
Upon its release, the PlayStation 2 initially competed with the Sega Dreamcast, which had released over a year prior. However, the console’s lasting appeal and vast popularity saw it also compete (successfully) with Nintendo’s GameCube and Microsoft’s Xbox, both released in 2001.
The PlayStation 2 was a monumental success and helped to reinforce and further solidify PlayStation as a global brand. Praised for its DVD capability, backwards compatibility and impressive specs the console would go on to sell 158 million units (as of January 2013). It would eventually amass a library of over 10,000 released titles, including many from franchises that began life on the console, such as Devil May Cry, Sly Cooper, Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter, Kingdom Hearts and God of War.
Did you know: Two games widely believed to be the last two official PS2 releases (FIFA 14 and PES 2014) were released in 2013, the same year the PlayStation 4 launched.
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