PS3 & Xbox 360 Emulation Is Coming, Whether You Like It Or Not

I have two retail copies of Wind Waker for two Nintendo platforms in my house, but most times, whenever I get the urge to play it, I play it on PC via emulation. Such is the convenience, and added visual firepower, of the personal computer.

Yes, the practice is a haven for people playing games "illegally", but I'm nevertheless fascinated by the field, both for the improvements it can make to a game's graphics and the sheer amount of work that goes into emulating an entire video game console's workings within the confines of a completely different system.

Right now most people associate emulation with retro systems, with working emulators topping out at the PS2 and GameCube generation, but as PC hardware advances folks are trying hard to add the Xbox 360 and PS3 to that roster.

In some ways, this will be bad news. Sony will one day be launching a service that streams emulated PS1, PS2 and PS3 games onto more modern devices, and that's a service that it wants to make money on. Normally the defence for playing emulated games is that they're no longer available; if Sony can stream old games for a fee, then that defence is gone.

But for others, regardless of this, it will be a godsend. Nobody wants to (or has the space to) keep every console they've ever owned just so they can play a favourite game or two. If companies like Microsoft are content to ignore their back catalogues by removing backwards compatibility from their consoles, and emulation allows people to keep playing, say, Lost Odyssey long after their Xbox 360 is gone, then they'll do it, whether Microsoft wants them to or not.

I bring this up today because some pretty important breakthroughs have been made by a team working on bringing PS3 emulation to the PC. While no commercial games are playable, at least one is now booting, albeit with shocking framerates and graphical issues.

An Xbox 360 project is likewise progressing. Both are probably a few years away from being useful in any sense of the word, and it's a hell of a job ahead of them, but with the interest and work that's going into them it feels like an inevitable case of when they'll be done, not if.

Users would probably need a few years' break anyway; there's no way anything but the most powerful modern PC hardware would be able to smoothly emulate a last-gen console, since many people's machines still struggle on some PS2/GameCube games.

When they can, though, hey, maybe we'll finally get to play Red Dead Redemption on PC after all...