PlayStation 2 Timeline
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1998

  • November 27th: Sega initiates the next generation of game consoles by launching Dreamcast in Japan at a price of 29,800 Yen ($260 U.S.). Due to manufacturing problems, Sega has reduced inventory of the launch.

    1999

  • March 2nd: Sony unveils the unnamed follow-up console for the PlayStation.

    Sony conducted this unveiling in true industry-leader fashion. Held in a lavish Tokyo concert hall, the event was attended by 1,500 journalists, analysts, and game industry notables from around the world. Soon-to-retire Sony President Norio Ohga spoke, as did his successor, Nobuyuki Idei.

    Sony Computer Entertainment President Teruhisa Tokunaga, who soon would be promoted to Sony's general board, spoke. So did Ken Kutaragi, then the vice president and acknowledged father of the PlayStation.

    At this point, Sony had shipped 50 million PlayStation consoles and sold more than 430 million PlayStation games.

    It was during this meeting that Kutaragi introduced the name "Emotion Engine." He confirmed that the unit would be backwards compatible.



  • Sega's Dreamcast, the first next-gen console.
    May 11th: Sony formally presents its "second-generation PlayStation" at E3.

    A few details are added to the presentation Kutaragi made in Japan, but not much. The unit is not playable.

  • September 9th: Sega launches Dreamcast in the United States for $199. Sales are initially strong, but they slow dramatically after the holidays.

    2000

  • February 18th: Sony holds an event called "PlayStation Festival 2000."

    A proprietary tradeshow after the fashion of Nintendo's Spaceworld/Shoshinkai shows, Festival 2000 gave Japan's elite publishers a chance to demonstrate the games they had planned for PlayStation 2. While Namco and Koei had good-looking games ready for launch, Capcom's "Onimusha," a game that would not be ready until that summer, stole the show.

  • February 28th: PlayStation 2 is featured in the cover story in Newsweek magazine.

    This was a milestone for Sony and the entire video-game industry. "Newsweek" magazine, one of the cornerstones of the mainstream media, was taking the launch of a video-game console so seriously that it merits a cover story.


  • Limited-Edition PS2.
    March 4th: PlayStation 2 goes on sale in Japan. Some stores have sold out through preorder, others open early and hand units out on a first-come, first-served basis. Along Akihabara, Japan's "Electric Town," stores with a few hundred units have lines of several thousand people. Sales begin at 12:00 a.m. and all PlayStation 2 console inventory is sold out before stores officially open at 10:00 a.m.

    Sony had less than 1 million units to sell. Had there been 3 million units, they would have sold out. The Japanese launch of PlayStation was as close as video games may ever get to an event like Woodstock. People from around the world camped out, many for days, in the hope of going home with a PlayStation 2. One disappointed boy is said to have committed suicide by jumping from the top of a building in Akihabara. When a boy was robbed while bringing his PlayStation 2 home from the store, it made national headlines in Japan. The government of Japan declared PlayStation 2 a "super computer," and limited the number of consoles visitors could take home.

    That the success of the PlayStation 2 launch was based solely on the popularity of the Sony brand as the launch lineup was universally panned. (Sony did not have any in-house games in that lineup.)


  • March 5th: Sony sells 980,000 PlayStation 2 consoles and runs out of inventory More than 500,000 of these consoles were sold through Sony's online site. By March 31, the number of consoles sold rose to 1.4 million -- constrained only by lack of inventory.

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