With such an unassailable command of the market, nobody really expected the PlayStation 2 to fail, did they? Well, strange as it may sound, yes, some people did. For a start, no other company had dominated the market across successive generations of hardware. Then there were the hardware shortages that hampered the console's launch in every territory - compounded in the UK when it got caught up in media hype about âRip-off Britain'. And then there were the disappointing post-launch titles. Remember The Bouncer? Remember how it was going to represent a stunning new direction for emotion in games? That was quickly forgotten when the PS2 became the fastest selling console in history, with over 105 million units shipped worldwide by March 31, 2006.
The US launch, on October 26 was also rather mixed: the initial shipment of consoles was revised downwards at the last minute, from 1 million to 500,000, but there were many more games available at launch. EA certainly did well out of it, selling 40,000 copies of Madden before the console even went on sale, as did Rockstar, whose Midnight Club and Smuggler's Run were both prominent at launch (In spite of the muted reception to the console, Sam Houser perceptively noted that "Anyone thinking this isn't a completely new era for the games business is smoking crack.").
The company's foray into the handheld market has so far been slightly less successful in terms of market share. Released in Japan at the end of 2004, and in the rest of the world the following year, the PSP expanded the multimedia capabilities of the PS2. Initially announced at E3 in 2003, the device is closer to the PS2 than PSone in terms of performance, which led to widespread expectation that success was a foregone conclusion. Certainly in terms of unit sales, and the quality of software it has been a success, with games like GTA: Liberty City Stories, Lumines, and Ridge Racer, all demonstrating the potential of the hardware. It's just that it's suffered by comparison to the Nintendo DS. Perhaps recently announced plans to make the PSone software library available for download may help it achieve more prominence.
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