A Brief History of Game Consoles, as Seen in Old TV Ads

2000: Sony PlayStation 2

The U.S. launch of the $300 PlayStation 2 saw it become the fastest-selling console of all time. It quickly overshadowed the Sega Dreamcast and more than held its own against the Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft Xbox. Even today, vendors sell more slimmed-down PlayStation 2 units than they do Xbox 360, Wii, and even PlayStation 3 consoles.

The trippy TV spot below was directed by Stanley Kubrick protege Chris Cunningham, who has created visually arresting music videos for the likes of Bjork, Aphex Twin, Portishead, and Leftfield:

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Critical to the PlayStation 2's original success was its backward-compatibility: Not only could it play games created for the original PlayStation, but it could make them look a little better. The PlayStation 2 also introduced a DVD-ROM drive, enabling users to play DVD movies and music CDs, and encouraging developers to craft larger games.

If Sony wanted strange, it did well in choosing David Lynch (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive) to direct this "Third Place" commercial:

<object width="350" height="288"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/EkFVUELC7l8"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/EkFVUELC7l8" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="350" height="288"></embed></object>

The PS2 uses a multiprocessor design, including a 128-bit "Emotion Engine" CPU, co-developed with Toshiba. Though such power contributed to the console's success, it took game developers some time to harness (early PS2 games didn't look as good as later Dreamcast games, for instance).

The infamous "PlayStation 9" commercial:

<object width="350" height="288"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ipVrwswhHho"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ipVrwswhHho" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="350" height="288"></embed></object>

Unlike the Dreamcast, the PS2 initially had no connectivity. Later, however, Sony released a modem/ethernet adapter to match the online-capable Xbox. Other notable PlayStation 2 add-ons included a DVD remote, a hard disk, a mouse, a keyboard, a Linux kit, a headset/microphone, an Eye Toy camera, a Singstar microphone, and game-specific peripherals such as the controller that accompanied Guitar Hero.

Sony has reportedly sold more than 110 million PS2 consoles worldwide so far, supported by the release of over 8000 PS2-compatible games. In 2005, PC World named the PlayStation 2 the 11th-greatest gadget of the past 50 years.

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