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Sony: Emulating PSone games takes ages

Here's why.

Why isn't your favourite PSone game on the PlayStation Store yet? Emulating old PlayStation games for new PlayStation hardware isn't as easy as everybody thinks.

Crucially, Sony is still "dedicated" to resurrecting the games you want most, pledged PlayStation Store's Ross McGrath on the EU PS blog. But the process can take "several months".

Each PSone revival requires a good original copy of the game (in all languages), legal clearance (checking expired licenses and who owns publishing rights), Store packaging (image, descriptions for all territories), and submission to Sony QA for extensive bug testing.

"There are two major stumbling blocks between submitting a game for emulation and us being able to publish it," illuminated McGrath. "Not getting legal clearance and failing quality assurance (QA)."

Legal clearance can be halted by intricacies such as real-life branding in a game that is now off limits. In some cases, publishers have died like dinosaurs, and who owns the game can be a time-consuming question to answer.

"The other problem is failing QA because of serious bugs, and when I say bugs, I mean giant cockroach-sized uber-bugs," revealed McGrath. "I have seen a lot of PSone QA reports with some weird and wonderful errors: menu screens with upside down text, explosions that kill your character at random after watching a cut-scene, games that continue to slow down the longer you play them, or music that sounds like it's coming from the bottom of a well... the list goes on."

Final Fantasy VII on PS3.

Those bugs can't just be stamped on by the developer, because that developer washed its hands of the game long, long ago. If a serious enough problem is found, the game may have to be pulled entirely.

"If a game fails QA, there are some things that can be done to fix them but, unlike with a PSN title, they can't simply go back to the developer for another round of fixes, so it can get complicated," said McGrath.

But the PSone emulator is constantly improving, "so often serious bugs that prevent games from loading at all are fixed with new versions".

"The million dollar question," McGrath wrote, is why some PSone games are available on the US PlayStation Store but not in Europe. "This usually comes down to either publishing rights or bugs that occur within the emulated PAL version that did not occur within the NTSC emulated version," he revealed.

Sometimes ancient PAL copy-protection fudges things up; other times, the publisher in America turns out to be different to the publisher in Europe, and more negotiating must be done. Even when a licence is renewed, territorial restrictions prevent this applying worldwide.

"We are still dedicated to bringing you as many PSone games as we possibly can," McGrath said.

"There are some PSone titles that we have been seeking legal clearance to publish from as far back as 2007, some of which are still ongoing and some have only just been legally cleared (Wild Arms).

"There are titles which previously failed QA that are bug tested again with every new version of the emulator and they come your way as soon as we can release them.

"We've just sent another round of first-party titles for clearance and emulation to fill in the gaps in the catalogue," he added, confirming one of those as Tombi - "so stop asking!". "We will be going back to publishers and specifically pushing for the most requested and popular titles."

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Robert Purchese avatar

Robert Purchese

Associate Editor

Bertie is a synonym for Eurogamer. Writes, podcasts, looks after the Supporter Programme. Talks a lot.