PlayStation 2 still thriving online

PS2 online has some advantages over newer systems.

Chris Bennett uses his PS2 religiously to play sports games. I know because he told me when I asked about his playing habits. And while surprised to discover that I write about games for a living, he seemed almost uninterested in newer, shiny consoles. For him, the PlayStation 2 does everything he needs and then some, including live competition.

"Currently more than 450 PS2 titles are operating online," says John Koller, director of hardware marketing at Sony of America. "Out of this number, more than 60 titles had at least 100 accesses last week -- a very high number for a platform entering its ninth year of life."

What's more, online PS2 games see little (if any) publicity when compared to Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3 communities. But with more than 140 million PS2 owners worldwide, there's bound to be someone online at any given moment, especially with high-profile games like Madden.

Surprised by the ongoing support (I was one of many that never played PS2 online), I took to the GamePro library to sample some games.

A well-established community

At 10 AM on a Friday morning, I found more than 900 online gamers playing Madden NFL 09, 20 of which were using USB headsets (any type will do). While getting lag-free schooled by a gamer from Atlanta, I was informed that he still plays Madden, NBA 2K8, Call of Duty 3, and a handful of other games using his PS2 network adapter.

An audit of other games produced similar, if not better results, in a single afternoon. SOCOM 3 boasted an impressive 3,000 users, hundreds of which were using headsets. Star Wars Battlefront 2 enjoyed more than 100 players with headsets, and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect was bustling with head-shot hungry gamers. Mortal Kombat Armageddon had only 30 online users, but matchmaking was quick and painless.

Given the much larger number of PS2 owners, not to mention soccer popularity in Europe, more people play FIFA 08 on the PS2 network than PlayStation 3, often resulting in a better matchmaking experience. And most online PS2 games share all the features one would expect on Xbox Live and PS3, including the aforementioned headset support (which is more than Wii can say), text messages, and of course, roster and game updates saved to a memory card.

Of the games I played, only Call of Duty 3 had problems, as I was unable connect to third-party servers after five attempts. The good news, however, is that PS2 owners can expect 2-3 times the above numbers during peak play at night.

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