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The PS2 in 2001
Written By: Jared Black

If you were to ask 100 gamers at random to name their favorite day last year, no doubt many of them would name the PS2 Launch Date (October 26th) as that day. Unfortunately for Sony, if you were to ask one hundred gamers to name their least favorite day of last year many would give you the same answer. Without a doubt, in terms of units sold the PS2 launch was the best console launch in history. Unfortunately for Sony, the PS2 was also the most demanded console at launch in history. Many gamers, initially allowed to preorder by greedy retailers who didnít take Sonyís shortage warnings seriously, were left without a PS2 at launch and as a result felt betrayed. Unfortunately, the PS2 shortage problem has persisted to this day, with many people who preordered still waiting to get their PS2.

If that were where Sonyís problems ended, things would be ok. Unfortunately, many people who did get a PS2 have complained about a lack of quality titles at launch. There are a number of "good" games available (with one or two excellent ones), but even most of these are sequels of PS one titles or upgrades of other existing games and concepts. To this day no PS2 game has really established itself as a true step above that previously found on the PS one or N64. PS2 enthusiasts point to games like MGS 2, Final Fantasy X and Gran Turismo 3 as their saving grace, but unfortunately both GT3 and FFX have recently met with delays MGS 2 isnít due to arrive until at least this holiday season.

Which brings us to the present. With these problems, Sonyís pre and post-launch hype is definitely showing signs of slowing down. Worse for Sony, their two top competitors (Microsoft and Nintendo) both have systems scheduled for release later this year. Microsoft has already stolen a couple of exclusives, and Nintendo seems to be fixing all the mistakes they committed with the N64.

So is it all gloom and doom for Sony? Not really. No matter what anyone tells you, the PS2 will not "die" this year. The Playstation brand alone is a strong one, and there are enough dedicated Sony gamers out there that the system simply will not fail. However, it looks less likely that the PS2 will be able to achieve the kind of dominance the PS one had. With this in mind, how can Sony continue to stay on top of the market, and build on the launch momentum theyíve achieved?

More Quality Games

The first and most obvious answer is that they need more quality games. As word of mouth spreads (via the Internet, the proverbial "playground", etc.) about the PS2ís somewhat average lineup, the feeling of "needing" a PS2 will be diminished in a lot of potential buyers minds. If the neediness isnít there, then they will be more inclined to wait on either Nintendoís or Microsoftís next system.

Luckily, some must-have games are on the horizon for the PS2. Capcomís Onimusha is scheduled for release next month, and popular franchises like Wipeout Fusion, Gran Turismo 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2 are all due out this year. The more high quality, exclusive games Sony locks up for the PS2, the better its long-term prospects.

Solve the Internet Connectivity Problem

One of the key components in any console these days is online gaming. Microsoft will have an ethernet card (in addition to a hard drive) built into the Xbox, which can be used for either DSL or Cable modems. The Dreamcast already provides both broadband and narrowband (dial-up) gaming, while the GameCube will at some point also offer online gaming (both dial-up and broadband solutions). So itís obvious that Sony needs to get its online strategy finalized, and it would help immensely to be able to tout that feature opposite the Xbox's this year. They need to finalize their plans, and get the Hard Drive/Ethernet adapter out to the general public.

One problem Sony runs into though is that, historically, add-ons such as that have never sold well. And if only 10% of PS2 users buy it, thereís not a lot of incentive for developers to develop online compatibility (especially since network coding can often be difficult). So in addition to just getting it out, Sony needs to release it cheaply. Packing a game in with the adapter would also help immensely, especially if it was a popular MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) such as Everquest. The more people who buy it, the more itíll be supported.

Show up BIG at E3

Microsoft and Nintendo both plan on showing up in style at E3, and thereís no reason why Sony canít do the same. In addition to the big titles that are already likely to show up at E3, Sony needs to give us some big surprises to diminish the hype generated around GameCube, Xbox, and Game Boy Advance unveilings. While Microsoft and Nintendo are showing off hardware and games still in development, Sony needs to emphasize that their games are here and playable now. A price drop would also be a huge way to steal the show at E3.

Advertise!

Although Sonyís not having any problems selling all the PS2s theyíre producing now, that doesnít mean that they should simply drop advertising altogether. So far, the only advertising has been the very weak "PS9" commercial and some independent third-party advertising. Once they "re-launch" the system (rumored to include a packed-in DVD remote in March, much like the recent Japanese re-launch), unleash a massive advertising campaign showing the PS2ís clear superiority. Effective advertising will help to keep the PS2 as a necessary item in a lot of gamersí minds, and that will help move additional units once supply catches up with demand.

Ease Development Woes

One of the biggest knocks against the PS2 has been that itís very challenging to program for. The Xbox will be very easy to program for anyone with PC experience (and thatís the primary reason why Oddworld left the PS2 and went to Xbox), the GameCube is reportedly much easier to develop for than the N64 was, and the Dreamcast is also rather easy to program for. The easier Sony makes it on developers (through technical support, middleware, etc.), the less of a chance of them losing another exclusive title and the greater the chances of seeing ports of games on other platforms.

Get the Systems Out!

This oneís very simple. There are literally millions of gamers out there just waiting for their chance to buy a PS2. Scratch, claw, do whatever it takes to get them oneÖbefore their interests turn elsewhere.

 


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