Untitled Document
Sony Playstation 2
us: 26-09-2K
europe: 14-11-2K
japan: now
web site:


21:sept//2K - playstation2 - dead man walking?


When I first heard the word "PlayStation" way back in 1994, my first though was of a Fisher Price Kids Toy and I promptly bought a Sega Saturn. Looking back on it now I obviously made the wrong choice (one which was corrected a few years later) as the Sony PlayStation quickly established itself as the number one choice for both developers and the gaming public alike.

Bringing the "geeky" pursuit of video gaming to the mass market is something that will always be attributed to Sony and the master minds who thought up the endless barrage of PlayStation adverts over the years. Sony was king and everyone was looking forward to the announcement of the PlayStation 2.

However, unlike its elder brother, the PS2 is just a big mess up, at least so far. Although they managed to ship some 1 million units of the console on its Japanese launch, sales of software for the system have been lackluster and rightly so. There hasn't been a single noteworthy release for the system to date - its relying on a diet of sequels and well trodden genres. There is just no originality, when the PlayStation was first released it had loads of original games, but slowly they all turned into "FIFA Version 2 Billion" and "Tomb Raider - Lara's More Curvier This Time Boys!".

Sooner or later the public just wont accept this same thing over and over again and this is one of the many reasons behind the PS2's failing. Of course it is still outselling everything except the Gameboy Colour in its homeland but basically most people seem to using it as a DVD player than anything else. The original shipment of the console had a bug which even allowed you to record out via the RGB port to VCR, something which isn't possible on a standard DVD player - the thought of being able to knock out a few dozen pirated copies of a DVD film (which are more often that not released much earlier than their VHS cousins) to video and the selling them on, no doubt made a few people rush out and buy the system before Sony fixed the mistake.

That may seem like a small oversight on the part of Sony but it has been the start of a series of cock-ups which have blighted the system since launch. One of the most constantly voiced complaints from developers is that the system is just too hard to code for - a complaint which also floored the Sega Saturn. However, if enough people buy the console then developers will be forced to get to grips with the PS2's idiosyncrasies and the games will obviously improve. Aside from that, it has also been muted that although the console can push a hell of a lot of polygons, it doesn't have enough video memory in order to texture them all - so although the console is obviously superior to Dreamcast the games will never look much better. This seems the most stupid mistake on Sony's part, surely it should have made sure that the console would have been able to texture all the polygons? Ah well, too bad, I guess.

Sega took the commendable decision to include a built in modem with the Dreamcast (although they shipped a crummy 33.3K modem in Europe), online gaming is the future and it was a sensible decision. Sony, however thought it would be a good idea to leave a modem out of the PS2, citing the fact that they were waiting for broadband to arrive before releasing a solution. This has a certain logic, since online games are limited by bandwidth, but games like Worms have shown that a proper online gaming experience is possible with current technology. Mass market penetration of broadband is still years off - in the UK you still can't get ASDL and it will be a few years before the entire country is even ready for the service to be rolled out.

By leaving the modem out, Sony has cut off a potentially lucrative market - everybody knows console add-ons just don't work: Mega CD, 32X, Superscope, the PlayStation CD-ROM drive for the Super Nintendo. Even if they renegade on the waiting for broadband statement (which they appear to be doing at the moment), the buy separately modem is never going to work. No one will buy it, and developers will not bother including support for it because of this fact. This goes for the recently unveiled hard drive for the system too, no doubt hastily cobbled together to meet the X-Box threat - if it ain't in the box when you buy it, it's going to be a flop. Maybe Sony should look at the mess Sega made or there may never be a PlayStation3.

Apparently, there is even going to be a shortage of units for the Western release - now considering that Sony have had almost a year to prepare for the systems launch outside Japan, they should have at least made sure they could meet demand. There are going to be lots of pissed off people come this September and particularly Christmas and who's to say they won't just go buy something else? (I recommend a nice DVD player by the way).

Sony is skating on thin ice, the shambolic internal design, the questionable external appearance, pathetic release schedule, stupid add-ons and hardware shortages. It could still succeed, no small thanks down to the good reputation of the original PlayStation and the brand that has build up around it. However, there could easily be a new console king and it ain't going to be Sega or Nintendo...


//agi. [agi@fsmail.net]