People always talk about dog years, or cat years, but what about video game console years?
It's hard to know what that math is, but one thing is certain: Sony's PlayStation 2 turned 9 years old Wednesday, and it sure feels like the best-selling video game console of all time has been around a whole lot longer than that.
Yet even though we're already more than three years into the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/Wii console generation, the PS2 is still going strong. Routinely, month after month, its sales are in six figures--146,000 in September in the United States alone, according to The NPD Group--and there's no reason to think the 485 (and counting) developers who have made games for the platform are going to stop any time soon.
In large part, that's because there are millions of people for whom the world-beating processing power of the PS3 and the Xbox 360, and the graphics-so-good-you-can-see-beads-of-sweat-on-sports-players'-bodies aren't worth paying several hundred dollars for. For $100, they say, you can get one heck of a good video game playing experience with a PS2.
It "still holds a place in my heart--there's so many great games with huge amounts of replay value," said Michael Steavenson, a public relations professional who bought his PS2 around 2001. "I'm not so interested in blazingly fast processing speeds, graphics that make games look like a movie, or uber-cutting-edge hardware stats. If the game is well-designed, fun to play, and provides me with a good emotional connection, I'll play it forever."
According to Sony, one out of every three U.S. households owns a PS2, and, worldwide, almost 140 million people have one. To date, Americans have bought more than half a billion PS2 games, and all told, nearly 10,000 titles have been released for the platform. Not bad for a machine that has earned the right to be living out its golden years sitting on a porch somewhere, smoking a cigar and grumbling about kids these days.
"I think we're all surprised that a piece of technology that was released 9 years ago is still popular today," said Jesse Divnich, a video games analyst at Electronic Entertainment Design and Research. "What is Moore's Law? That technology power doubles every 18 months. So in the technology realm, being able to survive 9 years is an incredible accomplishment that Sony should be proud of."
To Divnich, the most important element in the PS2's continued success is its overall value. The machine costs just $100 and includes a functional DVD player.
"If you took out the DVD player, this thing would not have survived as long as it (has)," Divnich said. "With most technology, (consoles) like the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, what drove their initial success was that it was a game system. But after five years, what starts to drive sales is the system's ability to perform other functions. And with the PS2, it's a very affordable DVD player that's also a video game system. And of course, games are still being made for it, and retail continues to support it."
Divnich estimated that the PS2 contributes just about 4 percent of Sony's total video game-related revenues, and said he thinks that at a $100 retail cost, its profit margin is relatively small. "But the great thing about the PS2, and the reason why Sony continues to support it, is because it supports the Sony brand, and it can be a gateway to the PS3 or the (PlayStation Portable)....People who purchase a PS2 are more likely to purchase a PS3 in the future. Consumers, believe it or not, are pretty loyal."
Neither Sony nor Microsoft was able to immediately respond to requests for comment for this story. Nintendo had no comment.