Goodbye, my friend

PlayStation 2 is dead: Long live PS3. Well, at least after Christmas.

That’s the message from some of the console’s most successful developers and publishers this week – as they agree a plan to halt new releases on the system following the festive period.

The console has proved the most lucrative in the history of gaming, having remained a stalwart on the market for eight years.

But it looks as though Sony’s plans for PS2’s ‘ten-year lifecycle’ will fall short as the machine’s last few family publishers finally steer their attention to PS3 and other next-gen consoles.

MD of Mastertonic Andy Payne – whose Blast label has enjoyed impressive sales during the PS2’s twilight years – believes the system is on its last legs, thanks to limited space on the High Street.

He tells MCV: The PS2 market has been virtually killed overnight. There’s been no real run-off like with the PSOne, and that’s because retail just does not have the space.”

And the European marketing boss of a massive international publisher – another specialist in family releases – says: It’s certainly looking like this is going to be the last Christmas for PS2. We won’t be supporting it with new release beyond that.”

Major UK developers have also thrown their hat into the ring – with the boss of one company responsible for creating one of the PS2’s most successful blockbuster franchises telling us off the record that his firm had ceased production on the format.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the system, however. Despite other key industry figures agreeing that the console’s time has come in major territories, they point out that it still offers promise when it comes to catalogue sales and emerging markets.

Nickelodeon boss Arwed Ralf-Grenzbach comments: Within the upcoming year, the PlayStation 2 format will fade out. The industry is starting to acknowledge that now. In markets where Nintendo has an installed base with Wii and DS is dominating, PS2 is shrinking.

But we shouldn’t forget it has a huge installed base for catalogue products. And in Asia-Pacific and other markets where Nintendo doesn’t have the same presence, the platform remains attractive. Because of that, PS2 is a format that still makes sense for some of our properties – for now.”

Sales director at Square Enix Doug Bone agrees – despite the firm enjoying a rare All Formats number one on the system last January with Final Fantasy XII.

I would agree that this Christmas is probably the last opportunity for PS2 to make any sort of impact with a ‘full-price’ new release,” he adds.

But with approximately ten million units already in the UK homes, the format’s place as a steady revenue driver is assured way beyond this period.”

As the UK waves goodbye to its most popular machine of all time, it seems some parts of the world are only just tapping into its potential. For us, though, attention turns to its powerful younger brother…

Sony has pledged to continue with its policy of releasing regular family-friendly first-party titles for PS2 in 2009.

UK MD Ray Maguire tells MCV: Publishers always have to decide where they invest their development talent and it’s natural that the focus would be on PS3 but, with a market of 50 million units across SCEE territories, there’s still money to be made.

PS2 still has a healthy user base and, whilst the slightly older early adopters are moving to PS3, the PS2 continues to be relevant to the casual and younger market. And that’s why franchises such as Buzz! Junior and EyeToy are still selling well today.

"Couple this with the huge success of SingStar (for which PS2 back-catalogue sales spike every time a PS3 version is released), and the on-going business potential of PS2 becomes all the more apparent.

In terms of the future, from a first-party perspective we have several great releases to look forward to over the coming months. These include SingStar Boybands vs. Girlbands, as well as the newly announced SingStar Singalong with Disney – two titles which we are really excited about.

On top of this come the release of two fantastic EyeToy titles – EyeToy Play: PomPom Party and EyeToy Play: Hero, in which gamers get the chance to wield pom poms and slay dragons, using newly designed peripherals which work with
EyeToy technology to provide truly immersive gameplay.

These titles, along with future planned releases to expand our Buzz! Junior range, show our belief that, with the right software, PS2 still offers a decent return on investment.”

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