NEW YORK -- The Sony PlayStation 2 debuted in 2000, before the beginning of the Bush administration, when Google Inc. was still a private search start-up and the iPod and Windows XP hadn't been born. Yet despite its age in a business obsessed with the new, the video game console remains a big seller today.
In fact, Sony Corp. announced Tuesday that it has sold 50 million PlayStation 2 units in North America.
Microsoft Corp., meanwhile, has already discontinued the original Xbox, which launched a year after Sony's PS2. According to the most recently available figures from the NPD Group, which tracks U.S. sales only, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft sold 14.5 million of those Xbox consoles. Nintendo Co.'s GameCube, another PS2 competitor, sold 12 million units in the country. NPD puts U.S.-only sales of the PS2 through November at 43 million.
In November, Americans bought 206,000 units of the PlayStation 2, which now costs $130, down from its original $300 price tag. The people buying it are no longer the early adopters and hardcore gamers, but rather, lower-income consumers and families who want to get into — or back into — gaming, said John Koller, director of hardware marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America.
The PlayStation 2's successor, the $400 PlayStation 3, sold 378,000 units in November. Launched in 2006, it has lagged its rivals, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii, when it comes to unit sales. Its price likely has a lot to do with this. While the console includes a Blu-ray player and other extra features, it's more expensive than the $250 Wii and the cheapest Xbox 360, which goes for $200.
Daniel DeMatteo, the chief executive of video game retailer GameStop Corp., recently called the PS3 a "great machine," but said it is a bit pricey for a recession.
When the PlayStation 2 debuted, its early popularity was enhanced by its inclusion of a DVD player, which was innovative in 2000. These days, beyond its price, the PS2 is still attractive because Sony nurtures it. Now-iconic titles like Grand Theft Auto III and the original Guitar Hero made their name on the PlayStation 2, and Sony continues to churn out new games for the console.
"We don't intend on discarding the system any time soon," Koller said, without going into more specifics.