The Likelihood Of PS1/PS2 Disc Emulation On PS4

Eurogamer’s report about the possibility of Sony using emulation to get PS1 and PS2 games playable on the PS4 as opposed to PlayStation Now has got people giddy. Sony selling the games on PSN would be a given if this turns out to be true, but the discussion of Sony allowing old discs on the PS4 has quickly cropped up, and I actually think there’s a good chance of it happening.

All things considered, Sony has little reason not to do it both business-wise and technology-wise. You just have to understand how this kind of emulation works.

If you don’t know, emulation is basically how Sony has sold PS1 and PS2 games on PSN for the PS3 thus far — you download classics that run locally on your console. Those classics are essentially ISOs — the exact same data that’s on your old discs, dropped into emulation. If this happens on PS4 there’s almost no reason to doubt Sony would just let you transfer your previous purchases — they’ve already set that precedent with PSOne games the Vita. As opposed to streaming, downloading and locally emulating old games might also cause less strain on PlayStation Now’s servers. Lastly, getting fully stable PS2 emulation working on PS4 would allow Sony to toss PS2 games onto PSN much more easily and frequently, since they wouldn’t have to tweak the emulation for each game like they do now on PS3.

Logically it’s easy to assume Sony would just lock this down to digital, forcing people to buy the games on PSN, but is there really much to be lost by allowing the emulators to run discs? That’s already exactly how PS1 compatibility works on the PS3. PS3s can even run PS2 discs when hacked to unlock the emulator, though that PS2 emulator is unstable because the PS3 doesn’t quite have the horsepower to flawlessly emulate PS2.

First of all, assuming the emulation is fully stable, it would probably require more effort on Sony’s part to lock out discs than to allow them. Then you’ve got the business factors. Selling the old games on PSN would be in competition with people’s existing collections as well as the market for physical classic games, but is that market really a big deal at all?

GameStop has already begun to phase out the selling of used PS2 games, and nobody else sells them but eBay, Amazon, and your odd retro and import store. Even where these places do exist, Sony has already shown the ability to price its digital classics very competitively. Final Fantasy VII became one of the top-selling games on PSN despite the PS3 being able to run the original PS1 disc, most likely because those discs went for $70 a few years ago and are still around $20 today as opposed to the $10 for the PSN version. For PS2 Classics Sony has focused specifically on rare games that are expensive at retail, releasing digital versions for a quarter of the price or less. And what percentage of PS4 owners still have a PS2 and PS2 games laying around? Not many I imagine. It doesn’t make sense to lock out that minority of players who might actually buy a PS4 if they find out they can run their PS2 discs on it.

Lastly, even Sony probably knows it can never release every PS2 game ever made that’s worth playing on PSN. There are simply too many, and that’s not even taking licensing restrictions into account. For many of those games the original physical copies will probably remain the only available versions for the foreseeable future.

Sony had basically nothing to fear from people being able to run PS1 discs on the PS3, and has little to fear from people running PS1 and PS2 discs on the PS4. At the same time, I think Sony can only really gain from making the PS4 compatible with possibly the most valuable library of any game console ever. The only reason I could see for Sony not allowing PS2 discs (assuming any of Eurogamer’s report is true) is if its PS2 emulation still isn’t tight enough. Really, the only reason Sony is even choosing to stream PS3 games through PlayStation Now is likely because they can’t emulate PS3 (no one can as of yet).


  • And then there’s the part about this emulation possibly running the classics in native 1080p. That’s certainly possible, but would likely happen on a game-to-game basis. PC emulators for PS1, PS2, Gamecube, and Wii can already do this but with spotty results for many games, so I imagine Sony would only allow this for select titles. What’s attractive about it is that it isn’t like the HD remasters we’re seeing now, where a whole studio ports and old game to a newer console. With HD emulation, Sony could just literally drop the original ISO into the emulator and let it do the work automatically, only perhaps tweaking the emulator to fix errors with specific games. It can even work with the original discs. This is what Dragon Quest VIII looks like on PC emulation:
  • Alpha 15 of Sky Rogue is out.
  • Oniken, a game I highlighted previously on this blog, hits Steam on Wednesday. I think it’ll be $5.
  • We have a new champion of screenshot art for Dark Souls.
  • Castle Vidcons: Comic #127- In Every Rumor.
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