The PlayStation 2 (PS2) (Japanese: プレイステーション2) is Sony's second video game console, the successor to the PlayStation and the predecessor to the PlayStation 3. Its development was announced in March 1999, and it was first released in Japan on March 4, 2000 and in the North American on October 26, 2000. The PlayStation 2 has grown to become a popular gaming console, with over 90 million units shipped.
There were a few problems around the launch of the system. Only a few million users had obtained consoles by the end of 2000 due to Bugs in the manufacture of the product. Developers also complained about the system being difficult to develop for, with little in the way of reference material from Sony for its exotic architecture. Although the PS2 launch seemed unimpressive and gaffe-prone, compared to well-planned launch of the Sega Dreamcast which was making a genuine attempt to woo developers and which had better launch titles, the PS2 initially sold well solely on the basis of the strength of the PlayStation brand and its backwards compatibility, allowing the PS2 to tap the large installed base established by the PlayStation. Another major selling point over the Dreamcast was the PlayStation 2's ability to play DVDs and this gained the PS2 a presence in electronics stores that formerly didn't sell video game consoles. Later Sony gained steam with new development kits for game developers and more PlayStations for consumers.
Many experts predicted a close 3-way matchup between the PS2 and its soon-to-be-released competitors Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCube, noting that the PS2's graphics were inferior but it had the advantage of a head start, and had a wide assortment of games of every genre (Xbox's strength was in its hardware, GameCube was the cheapest of the 3 consoles). However, the release of several blockbuster games during the 2001 holiday season pushed the PS2 far in front even as the Xbox and GameCube made their impressive debuts.
Although Sony placed little emphasis on online gaming during its first year, all that changed because of the launch of the Xbox. Not only did Sony roll out the PS2 online adapter in late 2002 to compete with Microsoft, several online launch games were first party titles such as SOCOM Navy SEALS in order to show that Sony was supporting this feature actively. Sony also advertised heavily as well. As a result, although Sony and Nintendo followed a decentralized model of online gaming, where the responsibility is up to the developer to provide the servers, Sony's efforts made PS2 online gaming a huge success.
Despite the PS2's dominance, the advent of the Xbox and GameCube has hurt Sony's profits due to all three rivals lowering their console prices (already below break-even point) in a price war, and because Sony Computer Entertainment became the subsidiary that accounts for over half of Sony's profits.
Hardware sales remained strong until 2004 saw the console apparently approaching saturation point. In September of that year, in time for the launch of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (the highest selling game during the 2004 Holiday season), Sony revealed a new, smaller PS2 (see Hardware revisions).
Sony had stopped making the older PS2 model (SCPH-5000x) sometime during the summer of 2004 to let the distribution channel empty out stock of the units. After an apparent manufacturing issue caused some initial slowdown in producing the new unit, Sony reportedly underestimated demand, caused in part by shortages between the time the old units were cleared out and the new units were ready. This led to further shortages, and the issue was compounded in Britain when a Russian oil tanker became stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking a ship from China carrying PS2s bound for the UK. During one week in November, sales in the entire country of Britain totalled 6,000 units - compared to 70,000 a few weeks prior.  Shortages in North America were also extremely severe; one retail chain in the U.S., GameStop, had just 186 PS2 and Xbox units on hand across more than 1700 stores on the day before Christmas. 
2000 Launch Debate
Many people continue to debate this day on wether to declare the console's different launches a failure or success. In the Japanese launch (March 2000), Sony sold a total of 980,000 units of the PS2 within the first 48 hours and later on shipped an average of 125,000 units a week to retailers for the rest of the year.
By the end of 2000, statistics showed that while PS2 hardware sales were very high, sales of its games were very low (led by Ridge Racer V's 650,000). At 39,800 Yen ($368 at the time), the PS2 was definitely the most affordable DVD player as most players cost an average of over 53,000 Yen. Many pointed out that this was the specific reason why the PS2 sold massively and fast while some others believed that gamers simply decided to buy it knowing that big name games were coming the next year.
The PS2 launched in America on October 26, 2000 to much fanfare and hype. Prior to the launch, Sony revealed that its launch shipment will be cut by half (due to manufacturing problems) which ignited panic and speculation throughout the United States. As a result, 510,000 PS2 units (priced at $299.99) sold out in just half a day and millions of other consumers went back home disappointed.
