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The State of the PlayStation 2


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August 1, 2008 - A few weeks ago, we took a long, hard look at the state of the PSP. Software, we mused, was in short supply and the future was rather bleak. Luckily, E3 arrived to show us that the system wasn't completely dead and that there were some prospects for Sony's little wunderportable. Perhaps more disturbing, however, was the relative lack of new info on the PS2. Sony touched on their plans for a new bundle for the system, but they almost spent more time talking about pushing into Latin America during their E3 press conference.


Which got us thinking: is the PS2 finally on its way out? Lord knows the system has stood the test of time; still rolling into its ninth year with plenty of steam, the system consistently manages to pull down impressive hardware numbers every month here in the States, due in no small part to what is arguably the best games library in history. But we started wondering aloud just how much juice the PS2 has left.


The move to release just one version of the PS3 with no backwards compatibility obviously keeps the PS2 relevant -- at least in the short term. There's also the benefit of having the Wii out there, hardware that's far closer to the PS2 than the HD systems. First-party support may be drying up beyond trying to pump out some casual titles, but third parties are all too eager to throw their Wii-level games onto another system with close to a 140 million unit install base; not only are the engines for the PS2 extremely mature, but sharing resources makes a whole lot of sense.


So for the time being, the PS2 doesn't seem to be left in the lurch and seems destined to actually live up to the much-vaunted "10 year lifecycle" that Sony keeps talking about. Some developers, like Atlus and SEGA, are still supporting the system with new, exclusive games like Persona 4 and Yakuza 2, respectively. With no shortage of Guitar Heroes or Maddens, the system's library isn't nearly as bleak as one would assume for a console entering the full decade stretch.


In a very real sense, Sony has become something of an underdog. Whereas they commanded a nearly uncontested 70% market share when the PS2 was at its prime (a feat that would be all but impossible to repeat with two stronger, more aggressive competitors this time around), The Big S is now fighting on three fronts. Each of its systems trails the nearest competitor: the PSP is doing what no other handheld has ever done in that it's actually thriving next to competition from Nintendo, but software sales are another story; the PS3 has been building constant momentum heading into 2008 and doesn't show signs of stopping anytime soon -- but it still trails the 360 and Wii. Lastly, the PS2 as of last year has been repositioned to duke it out for a stake in the casual market that the Wii has captured so well.


No company has had to fight a three-way tug-of-war with three different systems like Sony has. Both Nintendo and Microsoft have serious linchpins in their casual-friendly and online offerings, respectively, so what does the PS2 have? Games, and lots of 'em, though obviously the release list has tapered off a little in recent years. Rather than concentrating on what already hit, let's look... to the future:


In stark contrast to our release list on, say, the PSP, the PS2 is absolutely slammed with titles hitting through the rest of the year -- more than eighty of them in fact. Now, if one were to take a look at both lists, one would notice quite a few similarities. If ever there was a case for the PS2 and Wii being competition, a cursory glance at the release lists of both is really all it would take. Both systems are home to more than a few games that we'll call... less than mind-blowing, but the PS2 is still being supported by both Pappa Sony and third parties to fantastic effect.


Nearly every genre is covered. You've got your action games like Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Warriors Orochi 2, LEGO Batman and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows bringing up the superhero side of things.


The success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band ensured the reign of little plastic guitars over the all-important rhythm action space; Dance Dance Revolution X, Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour are all making stops on the PS2 while on the mass SKU train to next-gensville. Even straight singing SingStar entries for Pop Vol. 2, Legends and Country will arrive before the end of the year -- and that's just the first-party stuff.


Still into sports but haven't felt the need to update to high-def yet? Cool, take your, pick: new versions of Madden, Tiger Woods, NHL 2K9/09, NBA Live/2K9/'09: The Inside and FIFA are all present and accounted for. Nearly every sport is getting a new update if it hasn't already (and Pro Evo fans, your update is coming early next year). Hell, even wrestling superfreaks are getting taken care of with TNA iMPACT! and SmackDown vs. RAW 2009.


For some of us around here, though, kicking, punting and dunking balls don't quite do it. We need fancy-pants stuff like a story and levels and experience and damage multipliers and magic missiles and... well, you get the idea. Role-playing/adventure games help us slake our thirst for an overall narrative and we're covered there too: Yakuza 2, Persona 4 and weird ass RPG/board game hybrid Dokapon Kingdom should help make the inevitable transition to next-gen a little smoother.


The bottom line is that the PS2 is hardly down and out. It's a little surprising, really -- even to us -- that the library has this much steam. Chalk it up to plenty of familiarity with the hardware (remember when developers were lamenting the difficulty in tapping it all those years ago?), an absolutely epic install base that's still growing and the fact that the PS2 is just plain awesome, and you can see why we're still staring down another monster end of the year.


Only one question remains, however: when the PS2 does finally turn 10, will the software be there? Will anyone still be playing it? We'll see you in a year to find out.


Source: http://ps2.ign.com/articles/895/895917p1.html

I have a feeling the Playstation 2 will be known as one of the best consoles of all time and will be heavily compared against the likes of the Super Nintendo.


What are your thoughts?

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The only reason why I have strong feelings for the PS2 is because it's the only system that I have, that is stilling getting some of the same games as the other consoles. After Sonic Unleashed, and Star Wars: Force Unleashed are released, I won't have need for the PS2 anymore.

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The PS2 is the best system of all time. It wipes out the SNES easily. It's library is far too expansive for any previous system to compare, and, unless we get a clear dominant system in the future, things will likely stay that way.


I think it is at the end of its life now, though. The only people still buying software for it are the Buzz and Singstar crowd. Remotely serious gamers have all traded up to something by now and even if they still play with their PS2 I don't think many would be buying many new games for it.


As for multiplatform games, I don't know why you would be buying the PS2 versions. They have been gimped diluted next-gen games, ported only because the PS2 is still viable, for quite some years now. Sonic Unleashed and Force Unleashed will no doubt be uggly, choppy versions of their true next-gen selves. In that respect, I feel sorry for the poor PS2 owners who buy these versions not knowing any better.

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I completely agree. There are so many great games I have played on the PS2. I actually think it surpasses the SNES in the quantity of the quality of the games. Sure there was A LOT of crap out of there for the PS2 but there was a lot of solid amazing games.

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Yeah, I can agree with the sentiment that the PS2 is the best system of all time. It has an absolutely ridiculous number of games, and the relative easy of modding it, brings out the potential of the game library even more of a reality, especially for PAL gamers (I should know, of all people).


With a game library that huge, of course it's going to have it's share of utter trash. Still, the really good games (your preference in game genres notwithstanding) easily bests the bad ones.


There are still number of neat games that I'm waiting to get released in PAL territories, and the number of used games in circulation is staggering.

Only in recent years I have seen an adequate drop in game prices, so that is welcome too. Still knowing what kind of pricing bullshit retailers over here and in Australia use, the prices are still high compared to the US, but like I said earlier, the market for second hand games makes up for that to a degree.


About those multiplatform [license tie-in] games: It's true that PS2 owners shouldn't really bother with those, unless they must have a game like that and do not own a next-gen system.


It's impressive what the PS2 has managed to do, despite having a much weaker hardware than its competitors the Xbox and the GameCube. Now if only Sony would face the music and set up the same kind of a stage for the PS3.

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