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Sony can increase PS2 sales with three simple steps

David Hughes's picture

Sony sells 6 million Playstation 2 consoles a year and is clearly not interested in abandoning the hardware, but following these three simple steps towards a “PS2 Plus” could have sales of the PS2 actually increase.

Yes, the Playstation 2 is eleven years old. Yes, the Playstation 3 is a vastly more advanced piece of technology. Until Sony (if ever) reverses course – again, mind you – on backwards compatibility with its newest game machine, the PS2 is here to stay. When the six million a year figure first emerged, I wrote that Sony had no incentive to re-enable backwards compatibility because people are still purchasing what must be a very profitable device in significant numbers. The PS2 has the largest install base of any console in history (north of 150 million now), that install base allowed it to develop a very impressive software catalog that still sees the occasional new release, but Sony could increase sales of an eleven-year old system with three simple steps.

I’ve been spending some time with some of the older titles in my library (currently playing Killzone for the first time), and while I can get past the aging graphics and gameplay of (most) older games, there are some simple usability tweaks Sony can make that would have me purchase a brand-new PS2, a “PS2 Plus” if you would. It would be another re-design, but here are three features that would make the PS2 a much better system in these current times (listed in order of importance):

Bluetooth connectivity: Wired controllers are a major nuisance. The layout of my living room entails that playing my PS2 while sitting on the couch makes the controller wire a major trip hazard if my wife wants to get between her desk and the rest of the house. Kids love wires and despite owning numerous kid-friendly titles for the system, gaming while they’re up is a non-starter: my 15 month old son will be constantly grabbing at the wire – so no fun.

There is no feasible way to patch in Sixaxis support for PS2 titles, but Sony has not fundamentally changed the basic DualShock controller since the days of the PS1. Moreover, Bluetooth transmitters are dirt cheap, whether a USB add-on or an internal chipset. Given the need for a BIOS edit and the desire to sell new hardware, an internal chipset is more likely. Support for the DualShock 3 alone would get me considering a “PS2 Plus” purchase.

Modern A/V connectivity: There’s no getting around the aging graphics of PS2 titles, but I play a fair amount of old Xbox titles on my Xbox 360 with no video issues at all. The PS2’s RCA-only video connections introduce a lot of unwanted signal noise when hooked to an HDTV. Updating the port to give component video or (better yet) HDMI connectivity would be a major upgrade. Old graphics are one thing, but the blurry subtitles on games like Killzone are a factor of the noise in the analog signal - not the old graphics. Adding in some sort of HD-upscaling feature like what’s present on most DVD players nowadays would be an extra bonus, especially for widescreen formatting issues.

The slim redesign of the PS2 already has modern surround sound with a dedicated Toslink digital optical audio surround sound port, but it desperately needs a modern video port to match. Given the dirt-cheap price of most HDMI-compatible DVD players, this addition is also low cost. If necessary, the HDMI port would completely replace the current A/V port. Those interested in buying the “PS2 Plus” aren’t likely to need the legacy video connection, and Sony can keep the current PS2 around for those who need it.

Internal memory: Physical memory cards are a minor annoyance but they’re just that – an annoyance. Given that even the standard PS2 memory card holds a fair number of saved games with its 8MB chip, an internal flash board with even a paltry 100MB would be more than enough – and would also cost next to nothing. That said, unlike the Xbox 360 slim, don’t simply delete the memory card port altogether. I want to transfer my saves to the “PS2 Plus”, not start all over.

Alternatively, Sony could update the BIOS to allow read and write access for the USB ports, allowing people to use the now-ubiquitous ‘thumb drive’ for save-games.

None of these three steps add much in terms of cost, but if Sony would also be packaging the “PS2 plus” with a shiny wireless controller, a retail price of $150-$175 would be fair. It wouldn’t sell a ton, but it would certainly sell enough to warrant the mild redesign costs. The fact that first-generation PS3 consoles (whose most important feature is full backwards compatibility) still sell used for $250 and up suggests there’s a lot of demand for a modernized PS2 experience. More importantly, it would help keep the PS2 software library relevant when the lack of backwards compatibility on the PS3 makes rediscovering old gems a hassle.

Do you have other annoyances about the PS2 you’d like Sony to update? Would you pay $150 for a “PS2 plus”? Share in the comments!

Comments

In fact, if this actually happens, I will eat my proverbial hat. Sony is throwing far too much out there in 2011 between the Xperia Play to the Playstation-branded tablet and the NGP. Making and marketing a "PS2 Plus" would compete with their other products. Still, we can dream. . . .

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