18 years of fun: Happy Birthday PlayStation

In addition to all those immense blockbusters mentioned above and the emergence of a new style of casual/social game with EyeToy, the PS2 also really pushed the limits of more experimental, leftfield and art-house style games. And, with Free Radical's sublime Timesplitters 2, we finally had the console shooter we'd been dreaming of.

"Ico and Metal Gear Solid 2 were my favourites," agrees Majesco's John Merchant. "Plus, playing multiplayer Timesplitters 2 and the first SSX are happy memories - but the arrival of Grand Theft Auto 3 was the real standout. The influence it's had on the gaming landscape is immense."


Sony PSX: This is a low

As with all gaming consoles, the PS2 had its lows. A class action lawsuit was filed against Sony Computer Entertainment America back in 2002, in the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, addressing consumer reports of inappropriate "no disc error" messages.

Sony had to shell-out $25 and a free game to those affected by the problem. And a free repair. However, Xbox's widely-publicised 'red ring of death' problems since then makes Sony's problems at that time seem almost insignificant in retrospect.

Perhaps another low was the limited uptake of PS2's online features and functionality. Indeed, SCEE founder Chris Deering did admit to us recently that Sega was perhaps "five years ahead of its time" with Dreamcast in terms of that console's online functionality. Not that it did them much good, mind.

Finally, we agree with Majesco's John Merchant that the PS2's greatest "low" was the fact that its immense user base "steadfastly refused to support some of this decade's finest games - Ico, Psychonauts, Okami - some people just don't know what's good for them!"

Fast forward to November 2004 and Sony updated its PS2 hardware with the PlayStation 2 Slimline, the third major hardware revision (of which there has now been thirteen in total) introducing a far more attractive and lightweight design at a far more affordable £149 price-point.

David Reeves, President of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) noted at the time that, "this totally redesigned, network ready model will demonstrate that PlayStation has once again the design flair and innovation that has made PlayStation the world's best loved and most successful games console."

What David Reeves didn't comment on (much) at the time was Sony's ill-fated PSX media centre. The PSX seemed to have it all, combining the PS2 with a DVD burner, hard drive video recorder, music player and loads of other multimedia features.

But Japanese gaming fans didn't buy it. Hence it became clear that the market just wasn't ready for such a machine and Sony quietly canned production of the PSX for Europe and the US. If you really still want one, then you can still pick them up on eBay now and then for £300 upwards. Though what you would do with it is beyond us.

However, this DVD-recorder-cum-games-console was an obvious precursor of what was to come later with PlayStation 3…

Sony playstation 3

Sony PlayStation 3

  • Launched: November 2006
  • Cost: £425 (UK at launch)
  • Spec: 7th generation games console, IBM Cell CPU
  • Main competitors: Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Units sold: 70 million to date
  • Lifespan: Who knows?

For us, the PS3 midnight launch event held on a cold and drizzly Friday night on March 22 2007 at the (now closed) Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street is an event tinged with a great sadness.

While it was cool to see a bunch of hardcore gamers and games hacks gather to be among the first to snaffle Sony's new toy, we stupidly forgot to put our names down for one of the first consoles. Only to then be left standing, open-mouthed and dumb-founded when it was also announced that the first one hundred PS3 buyers would also get a lovely big forty-odd inch Bravia plasma TV to play their new console on. Gah!

Aside from missing out on the free telly action though, the launch went far smoother than those of the Sony's previous two consoles. The launch was months later than those in Japan and the US, being delayed a number of times (which is pretty much par for the course by now with SCEE) but this meant that there was the added bonus of stores having plenty of stock at launch. Still, people headed out to queue in the rain at midnight.

Adam Hartley