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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 16:39 GMT
Playstation 2 takes off in US
US customers at Sony PlayStation launch
Demand for PlayStation 2 is big but it has still fallen short of the hype
It is indisputable. Sony's Playstation 2 is one of the most sought after gifts this holiday season in the US. The BBC NewsOnline's Kevin Anderson in Washington reports.

But however hot the demand is for the PS2, it has still fallen short of the monumental hype that preceded its October release.

Sony was forced to cut in half the number of units it made available due to component shortages.

But more than the scarcity of the system, gamers say the PS2 is still looking for its killer application, the game title that will cement its position as the must-have gaming console.

Queuing for PS2

Sean Caszatt pre-ordered his PS2 in May, but when Sony announced cutbacks in the number of units it would ship at launch, he was told he would not get his PS2 until January.

That was not early enough for the editor and founder of Gameassault.com.

Like so many gamers in the US, he had to brave the queues for 7 hours to get a PS2 the day it hit the stores, but he said had it not been for the fact that he ran a gaming site then he probably would have waited.

PS2 grabbed 80% of the market during its launch week, according to game analyst Matt Gravett of PC Data.

But the next week, as the supply of PS2s dropped from 500,000 to about 100,000 per week through the end of the year, its market share has dropped.

By the first week of November, PS2 was lagging behind the original PlayStation and Sega's Dreamcast in units shipped.

Untapped potential

Sony's marketing machine went into high gear for the launch of the PS2, and Sean wrote in an interview via e-mail, "I don't think ANY system could live up to the hype that's surrounded the PS2."

Even ahead of the launch, Sean was trying to counter Sony's hype machine with some cold, hard commentary.

And one problem that he and other gaming analysts have with the machine is its vast untapped potential.

Under the hood, the PS2's specs are impressive, but at launch, the PS2 lacks some features that could set it apart from other consoles, according to Matt Gravett.

Granted, it not only plays new games specifically written for it but also games for the original PlayStation, but it also will play DVDs.

Unlike Sega's Dreamcast, PS2 does not ship with the ability for online tournament play or internet access, even though Sony promises that it will someday not only play online games but also allow users to use high-speed Internet services.

But Matt says, PS2, Dreamcast and their future competitors will all have roughly similar graphics looks and capabilities. It will be these additional features and capabilities that help separate the winner from the losers.

Looking for a killer app

"But it's the games that are going to define the platform," Matt said.

And as far as games, Sean has yet to see the killer app that makes the PS2 a must have system, or at least something that justifies standing for seven hours in a queue.

The American football game, Madden NFL 2001, is impressive, he said, but he also points out in his commentary, it is already available on three other systems.

But Sony may have other things to worry about. The PS2 has earned a reputation of being particularly difficult to programme.

Microsoft, which expects to launch its X-box game console next year, has been trying to lure programmers to its platform, and the software giant can already count one notable defector in its camp.

As Sean points out, "Oddworld's Munch's Oddysee was touted as a great showcase for the PS2's capabilities, until the developer packed up and moved it over to the Xbox, exclusively."

But gaming analysts also talk about how developers learned to tweak more power out of the original PlayStation as they became more accustomed to its programming environment.

Sean says it will be at least six months at least until the system's strengths are utilised, which might be some consolation to those who can't get their hands on a PS2 on launch day in the UK.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Business
Duty row over new-era games console
07 Sep 00 | Business
PlayStation 2 available - to order
13 Sep 99 | The Company File
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