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January-March 2000

PlayStation 2

Just as Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) had announced six months ago, the home video-game machine PlayStation 2 went on sale on March 4, 2000. Already more than a million people across Japan, both young and old, enjoy the beautiful graphics of PS2 every day.

PS2 is the successor to PlayStation, a hugely popular game machine that has sold over 70 million units worldwide. The greatest difference between the two models is that the three-dimensional computer graphics generated by PS2 have been greatly enhanced, thanks to a central processing unit that, at 128 bits, is the world's fastest. The CPU, which the manufacturer calls the Emotion Engine, can produce highly realistic images of things like smoke and mist, light and shadow reflected on a car, hair flying in the wind, and waves washing up on the shore.

Another big feature of PS2 is that it can play DVDs (digital versatile discs)--both ROM and video. A DVD has the same diameter as a compact disc (12 centimeters, or 4.7 inches), but it can hold data worth seven CD-ROMs. This large memory capacity and the Emotion Engine's high processing speed are what enable much higher quality computer graphics than the earlier PlayStation.

Game DVDs are not the only thing that it can play. You can also use it to enjoy movies on DVD and, of course, music CDs. So PS2 is not just a game console; it's a multimedia machine that functions as a game, audio, and video equipment all at the same time.

PS2 is also equipped with a PC card slot and other features that make it expandable like a personal computer so that it can fill various future needs. From 2001, for example, SCEI plans to begin distributing game, music, and movie software over a cable TV network. PS2 is a game machine that has been created with the twenty-first century in mind.

When SCEI began taking reservations through the Internet on February 18, it received 600,000 hits in the first minute--30 times more than it expected--and the system crashed. It took about two hours to put it back into service, after which the manufacturer initially limited the volume of access. Reservations for the first shipment scheduled for the Internet became full very quickly, and people who place orders through the Web currently have to wait two weeks to get a hold of their own unit.

On the day before PS2 went on sale, long lines formed in front of the 11 stores in Tokyo's Akihabara district (famous for its many electronics stores) that had announced they would be selling the game console. There was even a person who camped out for three days! By the time these stores opened at 7 a.m. the total number of people in line was about 5,000, and all 11 stores were sold out in one or two hours.

The manufacturer says that it has a production capacity of 500,000 units per month. With game software for PS2 going on sale one after another, the PS2 craze looks set to go on for a good long time.

Photo: PS2 produces computer graphics like you've never seen before on a video game machine. (Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.)