Now 9 years into its lifespan, the Sony PlayStation 2 continues to soldier along, especially in Japan where the system continues to put up impressive sales numbers despite the small trickle of games it now receives. While the Xbox and Gamecube have fallen off the face of the planet, the PlayStation 2 continues to attract gamers to this day with its ridiculous selection of AAA games at A prices (not sure if that's a battery reference or a minor league baseball reference…you decide).
The PlayStation 2 started out as a simple games machine not unlike the PlayStation, though a little heftier under the hood. Yet through a series of cosmetic changes that would make Cher proud, and a series of optional add-on devices, the system continued to evolve and grow, keeping things fresh like no other 8 year fling possibly could.
The PlayStation 2 was released in 2000, the successor to the 100 million+ selling PlayStation. It had a sizable jump on its (upcoming Dreamcast slam) serious competitors by more than a year, and took advantage of that time to release a number of high quality games and build up a large fan base that all but sealed the console wars before they began. While Xbox came out with Halo, and the Gamecube had its usual first party fare in the form of Mario and Zelda among others, the PlayStation 2 had by far the greatest number of quality titles and sought after exclusives, not to mention backwards compatibility with the large library of PS1 games.
By the time the competition made it to retail, the PlayStation 2 already had several massive game releases that overshadowed the competition, including Gran Turismo 3, Final Fantasy 10, and Metal Gear Solid 2 (all three of these series would also receive at least one more sequel on the PS2 in later years), three of the PlayStation 2's best-selling games ever. It was a lethal 2001 punch that KO'd Microsoft and Nintendo just as they were getting underway.
Despite the early success of the system, the release of the Xbox with its online capabilities built-in, prompted Sony to take similar steps with the PS2. The network adapter was sold soon afterwards, and the Sony developed SOCOM series would help spur interest in the online realm, though it wasn't until the system began bundling the network adapter with all new units that online play on the PS2 took off. Despite the relative success of the PS2's late online efforts, this was without a doubt the system's one area of weakness, an area where the Xbox shown, attracting many of the more hardcore gamers to its system. While this had no consequences during the PlayStation 2 era, it very well may have affected the next console generation, as Sony saw both facets of its fanbase whittled away, the hardcore by Microsoft, for whom they had developed loyalty and felt that Microsoft would again provide the best online arena, and the casual by Nintendo with its revolutionary new control scheme.
By 2004 the PS2 had gone on a diet (who knew Jenny Craig worked with consoles?), and came out looking much slimmer, sleeker, and sexier as a result. The HDD, an add-on that functioned with very few games other than to slightly speed them up, and was almost a universal flop, did not even work with the new slim model, leaving lovers of the few games which required it (most notably Final Fantasy 11) stuck with the chunkier model.
Another device called the EyeToy was released in 2003, one that seemed destined for failure as well, yet despite a limited number of games which fully supported it, the device surprisingly sold over 10 million units, and very well may have inspired Nintendo to develop the Wii's motion controllers as a result (another way in which Sony may have inadvertently helped the competition during its glory years). The Eye Toy used a webcam style device with motion sensors that allowed players to interact with on-screen objects through the use of their limbs.
PlayStation 2 also boasted the DualShock controller, widely regarded as the best videogame controller ever. Other unique peripherals included the Resident Evil 4 chainsaw controller, the Onimusha 3 katana controller, and a number of different guitar devices for the Guitar Hero and Guitar Freaks games.
136 million people can't be wrong (or maybe they can, what do I know?), the PlayStation stands as the best console of all time, featuring by far the most games, as well as the greatest collection of high quality games, which has made it an attractive purchase to this very day.
The PlayStation 2 is still alive and kicking as of late 2009, receiving versions of numerous multi-platform titles, including Need for Speed Shift, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, and Madden NFL 10, and continues to get exclusives, including the recently released Mana Khemia 2. The PS2 has 20+ games scheduled for release in 2010, and rumors continue to persist that Atlus' popular Persona series will see its fifth installment released on the console, just as the third and fourth games were.