PS2 Software Emulation Unlikely for 40GB PS3
In an e-mail to Next-Gen, Sony has clarified the backwards compatibility issue for new PS3s–and software emulation isn’t looking likely.
In the case of the new 40GB PS3 announced for Europe, SCE Europe said that it would be omitting the console’s ability to play PS2 games, a feature that earlier PS3 models enjoyed, whether by software or hardware means.
But some consumers have been wondering if backwards compatibility could be achieved in the 40GB model somewhere down the line through software means.
As you may know, 20GB and 60GB PS3s in the US and Japanese markets launched with the actual PS2 Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer chips, so backwards compatibility was done via hardware emulation, enabling compatibility with over 90 percent of PS2 titles.
The 60GB model in Europe and the recently-released 80GB PS3 in the US differ in that they don’t possess the Emotion Engine, but still had a "modified" version of the PS2 Graphics Synthesizer chip. So European and 80GB PS3s in fact rely on emulation provided by software and hardware working in tandem–not just software. The omission of the Emotion Engine was enough, however, to reduce the effectiveness of backwards compatibility with PS2 games.
Here’s what Sony had to say about backwards compatibility with the upcoming 40GB PS3, in an e-mail to Next-Gen:
"The 40GB model, to be launched in Europe on October 10, is a new model and is not equipped with any of the semiconductors from the PS2, and backwards compatibility would therefore have to be achieved by software emulation alone.
"The sheer numbers of PS2 titles available, together with the increased complexity of using a software only solution for each and every title means that to ensure accurate software emulation for the majority would be technically challenging, time consuming and costly. As we have mentioned on several occasions, our engineering resources are now focused on developing new and innovative features and services for the PS3 and, as a result the 40GB model does not have backwards compatibility with PS2 titles."
Sony added, "The current PS3 system software and future updates will continue to support backwards compatibility for the current 60GB and 80GB models, and publishers can check their new PS2 titles to ensure they play on the 60GB and 80GB models."
A 40GB model has not been announced for the US yet, although a recent report claims that the console will launch Stateside on November 2.