It’s been sixteen years since the successor to Sony’s incredibly popular flagship video game console, the PlayStation, was released. We’ve seen video games come a very long way in that time, but for some reason the PlayStation 2 remains the most popular video game console in history. With a record 155 million PS2s sold since launch, there’s no denying that fact- especially because its competition at the time, the Xbox and Gamecube, sold only 24 million and 22 million units, respectively.
So just what contributed to the PS2’s overwhelming popularity? Let’s take a look back and see.
The DualShock 2
The PS2’s controller was hands-down better than both the Xbox and the GameCube’s. It fit comfortably in your hand, was durable, and had buttons and analog sticks that were easy to press and never awkwardly positioned. The best part? Four trigger buttons, which Microsoft was quick to copy on their next controller. The design was so good that even the DualShock 4 looks almost exactly like the 2 (despite adding a lightbar, touch pad and removing the wires, of course).
The PS2 had one of the best exclusive lineups of games that we’ve ever seen. Series’ like God of War, Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy, and Metal Gear Solid were all exclusive to the PS2 at the time, and it’d be hard to find anyone who wouldn’t say that those are all some of the best gaming franchises of all time. Even today, in the world of remasters and remakes, you see more games coming out that were original PS2 releases than any other.
The Backwards Compatibility
Never owned a PlayStation? No worries! The PS2 was backwards compatible with all PS1 games, so buying it was kind of like getting two consoles in one. This was a fantastic feature that the GameCube and Xbox physically couldn’t provide, and made the decision on which console to purchase easier for a lot of gamers. This was the first console in history that allowed backwards compatibility, and it set an important precedent for future consoles.
The Japanese Market
There’s no denying that the Xbox wasn’t very popular in Asia, and the GameCube didn’t sell as well as expected either. The PS2, on the other hand, was a huge hit in the Pacific, especially in Japan. The reasoning? JRPGs. Japanese gamers love their RPGs, and the PS2 had an overwhelming amount of them available. The fact that the PS2 was the primary console selling in Japan allowed Sony to continue producing more units and ultimately increased sales around the rest of the world, too.
The PlayStation 2 wasn’t a real bulky console to begin with, especially when compared with the Xbox, but the release of the PS2 slim definitely boosted sales. The new console was incredibly compact and undeniably sleek, and it still provided all of the features that the original PS2 had… at only a fraction of the price. Toward the end of the PS2’s lifespan, you could really only find the Slim version on store shelves, which was a testament to its popularity.
The DVD Drive
Back when the PS2 was first released, DVD players were still pretty new to the consumer market and definitely much more expensive than even Blu Ray players are today. But when you bought a PS2, you not only had a new video game console but a new DVD player as well! Two expensive electronic devices for one price was a tough deal to ignore.
Unlike the Xbox, where you had to pay a monthly subscription in order to play online; and the GameCube, where online wasn’t even an option, the PS2 allowed you to play all of your favorite multiplayer games online without having to pay a dime. You had to have a network adapter, sure, but once you got that little piece of equipment then you could play to your heart’s content. If you bought the Slim, though, a network adapter was built right into the hardware! And while it’s true that the PS2 definitely had a weaker online presence in terms of games, the few games that could be played online were massive hits.