Home computers have their own strengths for gaming... online games, multiplayer games, microsimulations, text-based games. Console games shine in other areas... mascot games, light guns and other peripherals, mainstream accessibility, a dedicated game processor.
With the release of Connectix's Virtual Game Station emulator, a flurry of babble has bubbled up. There are legal issues to the emulation of PlayStation games on the Macintosh, and, surprisingly, there are gaming issues.
Sony hemmed and hawed for a few weeks, and then did finally start legal procedings. It's hard to dispute their claim... although Connectix did not use any of Sony's copyrighted programming, the whole concept smacks of a dicey gray area. (But maybe Connectix pulled this stunt too soon. When the second generation PSX comes out in late '99, Sony may care less about the older stuff and be more forgiving on the issue.)
The obvious problem is that Sony stands to make no money from this product. It seems highly unlikely that Mac gamers will be going out and buying PSX games for their emulators. Many games don't work fully (or at all). You don't get a controller with the emulator, making standard PSX button combos and cheat codes difficult. The graphics suffer on high-processor games. Multiplayer games are right out. (If you hate playing split-screen games on a TV set, imagine playing them on a single computer.) Plus, you need to have a true G3 to run it; a G3 upgrade won't hack it. Simply put, It's just too easy to download PlayStation game disk images from shady online sites rather than actually buy them. Or just rent them.
There are some good points to CVGS... many games look sharper on your computer screen, due to the differences between computer monitors and TV displays... you can use your entire hard drive as memory cards... you could use DexDrive files without actually owning a DexDrive... and it's nice to be able to claim a new gaming resource for Mac users, who have always been stuck on the ass end of gaming.
But perhaps the real question is: Why? Why would you want to emulate, when you can have the real thing?
The history of emulation has been largely based on nostalgia... the idea of playing old games on your home computer that you can't find anywhere else. But Mac users have other reasons to embrace the emulator...
It's about public relations. The access to PSX games opens up a large library of pre-existing games. Although the performance is spotty, the idea of playing "modern" video games is a marketing coup on the Mac front. It sounds very nice at your various computer conferences. Plus, the Mac version was released waaaaaaay before Connectix even revealed plans for a Windows version.
It's about convenience. I can pop in a CD and play a few levels of Twisted Metal while taking a break from a spreadsheet. The emulator brings the PlayStation into the office.
It's about the multiple purposes of the home computer. Utilitarians enjoy having a machine that can do business and pleasure. Now we can combine the games of the PSX with the encyclopedia of the internet and the assistance of a home office... all in one machine.
It also leans on the evolving nature of gaming. When you buy/download a new game, you play it for a while, and eventually you get over it and throw it away. Eventually, you get tired of your whole console, or a better version comes out... and you dump your old system in the closet. With an emulator, you're only down $40 for a piece of software... not $200 for a console and all the assorted extra spaghetti that comes with it.
These aren't exceptionally revealing or convincing points, but they show that CVGS isn't meant for the hardcore gamer. Hell, there aren't any hardcore gamers who run solely on Mac. CVGS is a distraction, a surface-only oasis trying to break through a very dry playing field. And it's hoping to up the Mac profile in the gaming industry.
If you're serious about getting into PlayStation games, you're going to do it on a PlayStation. If you just want to try out that Gran Turismo game you saw on TV, you're there... for the cost of the software and a rental from Blockbuster. It's entirely likely that curious owners of CVGS will be talked into buying an actual PlayStation, so they can get the whole PSX deal... vibration mode, cheat codes, steering wheels, light guns, multi-tap, analog control and all.
PlayStations fans are irate because their system isn't exclusive anymore. Sony wants to protect their financial and ownership interests. Mac owners are desparate for an in-road to the latest games. PC owners are jealous that it got to Mac first. Connectix is being very brave in launching this opening salvo in a battle that could blow the lid off the whole underground issue of emulation, roms and licensing.