Sony’s PlayStation 2 has gone down in history as being the best-selling game system of all time. With over 155 million units sold worldwide and a retail lifespan of 13 years, it would be a big understatement to simply consider the PS2 just a ‘success’. It not only beat out the systems of its own generation, but even stood alongside its successor for a period of time. The Nintendo Switch has also been performing remarkably well so far. What could it learn from the PS2’s stellar legacy?
What made the PS2 such a surprising hit was that it was not the most advanced console of the generation. In fact, it was actually the weakest. Despite its technical limitations, that didn’t stop it from being a smash hit with both gamers and non-gamers alike. But, why did it manage to do so well even though it wasn’t the most powerful? While it lacked horsepower, it did have one ace up its sleeve: functionality.
The PS2 didn’t just sell well as a game console, it was also a popular DVD player. Being a product of Sony, the PS2 had the privilege of having engineers that worked for a technology juggernaut. DVD movies and players were all the rage when the PS2 hit the market, so Sony made the very wise decision of incorporating the DVD technology into the system. This made the PS2 a ‘one-two’ punch, offering functionality that would make everyone in a household happy.
While the Switch obviously can’t benefit from also being a DVD player, it does have a similarity to the PS2 in the fact that it also offers some very beneficial functionality: its hybrid design. Nintendo classifies the Switch as being a home console first and foremost, but the system also has the unique ability to almost instantaneously transform into a portable. That’s the whole premise behind the Switch, right down to its name. Like the PS2 before it, perhaps this unique functionality will continue to prove to be a major selling point.
Like the PS2, the Switch has special and beneficial functionality.
Another similarity between the Switch and PS2, one that’s a little closer, is that both of these systems are the weakest of the lineup. The PS2 had to contend with the GameCube and Xbox, both of which could do things that the PS2 couldn’t to an extent. As a result, PS2 games lacked the visual flare of the other console versions. This was especially apparent with multiplatform releases. Even so, that didn’t stop people from picking the PS2 over the other consoles. As a result, developers did their best to keep the games coming. Even after the PS3 came out, there were still multiplatform games being released on the PS2. Even now, that’s still pretty cool to think about.
Due to the Switch’s incredibly slim and compact body, all of its components are based on mobile technology. As a result, it simply cannot match the horsepower of even the standard Xbox One and PS4, let alone their new more powerful counterparts (PS4 Pro and Xbox One X). Despite its limitations, the Switch still has a very modern architecture that supports a lot of today’s game engines. Not only that, it’s been mentioned time and time again by different studios that the system is rather simple to work with.
There are currently only a few multiplatform games on the Switch, but those that have come out so far have been pretty decent. Trying to compare the Switch directly to the PS4/Xbox One isn’t really logical considering the fact that those are dedicated home consoles with large bodies and PC-like components. On the other hand, the Switch is, again, using mobile technology thus allowing for both home and portable use. Laptops have been able to catch up to their desktop counterparts, but small devices like the Switch will take a bit longer to match that kind of power. Even so, the fact that there are modern titles running on the system (albeit with a noticeable loss of visual fidelity) is still rather impressive.
These systems prove that you don’t need a lot of power to be a hit.
As time goes on, developers will only get better at working with the Switch’s hardware. While that’s happening, if sales continue to remain steady, then the future only looks bright for the system. PS2 players got the least pretty experience too, but the system still lasted for a whopping 13 years. That’s not anything to scoff at.
When you look at the history of consoles, the weaker systems have typically been the ones to come out on top. The PS4 is really the first system to be both the strongest and most successful in a single generation. Check out Extra Credits video on the topic.
Ultimately, the PS2 sold well because it was a good all-round machine. Developers dealt with its lower horsepower for the sake of reaching its massive audience. I’ve said so in the past, and I’ll say it again, hardware sales encourage software development. Nintendo and the Switch still have a long way to go with courting third-party support, but things are looking up. As long as the Switch’s sales momentum keeps up, more games will continue to come, thus leading to more people wanting to buy the system. Throw in the home/portable functionality as the cherry on top and you have yourself a pretty sweet package. Will the Switch sell in the 100-millions like the PS2? Probably not. But, it does have the potential to be a big hit in its own right.