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Home » Featured, News

Sony patent Emotion Engine software emulation

Submitted by on Tuesday, 30 June 20094 Comments

Emotion EngineHere we go again. Number two on our list of things we wish would just curl up and die so we didn’t have to regurgitate the same tired old details over and over (and only closely behind that other story) is how the later models of the PS3 can not play PS2 games. Or they’re not “backwards compatable”, if we’re to use the industry vernacular.

Rumours of the return of PS2 game support to the PS3 have been doing the rounds ever since the Emotion Engine chip, the actual physical hardware that enables the majority of PS2 games to be played on old PS3s, was removed from the chip-set. We should state that, for some people, this feature is moot. After all, who wants to play PS2 games when an extensive PS3 library of high-def games are available to the discernable consumer? Other people have vast PS2 libraries and would love to be able to retire their atavistic PlayStation console to their own personal Museum of Gaming.

But what of Sony? Where is the advantage of bringing this feature back into the fold? Glad you asked.

Despite what some people think, Sony are extremely acute at planning for the future. Cast your mind back to last year when the PS3 was floundering like a beached fish in the sales charts. Costing a king’s ransom, and not offering anything like the gamut of titles that gamers desired, the PS3 was in serious trouble. Appropriately, Sony responded on multiple fronts.

The first aspect was passive and something they knew would happen naturally over time: quality titles for the PS3 would not only start to emerge from their long development gestation periods, but they’d emerge in their droves. Second, and more importantly, Sony had to do something about the price.

We might lament the high cost of the PS3 now but, don’t forget, it has already come down from the heady heights of $599/£499/€599. To achieve this, Sony gutted their prized cow and removed anything that could go while still providing a stellar PS3 gaming experiencing. Out went the card readers which, though a novel idea, were under-utilised by the gaming public and something that, by removing, Sony could save a few dollars per unit on. Four USB posts? Two too many.

The biggest element to be excised however was the Emotion Engine (or EE) – literally the PS2 component inside a PS3 to achieve total (or near total) backwards compatibility. Though all PS3s can play PS1 games through software emulation, such a programming feat was just not possible with the Cell chip and, with a new cheaper chip-set no longer featuring the EE, out too went support for PS2 games.

We won’t repeat the decries and enmity that erupted across the gaming world at this decision. Needless to say, some people were not pleased. That said, Sony made the decision to lower cost and get their console back in the running; a goal we can safely say they have now achieved. However, and there’s always an however, with constant speculation that the Cell, a chip we’re told that can cure cancer, could re-create games from a bygone era through software emulation, and with the industry slowly embracing a more digital model, surely Sony would view their immense PS2 library, a collection just sitting their waiting to be made download ready and capable of generating new millions for Sony through the re-release of titles, with avaricious eyes.

And herein lies the rub. The rules have changed – again. With the PSP Go signaling the death of physical media in the handheld arena (and trust us, they may say the UMD will be supported but, just look at “Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman”, a title already shunning the physical media market, the UMD will likely be phased out asap), Sony undoubtedly have an ace up their sleeves in the content war over their rivals.

Are we saying the new PS3 (Slim or otherwise) will be able to play PS2 games? No. That would be a rumour. What we are saying is that Sony have patented something that suggests the practice is possible; a practice that, with the recent digital revolution we believe is imminent. Whether it happens or not is anyone’s guess.

Remember, Sony – along with many other companies – patent things willy-nilly. They even have a patents department. And, who knows, considering the current recession, maybe the guys and gals there are worried that their jobs are in jeopardy and they’re firing off any old patent in an attempt to appear busy. Probably not though.

If you like schematics and design diagrams in general, pop over to Siliconera for a look at the new patents.