Updated August 2014
Launched in Japan in the year 2000 and released in Europe later the same year, at the time the Sony PlayStation 2 was the most powerful games console on Earth.
Sony actually described the console as a 'Computer Entertainment System', and it was. You could play CDs and DVDs with it in addition to games. It had two USB ports, one S400 i.LINK connector and one Digital Out (Optical) connector as well as an expansion bay for a hard disk drive and the ability to connect to the Internet. A slimline version of the console was manufactured from 2004 onwards. High definition 3D graphics and high quality digital sound made for impressive gameplay.
The original Sony PlayStation was produced in 1994 (renamed to PS One in 1999). PS One games were compatible with the new console but many more games were produced to make better use of the improved features in the new device.
The most improved feature was the Analog Controller (DUALSHOCK) 2 peripheral used to play the games on the console. Although it looked the same as the old controller, so it felt comfortable to PlayStation players used to the old controller, inside it was quite different. All the buttons were analogue except for Start and Select. This meant that the buttons had 256 degrees of pressure sensitivity, allowing for greater control in games. For example the harder you pressed a button, the higher a character jumped or the faster a car accelerated. This had the potential to dramatically change gameplay as the player's mood may alter the game.
Each memory card for the PlayStation 2 held 8MB of game data. Game data was made up of specific game settings and players' in-game progress. The amount of space a game used was dependent on the game, as the new memory did not save in blocks like the PS One memory did1, so data for any number of games up to about 20 could be saved on one card. The memory card also had 'Magic Gate' which is copyright protection technology. This meant that files could not be illegally copied (although files could be copied from one official memory card to another, as there were two memory card slots on the PlayStation 2).
The PlayStation 2 Multitap was a device that enabled games for up to eight players to be played as it allowed four controllers to be connected into one slot, and there were two controller slots on the PlayStation 2 itself. The Multitap also allowed for extra memory cards to be inserted, allowing for different game sessions to be saved to different cards. 'Backwards Compatibility' allowed PlayStation 2 controllers to work with the PS One, and enabled the PlayStation 2 to play PS One games and use PS One peripherals. There was one catch: players could use PS One memory cards and Multitaps with PlayStation 2, but only when playing PS One games; for PlayStation 2 games, the PlayStation 2 memory card and Multitap had to be used. When playing PS One games it was possible to improve the graphics and speed, but if the appropriate options were not selected, the games would run as though they were playing on a PS One.
DVD and CD Playback
The PlayStation 2 played CDs pretty much the same as the PlayStation did. If you had the Digital Out connector turned on you could play the CDs into a minidisc recorder if you so wished. The PlayStation 2 also played DVDs so it didn't just serve as a games machine. The picture quality was good and with the Digital Out you could play the sound through a decoder and amplifier, to enable cinema-like stereo surround-sound. This feature also worked with games that were surround-sound compatible.
A huge variety of games were produced for the console - over 1,800 titles. They included updated versions of PS One games, such as Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto. There were also new versions of classic games, including Pac Man, Tetris and Sonic the Hedgehog. There were music games, like MTV Music Generator, sports games like NBA Live, Tony Hawk Pro Skater and FIFA Football, and Role Play Games like Pirates: Legend of Black Kat and Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. And of course there were racing games like Rally Simulation and the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (Manx TT) simulator.
PlayStation 3 was released in 2006, and PlayStation 4 appeared in 2013, so the PlayStation 2 officially became an old console, although Sony only stopped manufacturing new units in 2013. As it was promoted so well when it was launched, and was superior to its rivals the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo GameCube, with an impressive collection of games released each year, it became the best selling games console of all time. As 150 million consoles were sold, and more than 1.5 billion games were purchased, there is a large secondhand market for the merchandise, and a sizeable community of people who still use them, so the PlayStation 2 lives on.