In what looks like a competitive reaction to Microsoft's recent move, a Sony spokesman confirmed that his company is working on making PlayStation 2 (PS2) games playable on the PlayStation 4 (PS4). The PS2 was Sony's most successful games console to date and has a rich back catalogue of classic games.
Backwards compatibility functionality offered by Sony's previous PlayStation 3 (PS3) console is complicated, as earlier PS3 console hardware included custom chips that allowed PS2/PS1 games to be played natively. Sony later ended such support with the introduction of the first 'slim' PS3s. However Sony distributed some classic PlayStation titles digitally (for a fee) which were modified to work on the PS3.
With the advent of the PS4 Sony suggested various classic PlayStation titles would be made available to owners of the 'next-gen' console via PlayStation Now streaming, again for a fee. It had previously learnt that while backwards compatibility of PS3s with PS2s was "a much requested feature... it's not so greatly used".
Despite learning from its console industry history, as noted above, Sony looks set to make a U-turn of sorts and, as the WSJ reports, will create some kind of PS2 emulation for the PS4. A Sony spokesman stated "We are working on utilizing PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation." That comment was not elaborated upon.
Eurogamer notes that a new PS4 games bundle already features a working PS2 emulator. A package of four titles: Super Star Wars, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Star Wars: Racer Revenge and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter has been released for Sony's latest console and they run under emulation. It is noted that the games enjoy fast framerate, improved 3D rendering, at higher resolutions but "there's little that can be done to improve the quality of 2D assets".
The big question is how Sony will leverage its emulator. Will it open it up so gamers with stacks of old PS2 discs (or access to a nearby car boot sale) can enjoy all their old titles, or will it make us all pay again for the privilege of playing our old favourites? With Microsoft's recent Xbox One with Xbox 360 backwards compatibility initiative I'd hope we can enjoy our old discs but with enhanced rendering.
I own neither next gen console but boxed up in the garage have 20-ish old PS2 games and a similar number of Xbox 360 discs, so it's interesting to see what will happen. I'll probably buy one of the 'next-gen' consoles when they hit £100…