I’m traditionally a Nintendo kind of guy. I just tend to prefer the design decisions they make with their games and their hardware. If Nintendo puts something in a console, odds are it’s because they know people will use it. Not like the PS2 hard drive which I think has been used by about… uh… two games ever maybe? Nintendo isn’t obsessed with the cutting edge, and as a result, they have a much higher profit margin than the other console makers. A solid design with solid advantages. Nintendo has patiently waited while XBox Live and PS2Online have done their R&D for them… for instance, now that the online market has hit critical mass, the "Revolution" console will be WiFi out of the box, so they say. So, imagine my surprise at being the new owner of a PS2. Whod’a thunk it?
You just can’t pass up a bargain though, and this was one mother of a bargain. I got a call on Friday from the rest of my family who were at one of our favorite places (The thrift store). On one of the shelves in the front of the store was a PS2 for $40. "Must be something wrong with it" we all thought, but I said I’d go by and look at it on the way home. So after work, I swing by the house, pick up my son, and head up to the thrift store to see the thing. It was in beautiful shape apart from the missing expansion bay blanking plate. A bit dusty, but no obvious signs of abuse. We had brought an older PS1 game with us for testing, but the store had no TVs for sale with video input, so this would be a bit of a gamble. And that’s when I had a moment of inspiration. I ran over to the piles and piles of old boom boxes, and found a small bookshelf stereo with an AUX input. Hooking up the PS2’s audio, we booted it up and listened. The menu certainly worked, and after waiting for the obligatory timeout, the game began to load, and we heard the familiar opening cutscene. EXCELLENT! The drive and brain are alive. We bought it and took it home with a quick side-trip to a GameStop for at least ONE game native to the platform.
When we got home, we hooked it up, and while it was willing to load the PS1 games we own, it wouldn’t read the PS2 game. Nothing but disc-read errors. We also tried a DVD movie, which oddly enough DID load. I seem to remember hearing at some point that the PS2 discs were DVDs, but they were somehow very "Faint" as a means of copy protection. While this may or may not be the case, I decided to try cleaning the lens. Eight screws later I had the box open, and I was blowing something the size of a squirrel out with some canned air. Another (Actually the same) eight screws later we had the world’s cheapest PS2 up and running. Sometimes you just gotta love not being afraid to void a warranty (especially an expired one).
Which brings me back to my original point. While I prefer the physical and game design of Nintendo, "cheap" has an appeal all its own. Every GameStop or "EB(X)" in every mall has a bargain bin full of way cheap games, and they’re almost all for the PS2. Some of them are there because they suck, but a lot of them are there simply because of the sheer market saturation the PS2 has, and the "trade-in" model they all follow. I almost never trade in games myself because I don’t think the money they offer is worth it, but I’ll certainly pick over other people’s used stuff, and I have plenty of stuff to play. It keeps my entertainment budget a lot more manageable which is good considerig all the other expenses I have.