Backward compatibility is the big controversial topic of this console generation. We already know that the PlayStation 4 isn’t going to be able to play PlayStation 3 games without the use of Sony’s Gaikai streaming platform. We assumed that this would be the case for PS1 and PS2 games as well, but now we aren’t so sure.
According to Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry, Sony may be planning to release PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 emulator apps for the PS4. This would allow you to pop in a PS1 or PS2 disk and simply play it like you would on a normal console. The PS4 has more than enough power to emulate both these systems in software only, not in hardware, so it certainly seems plausible.
Of course, there are a couple of problems inherit in this plan. For example, PS1 and PS2 games will fall victim to some pretty horrendous upscaling when played on an HD TV. Supposedly, the emulators would help to alleviate that with graphical filters, a lot like you would find on a PC emulator.
Thus far, Sony has only revealed specs for the PlayStation 3 part of the PlayStation Now streaming platform. Their servers will be running modified PS3 hardware designed for fast internet connections. However, PS1 and PS2 hardware would have to be much more heavily modified, as neither was developed with the internet in mind.
What’s really interesting, are the implications emulation software has for the PS4’s backward compatible future. For example, emulation apps should be able to play digital versions of PS1 and PS2 games as easily as they can play hardcopy ones. This could open up entire new venues for the PSN to sell classic games. In addition, it’s entirely possible that the Vita is powerful enough to emulate Sony’s past consoles as well. We all know how much you want to take Crash Bandicoot on the go. This would also make the Vita a much more appealing system.
But if this rumor is true, it will effectively be splitting Sony’s backward compatibility user base. Some will surely pay to play their games via Gaikai again, while other more vigilant collectors are still holding on to their copy of Final Fantasy X. Then we have to ask if PlayStation Now will still be sustainable without income from the entire Sony fanbase. Of course, Sony can offset this by making their emulators cost money, or even a monthly fee, but that would likely not sit well with many PlayStation fans.
For now, only take this as a rumor. When Sony was contacted about this story, they only said that they do not comment on rumors or speculation, the same canned response they always give to stuff like this. Sony did talk about the possibility of emulation back when the PS4 was first announced, though they never went into details.
What would you do? If Sony allowed you to download emulators, would you use them? Would you pay for them? Would you pay a monthly fee for them? Or would you simply use Sony’s PlayStation Now service. Let us know in the comments.
Former Contributing Writer