Folks who bought their PS3 primarily as a Blu-ray player won't much care, but for capital-G Gamers, the following rumor - not yet confirmed as glorious fact - is like manna from Heaven: PS2 backward compatibility on the PS3 is coming back. And not in another bloody SPU you'll have to purchase to take advantage of.
Siliconera reports that Sony has patented a technology that would allow the PS3's Cell processor to emulate the PS2's emotion engine. Without getting too technical...
"Figure 2 from the patent is a schematic drawing of how the system works. Figure 3A is a drawing of the PlayStation 2’s chipset. Figure 3B is the emotion engine. Figure 4 is where the whole story gets interesting! It’s “an example of a host system based on a cell processor that may be configured to emulate the target system.” The target is figure 3B, the Emotion Engine."
So what does this mean for the immediate future of your Playstation 3? Absolutely jack shit. But at the very least it means Sony are still aware that their "feature rich" console has been short of a significant feature since they began pushing the new 80G SPUs. There is no hint as to when this tech will actually hit your PS3, or if all the folks who screetched that they would never buy a PS3 without BC will actually be moved to a purchase by the emulation - but it's another step towards making the PS3 a more complete system.
Is emulation all that important? After all, the cool games these days are all on the PS3, 360, Wii and Gaming PC. For my money, I have to say yes. I was lucky enough to score a 60G PS3, which includes the PS2's Emotion Engine - it doesn't have to pretend it's a PS2, because there is a PS2 inside it. Or at least a PS2's brain - and I adore the backward compatibility. Essentially, the only role my PS3 cannot play in the living room is a VCR's.
Not having access to the largest video game library ever assembled is a huge thorn in the side of the PS3. Many classics appeared only on the PS2 - and I've no doubt there are plenty who would pay $10 for PS2 classics on PSN.
At least, Sony had better hope so - because it would be no surprise if this backward compatability only allows you to play PS2 games purchased and downloaded off the Sony Store, instead of that disc copy you've got sitting on your shelf.
Or perhaps I've just gotten so used to Sony making such bad calls, I anticipate the worst from them. It's entirely possible that they would pay to design, patent and implement this technology without exploiting it for profit...
Well, alright - it's not possible - but it's nice to hope.