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PlayStation emulator launched for Mac

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Mac users could soon have access to one of the largest selections of computer games in the world, thanks to a neat utility from developer Connectix. Connectix Virtual Game Station (VGS), released today at MacWorld Expo, allows any Power Mac G3 and iMac to run almost all PlayStation titles out of the box. The snag: will Sony, developer of the PlayStation, let Connectix get away with it. VGS is based on Connectix's well-established CPU emulation software, most notably VirtualPC, which recreates a full SoundBlaster-compatible MMX Pentium-based PC in software. VGS does the same thing, but this time the hardware is the PlayStation. Emulation isn't a free-ride technology, and the downside here is a hefty CPU and bus speed requirement, needed to match the performance of the Sony hardware's dedicated graphics processors. Which is why the software only runs on "factory original" G3s, and not lesser machines fitted with CPU upgrade cards. Connectix also said it couldn't assure full compatibility with every PlayStation title, since some games bypass the standard APIs to perform certain tricks. The big problem, though, comes from Sony. Connectix clearly hasn't developed VGS through official channels -- if it had worked with Sony on this one, the software would have been called Virtual Play Station, not Virtual Game Station, for a start. Connectix argues that VGS is good for Sony since it has the potential to expand the market for PlayStation games by a huge margin. As we understand it, that's where Sony makes its money, not on £99 consoles, so maybe Connectix has a point. And at $49, there aren't going to be that many users who pass on VGS, even if they only want to play a couple of titles. Sony, however, may think different. And while you may have thought the company had enough to do worrying about the Nintendo N64, the Sega Dreamcast and developing the next generation of PlayStation, market leaders can still get snooty about the small-scale rivals they can do something about. Connectix, for its part, is playing a cautious game. According to a spokesman, it's only selling VGS at MacWorld this week, presumably to garner sufficient sales to cope with anything Sony's lawyers may decide to chuck at it. Incidentally, Connectix's oppos were happily pointing out to all and sundry that VGS will not be made available on Windows, much to the pleasure of the gathered Mac aficianados, who clearly failed to realise that such a release would be pointless -- most PlayStation games are already available in native PC format. ®

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