Sony’s next major event update to PlayStation Plus is consolidating its existing services into three tiers, the two most expensive of which offer gamers hundreds of games from PlayStation’s current and past catalog. As the PS5 is only backwards compatible with the PS4, these new plans are the only way for gamers to access PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP games on their latest PlayStation systems. Most of these libraries will be directly downloadable, but there is one major aberration: PlayStation 3 games will only be available for streaming, as has been the case on PlayStation Now.

This disparity is disappointing, especially for fans with poor internet speeds who cannot reliably stream games. Following the lack of PS3 backwards compatibility on the PS4, the announcement once again raised the question: why isn’t Sony emulating its Console 2006, which has a fantastic library of games, and could technical issues prevent them from doing so? To find out, I spoke to the developers of fan-made PS3 emulators to understand why the unique construction of PS3 hardware continues to haunt PlayStation. IGN has also contacted PlayStation to comment on the lack of PS3 downloads for PlayStation Plus, but did not hear back at press time.

development hell

The main obstacle to a proper official PS3 emulation might be that, well, the console was built differently. The PlayStation 3 used a unique structure that differed from the relatively simpler Xbox 360 and PC architectures at the time which Sony called “Cell”. The PS3 console’s processor was comparable to that of the Xbox 360, running at 3.2 GHz, but Sony aimed to beef up the processor’s capabilities by including seven floating coprocessors, aka the PS3’s Synergic Processing Units (SPUs), which were sadly complex for the developers.

Here’s a quick rundown of how it worked. The processor configuration allowed the central power processing element (PPE) to offload the complex code to the additional cores. These SPUs could handle parallel mathematical calculations, which made them ideal for complex physics simulations, such as collisions, clothing, and particles. Sony flirted with the concept in the PlayStation 2but boosted the power of PS3 with floating speed forty times faster than its predecessor.

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Harnessing the potential of the PS3 – then and now – was not easy largely because the process described above was not automatic. The developers had to code this transfer themselves, creating a multi-step process that resulted in a steep learning curve for programming on the PlayStation 3. We all know the the time constraints that developers face and the widespread crisis problem that can arise as a symptom of these time constraints. When developing for multiple platforms, developers routinely ignored complicated SPUs and just used PPE. When it’s time to put in communication Bayonet to PlayStation 3, producer of Platinum Games Atsushi Inaba described at Edge Magazine how Platinum handed the project over to an internal Sega team. A failure to use SPUs resulted in terrible performance compared to other platforms. Inaba called it at the time “the biggest failure for Platinum so far, the one that really sticks in my mind”. A similar story surrounds the problematic PS3 port of The orange boxwho Valve entrusted to EA rather than attacking it themselves. Simply, re-engineering games for a completely new system like no other was a time-consuming and expensive process, which meant the Cell processor wasn’t utilized to its full extent.

Although millions flowed into the Cell architecture, the complexity of its SPU hardware contributed, in part, to a slow start for the PlayStation 3. Add to that the much higher retail price of the PS3 and the year extra that the Xbox 360 took advantage of before its release, and the PS3’s potential wasn’t realized until late in its life cycle.

Simulate synergy

Sony was aware of the problems its console was causing developers, but made no particular apologies for it at the time. “We don’t provide the ‘easy to program’ console”, CEO Kaz Hirai told Official PlayStation Magazine in 2009. “A lot of people see the downsides of that, but if you reverse that, it means the hardware has more to offer.”

Some developers did not hesitate to criticize Sony’s choices for the architecture of the PlayStation 3 at the time. Gabe Newel, talk to Edge Magazine, called it “a waste of everyone’s time”. Kazunori Yamauchi, creator of Gran Turismo, recently says TheGamer that “the PS3 was a nightmare” and that “the hardware was so complex and difficult to develop”. A 2007 doctoral study by Daniele Paolo Scarpazza, Oreste Villa and Fabrizio Petrini supported this, finding that “software that harnesses the cell’s potential requires significantly more development effort than traditional platforms”.

Thirteen years later, the PS3 architecture still causes headaches.

There are several unofficial PS3 emulators available today. On one of them, RPC3, 65% of the PS3 catalog is currently playable. I asked its developers about PS3 emulation issues.

One of the RPCS3 developers, Whatcookie, pointed out that the PlayStation 3’s 128-byte read/write along with the original floating-point format supported by SPUs was the main bottleneck to achieving the goal. declared of 100% compatibility RPCS3. The PlayStation 5 runs on an x86 processor like most computers. This is one of the reasons the PS5 is backwards compatible with the PS4, another x86 system. Both have 64 byte cache lines, as opposed to the PS3’s 128 bytes per line.

“128 bytes of data can be written ‘atomically’ on PS3, meaning they appear as a single event, while on a system with 64-byte cache lines they appear as two events,” Whatcookie explained. .

Thirteen years later, the PS3 architecture still causes headaches.

Cache in this context is essentially made up of chunks of memory. Splitting data into blocks – often called rows – makes the size of this memory more manageable. But that means the PlayStation 3, which can read and write 128-byte cache lines, can ingest its own data much faster and more consistently than the PS5, which reads and writes in 64-byte blocks. This incompatibility can cause major performance issues in addition to those already caused by trying to simulate the console’s Cell structure.

An alternative would be to install SPU furniture on the PlayStation 5 motherboard, which basically means building PS3 hardware into the PS5. This is a method implemented by Sony on the PlayStation 2 and early models of the PS3, both of which included the CPU architecture of their predecessors to allow backwards compatibility with earlier models. But of course, Sony removed those elements from the PlayStation 3 after it initially sold for $300 more than the Xbox 360 in its previous series of consoles. Adding this technology now would not only drive up console prices, but leave those who already own a PS5 without access to this feature.

A Discord RPCS3 user told me that “developing an emulation solution for SPUs would be ridiculously expensive [for Sony] and makes no financial sense. Whatcookie also thought it was, referring to the fact that Sony has only been able to emulate the PS1, PS2, and PSP for two generations.

“If they made a lot of money with these emulators, then I think they would put a lot of money into it,” Whatcookie said.

Depending on how you look at it, Sony’s struggle to emulate the PlayStation 3 is complex or incredibly simple. On the one hand, a costly maze of technological problems makes it seem like a quagmire of complications. Still, it all seemingly boils down to the fact that the whole process is likely prohibitively expensive, at least in terms of interest and profit for PlayStation. That leaves PlayStation gamers with just a few options: stream PS3 games via PS Now (and possibly PS Plus) or hunt down an old PlayStation 3. Either way, it’s more of a hassle than just being able to download games from current consoles, as players. will be able to do with PS1, PS2 and even PSP games.

Either way, maybe don’t get rid of your PlayStation 3 just yet.

Geoffrey Bunting is a disabled freelance journalist. In addition to IGN, he has written about games, entertainment, accessibility and more for Wired, Rock Paper Shotgun, Inverse and others.


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