Sony claimed that it made $250 million on PS2 hardware and software sales during the first 24 hours but critics pointed out that the figure included PlayStation1 games that were bought the day the new console launched. Since the PS2 did not have any high-caliber titles in its launch lineup, some analysts said that as little as $9 million worth of PS2 titles were sold. Market experts believed that with PS2 specific hardware and games, Sony made only $165 million.
There were numerous reports of thefts and riots around America in relation to the PS2 launch. In California, there were some retailers where eager gamers broke in to demand the new console and its games be sold to them. In Arizona, a 20 year old man claimed that a group of five beat him up and took away his newly-purchased PS2 and four games.
- Main article: List of PlayStation 2 games
The PlayStation brand's strength has lead to strong third-party support for the system. Although the launch titles for the PS2 were unimpressive in 2000, the holiday season of 2001 saw the release of several best-selling and critically acclaimed games. Those PS2 titles helped the PS2 maintain and extend its lead in the video game console market, despite increased competition from the lesser launches of the Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCube. Critically acclaimed games on the machine are the Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy series, the latest two Metal Gear Solid titles, all three Devil May Cry titles, the SSX series, latest three Ace Combat titles, the Square Enix/Disney collaboration Kingdom Hearts and its upcoming sequel Kingdom Hearts II, and first-party Sony Computer Entertainment brands such as the Gran Turismo, SOCOM, Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter series, ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, God of War and the Everquest spin-offs Champions of Norrath and Champions: Return to Arms.
The PS2 hardware can read both compact discs and DVDs. It is backwards compatible with older PlayStation (PS1) games, allows for DVD Video playback, and will play PS2 games off of cheap CD-ROMs or higher-capacity DVD-ROMs. The ability to play DVD movies allowed consumers to more easily justify the PS2's relatively high price tag (in October 2000, the MSRP was $300) as it removed the need to buy an external DVD player (indeed, it could be said that the success of the DVD format was partly down to the PS2's ability to play DVDs, as the format seemed to appeal more to consumers after the console's launch). The PS2 also supports PS1 memory cards (for PS1 game saves only) and controllers (the PS2's Dual Shock 2 controller is essentially a slightly upgraded PS1 Dual Shock).
When it was released, the PS2 had many advanced features that were not present in other contemporary video game consoles, including its DVD capabilities and USB and IEEE 1394 expansion ports. It was not until late 2001 that the Microsoft Xbox became the second console with (non-standard) USB and DVD support. (This is assuming the Nuon, an advanced DVD player graphics coprocessor, is not considered a console.) Even then, the Xbox required seperate remote accessory to unlock the DVD function and Sony could continue to pitch the PS2 as DVD capable out of the box.
Support for original PlayStation games was also an important selling point for the PS2, letting owners of an older system upgrade to the PlayStation 2 and keep their old software, and giving new users access to older games until a larger library was developed for the new system. As an added bonus, the PS2 had the ability to enhance PlayStation games by speeding up disc read time and/or adding texture smoothing to improve graphics. While the texture smoothing was universally effective (albeit with odd effects where transparent textures are used), faster disk reading could cause some games to fail to load or play correctly.
A handful of PlayStation titles (notably Metal Gear Solid: Special Missions) fail to run on the PS2 at all (Special Missions fails to recognise Metal Gear Solid at the disk swap screen, for example). This problem appears to have been rectified in the slimline versions of the PS2, where most of the previously unplayable PSone games can now be played. It is a common misconception that disk swapping in a game (for example, for multi-disk games or expansion packs) is not possible on the PS2. The anomalous failure of the above title at its disk swap screen may have given birth to this rumor. Software for all PlayStation consoles contains one of three region codes: for Japan and Asia: NTSC/J, North America: NTSC-U/C and Europe and Oceania: PAL.
With the purchase of a separate unit called the Network Adaptor (which is built into the newest system revision), some PS2 games support online multiplayer. Instead of having a unified, subscription-based online service like Xbox Live, online multiplayer on the PS2 is split between publishers and run on third-party servers. However, this comes at a price as any connection can connect to the internet with a PS2, resulting in lag whenever slow connections are present. Most recent PS2 online games have been developed to exclusively only support broadband internet access. Xbox Live exclusively requires broadband internet.
