Could the PS3 Become An Emulator Haven?

 I haven’t found many reasons to even consider a PS3 anytime soon. Up until now, Virtua Fighter 5 is basically the only thing that caught my attention. However, Sony recently announced that every PS3 will come with a Linux-based homebrew kit.

MattG at PressTheButtons pointed out that this may confuse a number of potential PS3 owners as most gamers have no clue was the term “homebrew” means, nor would they be interested in developing their own games or applications.

Even though it may be marketed strangely, one cannot overlook the significance of this move by Sony. Let me run down the main points:

  • With an officially supported homebrew kit, it will mean that unofficial games and applications (open source ports and emulators) will be easy to develop for the PS3 and will run without any modchips or swap tricks.
  • This will take the concepts that made the XBox so popular for modding (media center and emulators) and make it even easier and more mainstream.
  • With high-quality emulators and indie games ported to the PS3, it will allow the PS3 to compete with the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console and the XBox Live Arcade with no additional support from Sony AND no extra cost to the consumers. (Old games will be “free” with emulators)

From a quick glance, this looks like a quick, last-moment effort to make up for Sony’s lack of non-core features to balance its extra horsepower. Nonetheless, hardcore gamers could benefit from this move quite a bit.

Even though the XBox is greatly inferior to the PS3 in technical specs, it its still able to emulate nearly every system from the 1980’s and most of the 1990’s as well. All this from a community that needs to perform hardware or software modifications on their console in order to run the emulators. The Dreamcast is less powerful, but still has a strong homebrew following since is boots homebrew software with no additional system modifications.

If you combine the extra processing power that the PS3 has with the ease of use that the Dreamcast has and the Linux development kit would bring, you may have the perfect console for emulators. In fact, the PS3 may eventually be the first console that would actually be able to run Sega Saturn and Dreamcast games in a playable manner. Only time will tell.

When all is said and done, I still do not believe this all justifies the incredibly high PS3 price that Sony has established, but as the console ages and has price reductions, we may find the device an attractive machine for running our classic games.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts and opinions on this subject, so feel free to post your messages in the comments section below or in the forums.

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walrus12 says:

I thought the same thing. Maybe in 3 years when I can get one for $150, I’ll buy it to run new sports games, a few of its top games, and free emulation.
For now I think I might get a Wii for something new and keep emulating classic games on my Mac and playing my 32 bit games on my Saturn.

Anonymous says:

For the price, I like to think of the PS3 as a computer without the monitor included but with a high end graphics card. The degree of freedom that the linux will give you along with comparable power to the Xbox360 is something the media hasn’t touched on as much as it could have.

racketboy says:

don’t forget that the abilities to easily be hooked up to TV and has wireless controllers.

alonzobots says:

If I had to choose only between the PS3 and the Xbox360, excluding the Wii and the PS3’s crazy price point, I think there is no contest between these two systems from what I have seen, the PS3 is the clear winner.
I decided this before I knew about this homebrew issue, but this is just the icing on the cake! The xbox360 has the least innovative controller of all the next gen systems, no motion sensitive stuff at all and its very expensive $70 bucks for the wireless pad with rechargable battery! Also the Xbox 360 seems to not be able to produce as high quality graphics, and since they sold the core system any game coming out for the system cannot rely on the owner having a hard drive which cripples its usefulness.
However, the PS3 can have an awesome media player, emulators, better graphics, a decent controller, a full fledged operating system (linux), a hard drive, a pretty nifty wireless motion sensing controller and you can use it from the comfort of your couch and it integrates with your stereo. Thats not bad, though I am not going to run out and buy one. The $600 dollar price tag is crazy, I wish they didnt make a blueray player, I think thats unecessary, but its probably a good long run strategy three years down the road.
Honestly, I think the xbox360 will be this generations dreamcast, first to market, underpowered, easy to pirate games on without a modchip, with a controller that seems outdated and weak compared to its competitors and very very white.
I am getting a Wii, at $200 why not? If only just to play wario ware, duckhunt and gumshoe again. The fact that it might be able to actually play N64 games at full speed is just more icing on the cake. Hopefull it encourages translations of some old RPGs.for the SNES or something.

justin138 says:

I think you guys are looking into this too much. Don’t forget, PS2 had it’s share of Linux as well (see hxxp:// ) would be INCREDIBLY interesting to see Sony do this. In my opinion there’s no chance in hell of this happening. It would open the gateway to hacking the console in ways they wouldn’t want(piracy). They did break homebrew on PSP, but it was mainly because it opened the gateway for playing ISO’s ripped from UMD’s on memory sticks.

