Sony Patents Emotion Engine Emulation Technology For Cell Processors

By Spencer . June 29, 2009 . 3:37pm

imagePlayStation 3s without PS2 backwards compatibility are missing the Emotion Engine, a chip Sony designed as the PS2’s CPU. What if the PS3’s cell processor could emulate the Emotion Engine? Theoretically, all PlayStation 3s would be able to play PS2 games even if a console didn’t have the proper hardware. According to a recent patent filed by Sony Computer Entertainment in the US, Sony has the code and technology ready to do this.


There are two main ways to emulate hardware. Interpretation is when target code is decoded and converted into a language the host can understand. The other strategy is to decode and recompile programs in the host’s language.


Maybe the concept is better explained another way. Interpretation is like having someone constantly translating English to Japanese for you, non stop, twenty four hours a day wherever you go. Decoding and recompiling is like someone translating a sets of words and putting them in a dictionary you can reference.


Sony developed a way to translate instructions from an Emotion Engine chip into chunks that can be referenced.


image eeemu emusta


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.


There aren’t too many reasons why Sony would want the PS3’s Cell processor to emulate the PS2’s Emotion Engine and the key one is backwards compatibility.


Perhaps, a firmware update or the new PlayStation 3 slim, which our friends at Ars Technica say is coming this fall, will utilize this technology.

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  • MisterNiwa


  • The EE has already been emulated by the PS3 ever since the PAL versions launched (they only had the GS)…

    The problem also isn’t (obviously) emulating the EE, but the GS, as it is a REALLY quirky chip.

  • Lacan

    Seriously, who gives a shit about backwards compatibility? PS2 backwards compatibility had a lot of issues and most of the titles didn´t work properly

    If you want ps2 B/C just get a ps2

    • Hraesvelgr

      If they canned the PS2 and gave the PS3 BC, it might up the sales a bit. I mean, BC was a pretty huge selling point for the PS2 for a good while and I’m pretty sure it has stopped at least a few people from picking up a PS3.

      • ChrisW

        Ah, the plot thickens…

    • Tom

      BC works pretty well actually, at least on my PAL model anyway. I’ve been enjoying Vice City and San Andreas during the interminable wait for GTA DLC to turn up… San Andreas especially is surprisingly good.

    • daizyujin

      Considering the lead console of the last two generations has had full backwards compatability, perhaps it means a lot. Of course, by itself, it proves nothing. Still a LOT of people do care. Even if you don’t use it a lot it still is one of the best ticboxes you can put on the box.

    • Guest

      What’s with stupid replies like this? Is it hard to understand it becomes a pain to try and maintain multiple consoles by the same maker when having backwards compatibility could help out. Especially if or when the last console’s life comes to an end there is likely no service for the previous consoles and the company is more focused on their latest console.

  • CrimsonFox13

    I’m betting they’re going to sell it. I might buy it.

  • ME!!!

    hey, if I want a ps2, ill get one, but I dont want to switch back and forth… back and forth

    • Guestify

      Forgive me if I’m wrong, but AFAIK the PS3 is already able to emulate the PS2’s Emotion Engine – it was how the initial European PS3’s had PS2 BC.

      First PS3s in NTSC territories: Full hardware-based PS2 BC, with both the PS2 CPU (Emotion Engine) *and* GPU present.

      First PS3s in PAL territories: Part hardware & part software (emulation) PS2 BC, with the PS2 GPU present, and the PS2 Emotion Engine removed for costs (& emulated instead).

      Later PS3s in PAL territories (40GB onwards) & subsequently all other territories: No PS2 BC whatsoever, due to the removal of the remaining PS2 hardware previously present – the PS2 GPU.

      • Guestify

        Ooops, sorry – just seen that Segitz has already pointed this out :)

  • Very interesting.
    Maybe it will shut up the people who are like “GIMME BC NAOWWWWWWWWWW”

  • funkyellowmonkey(ps3 id)

    Nice, Slim PS3 ftw!

    ~funkyellowmonkey(ps3 id)~

  • Why putting BC into PS3 ?
    It’s easy – Sony will add this in FW 3.0 along with PS2 games avaible for download.

    Just think about option to play Shadow of Collossuss on your PS3 with upscaled graph…

    @Lacan I can tell you that MANY people are asking about that on PlayStation support so it’s wanted feature. Especially for people who have many PS2 games and still want to play them (for example MGS3 is awesome yet it hasn’t been replaced by MGS4 because those are different games in terms of story and feeling). Continuing MGS – PS3 would be the only platform giving you the option to play all the BIG MGS games (I mean 1, 2, 3, and 4). There are many people who just like to play complete series instead of one timers like MGS Rising.

