Sony No Longer Shipping PlayStation 2 in Japan

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You may have grown up with it. Your children may have, too.

Sony's PlayStation 2 home game console, released in 2000, was one of the most popular game consoles of all time, rivaled in sales only by the different kinds of Nintendo DS handheld console. It continued to be sold new on store shelves until just recently, even years after Sony launched its PlayStation 3 successor.

Now, however, Sony's sent out its last shipment of new "PS2" consoles for the Japanese market, according to Japanese gaming news site Famitsu (as reported by Polygon's Emily Gera). Some other regions are continuing to receive shipments for now, but the heart of the PlayStation 2 phenomenon has finally stopped beating.

A gaming legend

Japanese PlayStation fans saw thousands more titles released in their language than English-speaking players. The PlayStation 2 was especially well-known for its role-playing games, such as the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, which was designed so closely around the PS2's capabilities that its Windows PC version uses almost entirely the same graphics and controller-based interface.

New PS2 games continue to ship; Final Fantasy XI is even getting a full-fledged, retail-boxed expansion pack this March. It'll only support the PS2 in Japan, however, where dedicated players continue to use the original "fat" PS2 consoles with the hard drive expansion slot. Internationally, it will only support the PC and Xbox 360.

PS2 games in a post-PS2 world

The first PlayStation 3 consoles -- infamous for the silence which ensued at the Sony event where their price at launch was announced to be "599 U.S. dollars" -- were backwards-compatible with the vast majority of PlayStation 2 and original PSOne games. Sony achieved PS2 backwards compatibility, however, by including the PS2's actual "Emotion Engine" and "Graphics Synthesizer" chips inside each PS3, essentially making it two game consoles in one (and helping to drive up that launch price).

A redesign bumped down the price some, but at the cost of removing the Emotion Engine chip, which caused the redesigned PS3 consoles to sometimes have bugs or fail to play certain games. Today's PS3 consoles lack both chips, which means that while they play PSOne games just fine, they don't support PS2 game discs at all and can't be upgraded to do so.

The legend lives on?

Sony has made HD remakes of certain PS2 titles, and republished others for the PS3 under the "PlayStation 2 Classics" brand. Dozens of such titles have been re-released as digital downloads in the PlayStation Network store.

This method of playing a PS2 game on the PS3, however, involves essentially buying the game again (assuming that it's even in the store), sort of like Sony's method of playing PlayStation Portable games on the Vita. Even rebuying the games for the PS3 doesn't ensure continued playability on modern Sony consoles; the upcoming "PlayStation 4" (not its actual name) reportedly won't be able to play games made for the PS3.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

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