Sony Patents PS2 Software Emulation, Already Offers It

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When it comes to the PlayStation 3, it's apparently easy to confuse the game blogs. They've picked up on an incidental story by a tech site that communicates in fragments concerning Sony's recent filing to patent emulation of its legacy PS2 Emotion Engine vis-a-vis its "cell" processor. The cell processor, you'll recall, is the cerebral cortex of the PS3's multi-processing brainpan.

But "what if," to quote the source story, "the PS3's cell processor could emulate the Emotion Engine?"

What if indeed. Fortunately we don't have to wonder too obsessively, because it turns out the PS3's cell processor already does emulate the Emotion Engine--to greater or lesser effect, and depending on which model you own, anyway.

It happened years ago, when Sony yanked the EE chip out of the PS3 and introduced a cheaper software-driven alternative. Here's what Sony said about its PS2 software emulator back in 2007, when the company introduced an 80GB PS3 (to supplant the 60GB model) absent the Emotion Engine chip.

"The current 60 GB model utilizes a hardware and solution [sic] for backwards compatibility, namely the Emotion Engine chip," said SCEA's Kimberly Otzman. "The new 80 GB PS3 will use a software solution for backwards compatibility, similar to that currently found in the PAL model."

True, some gamers reported functionality issues with the feature, and Sony eventually pulled emulation support from the PS3 entirely (a move the company then explained as part of a "PS3-first" strategy). In fact it's currently not possible to buy a PS3 brand new that lets you play PS2 games. If you want PS2 support, you're off to the used market. Only PS-original games are supported in emulation, a feature common to in all models from the very beginning.

Is this latest patent filing for something new? Or just routine followup on old technology? Patents don't always happen horse before cart. You've heard the expression "patent pending"? Sometimes the cart finds its way in front of the horse, too.

Which isn't to say this couldn't be new, or part of a strategy to bolster the PS3's appeal courtesy a firmware update down the road a bit. I've contacted Sony requesting clarification, but in the meantime, don't get your hopes up. Whether the patent is for something more comprehensively compatible or functionally dependable, for existing PS3 systems or future models, or just new news about old technology, is down to speculation.

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