Sony Rumored to Make Use of Gaikai Acquisition to Stream PS3 Games on PS4

Posted on February 18, 2013 10:00 AM by Rob Williams

Hot on the heels of the leaked PlayStation 4 controller images comes another rumor that involves Sony making good use of its Gaikai cloud gaming service. According to The Verge, which has relayed a Wall Street Journal article hidden behind a paywall, we could see Sony making use of Gaikai to enable backwards-compatibility on its upcoming console since it’s unable to natively. The CPU rumored to be in the PS4 comes from AMD, which means it’s x86-based, not Cell-based like the PS3. Running software on one architecture that was designed on another is complicated, whereas streaming it isn’t.

At the moment, there are many unknowns surrounding this feature, and it’s not likely until later this week that we’ll learn more, as Sony is holding a press conference on Wednesday which is where we’re expected to learn more about the upcoming console.

PlayStation 4 Mockup

The streaming design I’d speculate would involve server farms using native but modified PS3 hardware which can load games on-the-fly by request from a massive digital library. When someone plops a PS3 game into their PS4, Sony phones home, compares IDs, and after a quick download to kick things off, the user can get to playing.

There are of course many ups and downs to a technology like this, with latency being the “con” to top the list. Even with a perfect Internet connection, there’s going to be more latency than there would be natively. Have a family member doing a little torrenting? Good luck trying to get that gametime in. There’s also the continuing problem of bandwidth and broadband speeds in general. In January, CDN Akamai released its “State of the Internet” report which claimed that just 11% of the world’s connected users have a “high-speed” broadband connection, but that’s just half of the battle. Many that do have fast Internet connections deal with strict bandwidth restrictions which could rule out streaming content like games and movies.

Regardless, no one can fault Sony for being unable to offer hardware backwards-compatibility with the PS4 given the differing architecture, but it’s unfortunate nonetheless. The streaming option is better than none at all, however.

  • Marfig

    I’m still dumbfounded that are console manufacturers the ones most actively engaged in turning obsolete these devices and removing many(?) people from considering buying one ever again. Or new users from considering them as good gaming platforms.

    Just a few weeks ago I was reading about this guy talking about his PS3 ~200 game collection on some gaming article comments box. I wonder how happy he must be when he realizes all that investment has gone down the drain simply because the console manufacturer actually engages in the practice of killing their own products.

    • Rob Williams

      That’s the sad thing. Sure, emulators are going to exist for these consoles in the future, but emulation just isn’t perfect for all things. These consoles are more complex than ever, and as we’ve seen with emulators for the GameCube, Wii, N64 and PS2, success is hit or miss. The unfortunate truth is that this DOES mean some people will end up losing the ability to actually play their large collections way down the road unless people make huge strides with regards to emulation.

  • Gerard Dummétt

    It’s funny in this day and age that we worry about backwards compatibility when, many years ago (16-17 years now?!?) when the N64 came out, nobody was too worried about not being able to play their SNES games on the new console. Now, because gaming is such big business and games are more expensive, people get in a big fuddle about the new consoles. Keep your old machines, I say! in Another 15 years you’ll be able to turn around to yours mates that have “traded-in” their old consoles and games and say: “Hey, remember when we used to play (current blockbuster but now retro-game) on (Xbox 360,PS3,Wii/U)? Still got it in the basement!” and then you can pull it out and be the new King Retro-Nerd.

    • Rob Williams

      Good points! I think part of the reason for the concern is the fact that current consoles just don’t last like the old ones do. When the N64 came out, I had no concern that my SNES or NES was going to up and die. But today, active gamers can’t even get through a single generation with just one console. A friend of mine is on his FOURTH Xbox 360. So I do think the concern is valid, because there might come a time down the road when these current-gen games are difficult to run. We’ll be LUCKY if our older consoles (PS3, X360) still work, and good luck with emulation. The N64 came out 16 years ago, and even today its emulation is not perfect.

      I am mostly speaking as a classic gamer though. For my PS3, I own way more classics from the PS Store than I do actual modern games. I got more backwards-compatibility use out of the machine than what Sony actually had designed it for. So it does kind of bug me to think that down the road, some games might no longer be playable. Maybe not everyone feels this way, I’m not sure. I think it’d hit the younger generation 10 years from now when they realize how much they cherish some of the current games on the market.

      • Jamie Fletcher

        The older generation consoles were almost completely solid-state if you exclude peripherals. Cartridges were the norm, no moving parts, very little to go wrong. Capacitors may burn out over time, but are easy enough to replace, so they could be repaired and used for a very long time. So your Commodores, NES’, SNES’, Mega Drives, Master Systems, Game Boys, and even N64s, all are likely to last indefinitely.

        When CD and DVD drives were implemented, failure rates started to climb. PSOnes are still around, mainly because there were so many produced. The lasers would often start to have issues after a number of years, prompting the whole “turn the unit upside-down” trick to get them working. The more adventurous could tweak the preset pot to allow more power into the laser, allowing them to last longer. Dreamcasts, PS2s and the original XBOXs had higher failure rates due to the added complexity, as well as moving parts.

        With the last generation (PS3, 360), there were even more mechanical parts. DVD and BD drives, hard drives, fans, they could all fail. However, the single biggest issue that modern consoles have to deal with, compared to the originals, is not complexity, but heat. These new consoles run seriously hot and use way more power than the older generations. Even though the power requirements have steadily dropped over the years, the chip density still means the chips get seriously hot. It’s the heat that will kill electronics.

        Modern electronics also have significantly more red-tape to deal with than years past. RoHS, WEE, power safety, FCC, CE, RF and EMI emissions, and all the various safety and environmental standards that need to be met in order to be sold. This has caused quite a serious casualty as far as electronic longevity is concerned – the removal of lead-based solder. Lead is a toxic metal, and the number of electronics thrown away into landfill is mind-blowing, but lead was extremely useful, electrically speaking. The solder had better conduction, required less heat to plasticise, but most importantly, it was malleable. Why is the latter most important? Thermal shock and fatigue.

        As things get hot, they expand, when they cool, they contract (for the most part), basic physics. What happens in electronics when you turn a unit on and off? High heat during use (60-100C), then cools to room temp after (15-30C). Repeat 1000s of times and things can become brittle. Modern, lead-free solder, is much harder than the original leaded, and much more prone to thermal fatigue, causing micro-fractures in the solder joints. This is where the whole reflow trick sprung from. Heat a device up high enough for the solder to plasticise again so that the micro-fractures can be filled. It’s this that caused PS3 units to brick and be fixed, as well as a contributing factor towards the ubiquitous RRoD for the 360. Leaded solder could take the thermal fatigue much better due to its malleable nature.

        Okay, that’s enough physics for now, but to summarise; Heat, safety standards, moving parts and the switch to unleaded solder, are the main reasons for modern hardware failing prematurely. So much for a ‘quick’ reply…

        • Rob Williams

          That’s quite a detailed explanation :D

          Heat is definitely the killer, I won’t disagree there. As far as I’m aware, that’s -the- reason the RRoD issue existed earlier on. In an attempt to make the consoles as attractive as possible, they end up being as slim as possible. When we’re dealing with rather powerful processors under-the-hood, that’s a deadly compromise.

          I really hope both Microsoft and Sony learn this with the next-generation, because heat has been an issue on both the 360 and PS3. My first-gen PS3 sounds like a jet engine after just a couple of minutes, even when it has plenty of room around it.

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