The topic of game preservation on PlayStation is a pertinent one right now. Whatever its plans for PlayStation 3’s – and, of course, PS Vita and PSP’s – storefront, Sony doesn’t make it as easy as some of its immediate competitors to enjoy its back catalogue of games. While the platform holder will point to blockbuster remakes of cult classics like Demon’s Souls as evidence of how much it cares about its legacy, many feel that the company could be doing more.
Backwards compatibility is a more complicated issue than many forum dwellers realise. In order to resell PS1 and PS2 titles on the PlayStation Store, it needs to relicense the software in order to legally port them to PS5, and while we know it’s not impossible based on past trends – it’s clear from the company’s short-lived PS2-to-PS4 initiative that the financial incentive isn’t really there. This problem is compounded by the complicated nature of the PS3’s CELL architecture.
And yet, despite the obvious pitfalls, it feels wrong that so many of PlayStation’s best games are consigned to the past. The upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, for example, should give us all reason to revisit the numerous titles in the franchise’s back catalogue, but aside from the original’s PS4 remake – currently free as part of the company’s Play At Home initiative – all of the previous entries are tied to older platforms.
Sony, perhaps, would recommend subscribing to PS Now, where you can currently stream entries like Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, but even then you’ll need to own original hardware to enjoy the series’ inaugural trilogy – either on their native PS2 or as part of the remastered collection on PS3. It does feel unfortunate that these platformers will forever be tied to older hardware; Jak & Daxter’s trilogy was ported to PS4, but Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper were left behind.
Of course, it’s nice to want things, but the reality is that Sony needs an income stream to make that happen. There’s an argument to be made that the goodwill generated by multi-generational backwards compatibility would make it worth the platform holder’s time alone, but the manufacturer would probably counter that its money is much better spent on new software, whether it’s first-party projects like Horizon Forbidden West or timed exclusives such as Forspoken.
That’s obviously up for debate, but what if we explored a hypothetical alternative: would you be willing to pay for PS3, PS2, or PS1 emulators on your PS5? Hear us out: hobbyists have been creating PC-based emulators for older PlayStation consoles for years now, and many of them are pretty good. The likes of RetroArch, EPSXE, Mednafen, PCSX2, and RPCS3 (to name just a few) allow you to enjoy classic PlayStation games on modern hardware. Some of these, ironically, actually run on Xbox Series X|S.
What if, and again this is completely hypothetical, Sony created and supported its own emulators for use on PS5? We’re imagining a scenario whereby the software is released on the PS Store, available for purchase, and effectively allows you to play your classic games on Sony’s next-gen console. You’d need original, physical copies to enjoy the titles, but the emulator could perhaps include some basic features, such as different aspect ratios, borders, and anti-aliasing.
It’s important to be realistic about what these kind of programs could and would offer. While we’re confident Sony would be able to deliver very good emulators – especially seeing as it owns the original hardware patents – it probably wouldn’t be able to guarantee flawless functionality across the entirety of its previous consoles’ libraries; there are titles that simply wouldn’t work. Furthermore, there’d be no support for Trophies – outside of PS3 – and legacy peripherals, like lightguns.
Also, while you could argue that something like this should be offered for free, there’d need to be a revenue stream as alluded to previously. As such, we’re proposing this based on the idea that you’d purchase the emulators from the PS Store; this would support the development and maintenance, as Sony technically wouldn’t be selling any new software if it were to follow a path like this. How much would you be willing to pay?
It’s an interesting thought experiment, isn’t it? In many ways this would preserve the legacy of old PlayStation software, while still allowing Sony to profit from it. Obviously we’re hypothesising a lot – Sony would know better about the legalities and investment required to deliver something like this – but is it an idea you’d perhaps like to see explored? Do you care enough about your past catalogue to potentially purchase an emulator for your PS5?
Would you be willing to buy an emulator in order to play your old physical PlayStation games on PS5? What kind of features and functionality would you expect to make this worth your while? And if you were interested, how much would you be willing to pay? Embrace your retro side in the comments section below.