Gamer's Piece: Good night, sweet prince
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 21:01
On January 4, British newspaper The Guardian reported that the Playstation 2 had officially been discontinued by Sony worldwide, 12 years and two months after its release in North America. While the writing was on the wall for a while, it’s kind of surreal both that it made it that long and that gaming’s most successful console is finally gone.
Back in 2000, when the console was first introduced, the DVD player was still in its relative infancy. The PS2 changed that. It was the first widespread DVD player at an affordable price, which played a big part in its amassing of 153 million consoles sold over the past decade.
Much more of that success, of course, lies in one of the greatest stretches of games released on one console. Because it was the de-facto “leader” with the largest audience thanks to that DVD stunt by Sony, companies were able to take more risks with games on the console, especially with ideas that could capture multiple markets. Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto” series is a good example; “3” set off a media firestorm, which led to “Vice City” becoming the console’s highest-selling game ever, followed by “San Andreas” beating that one out for the record.
What’s more, for every guaranteed success like a “Gran Turismo,” there was an unheralded underdog that came out of nowhere to gain success. “Katamari Damacy,” Japan’s ball-rolling simulator that’s simultaneously ridiculous and fun, earned a bunch of sequels thanks to its bow on the PS2. “Guitar Hero” went from a strange novelty to the brief resurrector of the music genre. Everything from “Hot Shots Golf” to “The Guy Game” and “The Bible Game” (ugh) made it to shelves and the result was an amazing 1.5 billion total games sold. And that’s not even counting used copies. By having something for everyone, the console was able to cross over into mainstream success without breaking a sweat.
Sony’s treatment of the console wasn’t shabby, either. Where Microsoft and Nintendo admitted defeat by ending production of the Xbox and Gamecube shortly after their successors came out, both in 2007, Sony kept the PS2 alive long after, dedicated to a launch-day pledge saying it would last a decade. Having a less-expensive offering next to the then-$600 PS3 in 2006 and on was a good strategy for the company, as the extensive library helped its games stay in Gamestops until last year, a sign that the end was near.
As we leave the PS2 behind us, moving onto bigger and presumably better things, it should be remembered as a bastion of pure gaming. Its huge market allowed for experimentation with genres and styles of gameplay, and it was an important part of most of the early millennium from its array of compatible controllers to its fledgling online service, a shadow in Xbox Live’s light but an important stepping stone that led to Playstation Network and Playstation Plus. You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. (Except for me, as my PS2 is still kicking, and a new copy of “Katamari Damacy” just arrived in the mail a few days ago.)