All newer online PS2 games (since 2003) are protected by the Dynamic Network Authentication System (DNAS). The purpose of this system is to prevent piracy and online cheating. DNAS will prevent games from being played online if they are determined to be pirated copies, or if they have been modified.
- Main article: PS2 Linux
Sony released a version of the Linux operating system for the PS2 in a package that also includes a keyboard, mouse, Ethernet adapter and hard disk drive. Currently, Sony's online store states that the Linux kit is no longer for sale in North America. However as of July 2005, the European version was still available. (The kit boots by installing a proprietary interface, the Run-time environment which is on a region-coded DVD, so the European and USA kits each only work with a PS2 from that region).
In Europe and Australia, the PlayStation 2 comes with a free Yabasic interpreter on the bundled demo disk. This allows simple programs to be created for the PlayStation 2 by the end-user. This was included in a failed attempt to circumvent a UK tax by defining the console as a "computer" if it contained certain software.
A port of the NetBSD project is also available for the PS2.
The PlayStation 2 has undergone many revisions, some only of internal construction and others with substantial external changes. These are colloquially known amongst PlayStation 2 hardware hackers as V0, V1, V2, etc., up to V12 (as of November 25, 2004).
V0 was a Japanese model and was never sold in Europe or the US. These included a PCMCIA slot instead of the Expansion Bay (DEV9) port of newer models. V0 did not have a built-in DVD player and instead relied on an encrypted player that was copied to a memory card from an included CD-ROM (normally, the PS2 will only execute encrypted software from its memory card, but see PS2 Independence Exploit). V3 has a substantially different internal structure from the subsequent revisions, featuring several interconnected printed circuit boards. As of V4 everything was unified into one board, except the power supply. V5 introduces minor internal changes and the only difference between V6 (sometimes called V5.1) and V5 is the orientation of the Power/Reset switch board connector, which was reversed to prevent the use of no-solder modchips. V7 and V8 are also similar, and V9 (model number SCPH-50000/SCPH-50001) added the Infrared port for the optional DVD Remote Control, removed the widely unused FireWire port, added the capability to read DVD-RW discs, and a quieter fan. V10 and V11 have minor changes.
In September 2004 Sony unveiled the third major hardware revision (V12, model number SCPH-70000). Available in November 2004, it is smaller and thinner than the old version and includes a built-in Ethernet port. In some markets it also integrates a modem. Due to its thinner profile, it does not contain the 3.5" expansion bay, and therefore does not support the internal hard disk drive. This poses a problem for games such as Final Fantasy XI, which requires the use of this peripheral, and prevents the use of the official PS2 Linux kit. A product named HD Connect can be soldered into the unit giving hard drive support though. It is widely believed that Sony has abandoned support for the hard drive. There are also some disputes on the numbering for this PS2 version, since there are actually two sub-versions of the SCPH-70000. One of them includes the old EE and GS chips, and the other contains the newer unified EE+GS chip, otherwise being identical. Since the V12 version had already been established for this model, there were some disputes regarding these sub-versions. Two propositions were to name the old model (EE and GS, separate chips) V11.5 and the newer model V12, and to name the old model V12 and the newer model V13. Currently, most people just use V12 for both models, or V12 for the old model and V13 for the newer one. The new V12 model was first released in black. A silver edition is available in the United Kingdom exclusively. It is unknown whether or not this will follow the color schemes of the older model. There is also now a V14 model (SCPH-75001) which contains an integrated EE and GS, and different ASICs compared to previous revisions, some chips having a copyright date of 2005 compared to 2000,2001 for earlier models. It also has a different lens and some compatibility issues documented by Sony for earlier PS2 games.
Sony has also made a PVR/DVD burning consumer device that plays PlayStation 2 games called the PSX. The device was poorly received, with some major features absent from the first revisions of the hardware, and has thus far experienced very poor sales in Japan, in spite of major price drops . The machine's future continues to be uncertain, with North American and European launches considered to be distant if at all.
Later Hardware revisions had better compatibility with Playstation games (Metal Gear Solid: VR Missons works on most silver models). However the New Slim Silver Models have more issues with playing Playstation games than the first PS2 revisions.