It’s a very foggy situation..but I don’t know if Sony is willing to embrace hardcore emulation fans just yet. Even if it meant the upperhand over the Wii’s emulation, it’s just too dirty and evil to go through. I think this will either fall through or extremely limit possible homebrew.

With PS3 going online they’ll be patching everything they don’t like, it doesn’t really matter.

alonzobots says:

From what I understand they are controlling access to what you can and cant program. You dont get the full SDK, so you cant just up and access the Blueray drive or create a new version of final fantasy, that stuff is off limits. But if you wanted to port some moderate software that will work. It think its ingenious actually, they allow partial access to people to code for their hardware however they want legally which defeats the favorite cries of pirates and modchip developers that they are just hacking the system to run homebrew. This system Sony is creating will not allow for full access to the sectors that control security, but I do believe it will make the system easier to hack though I hope hackers have the decency to not prey on the one company that allows homebrew legally.

Mr eel says:

There is one very important factor that would affect the acceptance of homebrew/indie games amoungst gamers.


For any indie developers hoping to make a small commerical game for the PS3 in this way, they need to be concerned about how easy it is for punters to buy and play the games — i.e. it needs to be simple as all hell.

I think Sony would be making a mistake if they just threw in a Linux install and some APIs, hoping that a market for small games will develop organically. I don’t see it happening without a bit of herding on their part.

Basically, MS have got it right with the 360 and it looks like Nintendo are on the same track with the VirtualConsole.

Truthfully this looks a bit like Sony playing catch up.

alonzobots says:

My guess is they didnt have any virtual console or xbox arcade style thing happening because they didnt think it was important for whatever reason, remember these are the guys that said SNK couldnt release Metal Slug 3 for Playstation 2, they have no appreciation for retrogamming. However now they realized that this is a big market and they messed up, so they are sabatoging the competition by allowing homebrew (ie: emulators) which will play for free all these games everybody else dumped money into these secure systems to download legal games through. I think from a business stand point its a good idea, but its really cheesy in a way, Sony just never saw the potential in retro gaming and now they are sabatoging other companies efforts to profit from it. And you know what, I may buy a PS3 because it will allow me to play perfect emulators, sue me, but I dont feel like paying 15 bucks for a N64 game like nintendo virtual console is charging or $20 bucks for street fighter 2 like xbox live is charging, those are crazy prices for really old games, you can get new used games for that!

NightmareCI says:

I myself am more into the stuff Nintendo makes (Wii looks great so far) but the PS3’s linux kit looks very good. And just so you know, I doubt it’d be possible to hack a way to run ripped PS3 games with a homebrew application, because commercial PS3 games probably won’t be running with the linux installation but with some proprietary, faster PS3 OS the way the PS2 and PS2 linux worked. But that price; it’s just WAY too beyond my reach, unless the PS3 proves to be a pretty decent desktop linux system, making it a very cheap high-powered PC (albeit without MS Windows, currently the gamer’s OS).

Anonymous says:

I think the Poster is an idiot…do you not see what you get for the is quoted that the PS3 kicks a $3,500 PC into oblivion by the makers of Untold Legends (for PS3)…and thats not including a blu-ray drive…and all this time your going to miss out on the new games…dude your lost you need to get some help.

racketboy says:

You’re saying that I’m an idiot?
Your statement doesn’t seem to make sense at all.

And its so convenient that you post such a statement as Anonymous.

I guess I should have consulted you before posting since you seem to me the main authority on the topic. My apologies.

If you weren’t talking about me, you need to be more specific.

Joe says:

Cognitive dissonance is an interesting thing, especially when it manifests in defensive diatribes justifying the as-yet-unmade purchase of an as-yet-unreleased black box that might happen to play some games that one might enjoy.

I’m just saying, Anonymous, that if you want to drop a paycheck on a minicomputer, that’s your business. If it lives up to your expectations, great! Bully for you. If it doesn’t, get pissed at Sony, not arbitrary bloggers and commenters. It’s an incidental tool used for playing games, not a religion.

As for homebrew: I think it’s fantastic. Whether it’s demos for the NES/SNES/Genesis or the thriving GBA hobbyist scene or Microsoft’s fancy new games kit, I think that more programmers out there in the world can only be a force for good. But emulation – distinct from homebrew – alone won’t net the PS3 significant market share; people can already emulate whatever they want on their standard computers, Dreamcasts, PSPs, or what-have-you.

The emulation market is pretty much saturated at this point – Virtual Console seems to target the folks who don’t know about or don’t want to bother with “hacky” stuff like emulation. The iTunes Music Store shows that there’s a substantial market that will pay for convenience/legitimacy, so I think the “but it’s free!” aspect is not sufficient to draw away from the revenues of XBox Live Arcade or the Virtual Console service.

Phew. That’s all I’ve got for now.

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