Want to play Xbox One and PS4 games on a PC? Well this might be a not so distant possibility now, regardless of the legal intricacies involved, as the x86 architecture in the next gen consoles will aid emulator development on the PC.
Emulators in the past have only worked with games developed for retro consoles. Instead of playing Super Mario Bros on a Nintendo console, one can download a copy of the game and load it with PC software that can emulate the Nintendo Entertainment System. Emulation is limited currently to older games, as developing an emulator is an arduous task and must typically run on hardware that is much more powerful than the original console. Consoles like NES and Super NES have working emulators, as do more recent consoles such as Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii and the first two Playstations.
However, emulator development has been almost impossible and hit a dead end with the Xbox 360 and PS3, as their codes were unique to their respective consoles, and required really heavy computing power from a PC, which meant that no working emulators for either of the consoles was ever developed.
Now that may change with the Xbox One and PS4, which for developers are gold mines for emulation. According to software engineer Ben Vanik, “It would be easier to create a PS4 or Xbox One emulator within the next year or so than it would be to create a PS3 or Xbox 360 emulator that ran at the speed of the device". He says that the next gen consoles are based on a PC like architecture, with x86 chips and AMD graphics processors.
“I don’t think it’s been the case that an emulator has been written without there first being some hardware hacks on the system such that people could put mod chips in and run homebrew. Until you have homebrew you can’t really have emulators," he added, “because people like me who are writing emulators are looking at the homebrew. The people who get Linux running on these things, I look at their code to see what the CPU registers are that they’re flipping as they’re doing things, and that’s what I use to build the emulator."
Once Linux is running on an Xbox One or PS4, “an emulator won’t be too far behind,” Vanik said. So what’s the problem? “My worry with this generation is that maybe Sony and Microsoft have gotten really good at preventing homebrew", said Vanik.
This would certainly create a frenzy within the legal teams of the console giants, but Vanik says its impossible to emulate PS4 or Xbox One until consoles themselves have been hacked, which still looks like a distant possibility.