The PS2's controller is largely identical to the PlayStation's, with the same basic functionality; however, it includes analog pressure sensitivity on the face and shoulder buttons, is lighter and includes two more levels of vibration. The fact that the design didn't change pleased some consumers who were already used to the PS1 controller, however, it disappointed others who were hoping for a more ergonomic design (the two analogue sticks being as they are in an awkward-to-use position for the thumbs to operate).
Optional hardware include additional controllers, a DVD remote control, a hard drive and modem, ethernet adapter, memory cards, and various cables and interconnects: Multitaps, Component video, S-Video, VHF antenna video cables, Mouse and Headset.
The specifications of the PlayStation 2 console are as follows, with hardware revisions:
- CPU: 128 bit "Emotion Engine" clocked at 294 MHz (later versions 299 MHz), 10.5 million transistors
- System Memory: 32 MB Direct Rambus or RDRAM (note that some computers use this type of RAM)
- Memory Bus Bandwidth: 3.2 GB per second
- Main processor: MIPS R5900 CPU core, 64 bit
- Co-Processor: FPU (Floating Point Multiply Accumulator × 1, Floating Point Divider × 1)
- Vector Units: VU0 and VU1 (Floating Point Multiply Accumulator × 9, Floating Point Divider × 1), 128 bit
- Floating Point Performance: 6.2 GFLOPS
- 3D CG Geometric Transformation: 66 million polygons per second (1)
- Compressed Image Decoder: MPEG-2
- I/O Processor interconnection: Remote Procedure Call over a serial link, DMA controller for bulk transfer
- Cache Memory: Instruction: 16KB, Data: 8KB + 16 KB (ScrP)
- Graphics: "Graphics Synthesizer" clocked at 147 MHz
- DRAM Bus bandwidth: 47.0GB per second
- DRAM Bus width: 2560-bit
- Pixel Configuration: RGB:Alpha:Z Buffer (24:8, 15:1 for RGB, 16, 24, or 32-bit Z buffer)
- Maximum Polygon Rate: 75 million polygons per second (1)
- Dedicated connection to: Main CPU and VU1
- Sound: "SPU1+SPU2"
- Number of voices: 48 hardware channels of ADPCM on SPU2 plus software-mixed channels
- Sampling Frequency: 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz (selectable)
- I/O Processor
- CPU Core: Original PlayStation CPU (MIPS R3000A clocked at 33.8 MHz or 37.5 MHz)
- Sub Bus: 32 Bit
- Connection to: SPU and CD/DVD controller.
- Interface Types: 2 proprietary PlayStation controller ports, 2 proprietary Memory Card slots using MagicGate encryption, Expansion Bay (DEV9 or PCMCIA on early models) port for Network Adaptor, Modem and Hard Disk Drive, IEEE 1394 (2), Infrared remote control port (2), and 2 USB 1.1 ports with an OHCI-compatible controller.
- Disc Media: DVD-ROM (CD-ROM compatible) with copy protection. 4.7GB capacity, a few are DVD-9 (8.5 GB)
(1) Polygons per second under ideal circumstances (e.g. no texturing, lighting, or vertex colors applied). Some criticize these figures for being unrealistic, and not indicative of real-world performance. The true polygons per second figure with full textures, effects etc. is around 13 million.
(2) IEEE 1394 removed in SCPH-50000 and later hardware versions, and Infrared remote port added.
- US$299.99 (October 26, 2000, Launch Price)
- US$199.99 (May 19, 2002)
- US$179.99 (May 14, 2003)
- US$149.99 (May 11, 2004)
Republic of China (Taiwan)
- NT$10,900 (January 24, 2002, SCPH-30007, Launch Price)
- NT$ 7,980 (January 01, 2003, SCPH-30007)
- NT$ 6,980 (2003, SCPH-39007)
- NT$ 6,980 (October 10, 2003, SCPH-50007)
- NT$ 6,480 (January 01, 2004, SCPH-50007)
- NT$ 5,888 (June 01, 2004, SCPH-50007)
- NT$ 5,888 (November 03, 2004, SCPH-70007)
- List of PlayStation 2 games
- List of PlayStation 2 network games
- PlayStation 3
- PlayStation Portable
- PS2 Linux
- Official Site
- Playstation 2 makes its North American Debut
- "How the PlayStation 2 Works" from HowStuffWorks
- PlayStation 9 (PS9) ad-campaign for the PS2 launch
- PS2: Five Years Later On the history of the PS2 from 1up.com
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