Ever the contrarians, we’re cautiously optimistic about Sony’s revamped PS Plus subscription. Based on what we know so far – which, admittedly, isn’t much – we think the overhaul is welcome and necessary, and we’ve been refreshingly surprised by some of the features. While it was rumoured, we were sceptical PS1 games would make the final cut, and are thrilled to see PS2 and PSP included, too.
The problem is that PS Plus Premium players will have to use cloud streaming to play classic PS3 games, a decision that – without context – has such terrible optics, even Sony would agree. Our understanding has always been that the PS3 is simply too complicated to emulate, although that argument has been somewhat debunked by the RPCS3 program, which runs some PS3 games perfectly well on PC.
While its performance isn’t perfect, the argument is that this is a hobbyist product produced by amateurs who will never have he same understanding of the PS3 architecture like Sony does, with its original design documentation and all. One tweet that went viral overnight, posted by Dimitris Giannakis – also known as Modern Vintage Gamer – said that emulation is “absolutely possible”.
He explained: “Emulation of PS3 is absolutely possible on PS5 hardware. Sony has never been interested in investing the millions to make it happen, however.” In a follow-up video, he expanded on this, explaining that while he believes PS3 emulation could be achieved, it would be a multi-year project that would cost many millions and could face multiple licensing roadblocks along the way.
Renowned FromSoftware super-fan Lance McDonald – who famously made a 60 frames-per-second patch for Bloodborne – added: “I can’t get over Sony announcing that they have a PS1 and PS2 emulator up and running on PS4 and PS5 hardware but they’re locking both behind a subscription fee and won’t let you play discs you already own. Also they still can’t get PS3 emulation on the PS5.”
It’s worth noting that neither the PS5 nor PS4 can read CDs, so physical PS1 media was never going to be supported for this reason alone, but we take the point. Speaking about backwards compatibility, PlayStation bigwig Jim Ryan clarified last year that “trade-offs” need to be made when designing a system, as “time, engineering resource, and money are all finite”.
So, is PS3 emulation feasible on the PS5, then, and what kind of financial investment would it require from Sony? It’s a question that, frankly, only the executives at PlayStation may have the answer to. We’ll continue to ask around on this topic and will update when we learn more, but it looks like this is going to remain an unfortunate gap in the organisation’s offerings for the foreseeable future.