  • UFO

    BC helps you keep the TV shelf neat since you have less consoles, cables and controllers. It would be great if Sony was able to get back BC again and make it work right.

  • John

    God make it work please. I dislike having a Ps3, Wii, and Ps2 hooked up all next to each other.

  • TurkeyPotPie

    As Segitz and Guestify already pointed out, emulation of the EE is old and was done on the Euro PS3s with BC and the 80GB NA PS3s that had BC. The holdup for full software BC is emulating the Graphics Synthesizer. Sony has been filing these patents related to PS2 BC since at least early 2006, before the PS3 launched. So I don’t doubt that full software BC was eventually the plan (and Ken Kutaragi stated this early on as well).

    The dynamic recompilation scheme described in the latest patent isn’t new. What’s interesting is how the work is distributed over the SPUs. I don’t know how EE emulation was achieved in earlier patents, but I wonder if this latest scheme frees up processoing resources in Cell to be used for GS emulation? Although IIRC the main problem with GS emulation was bandwidth.

  • cotheus

    siliconera, take this damn article down, or edit it
    this isn’t news, as other commenters are pointing out.

    EE emulation has been in PS3s since launch.

    would be nice if you checked your facts before publishing, instead of just pushing to be first :(

    • MadMirko

      Now wait a minute, Spencer is a Sony fan and not a reporter. If you want a team of fact checkers you might want to check out a site with a paid subscription.

      Nothing to get so excited about, numerous posters have pointed out the issue. Nobody is “misled”.

      • cotheus

        nobody, except the tons of blogs have used siliconera as a source for re-reporting this information. see today’s articles in destructoid, kotaku, joystiq, playstation informer, thesixthaxis, et. al.

        the reason they reference siliconera is that siliconera has presented itself in the past as a legitimate and factual source of information, not just as a fan blog as you imply.

        none of the blogs will read the comments to see the facts (and one could argue that’s their own fault), but siliconera should update the article to represent the facts, given that commenters have pointed them out.

  • Facebook User

    Really would kill to have SMT Nocturne in my PS3 T_T

  • Yet another reason why I wub my launch 60GB model. Sure, might run a little louder and a little warmer than the models with software or no backwards compatibility, but I have a full library of PS3, PS2, and PS1 titles I can play on a single system with no problem at all. It’s awesome, so I hope this new patent really works out for Sony – it’d be great for those like me, but couldn’t afford the PS3 when it first came out.

    • daizyujin

      I couldn’t have said it better. In fact it scares the crap out of me to think about what will happen when my 60 gig dies. I already have lost one Wii and two 360s so I figure it is about time. At least this way, I could rest assured that a new PS3 could play my library of PS2 games.

      One thing though, I hope this is a firmware solution and not a hardware based one that requires a specific model of the PS3. It would be really shitty for people that have bought the 40, new 80, or 160 gig to have to go without bc while people that bought it before them and after them (likely at a lower price) would be able to play them. I guess my point is, it wouldn’t foster much goodwill towards Sony.

      • Tom Crux

        Dont worry, i have a 60 gig first day model and i have friends coming over and playing my Ps3 for 10 hours straight almost every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and it just works like a charm. Price counts, my friend.

  • Mark

    Sorry to blow out your dreams. All PS3’s are capable of emulating the Emotion Engine in software already. Euro launch 60GB consoles do it in software already (and thus all PS2 consoles are capable of it).

    The problem area is GS emulation. Launch consoles has the hardware, later units did not.

    IF this were a patent for GS emulation, then it would indicate PS2 software emulation coming, what this does is something all the consoles do anyway…

    • daizyujin

      I this is right.

      Launch consoles from US and Japan (20 and 60) have both.

      60 gig European and the old model 80 gig US (with motorstorm) only have GS

      40, new 80, and 160 have neither

      At least this how I understand it.

  • alex

    This would be fantastic if “New PS3” could play all PS2 Games. Honestly the main reason why i didn’t get the PS3 is because i have too mush PS2 Games that wont work on the PS3.

  • name

    mayb GOW 3LE with 1 and 2 packed in isent out of the question afterall.
    just 3 requests.
    1 keep the sex game in.
    2 update the graphics not to 3’s standard obviously but updated.
    3 make it available in australia.
    i cant understand why sony NEVER releases a LE for a game there publishing here.
    we miss out on bloody guides to.
    i would of killed for a R2 LE or a KZ2 LE

  • Rick

    Read the f****** diagram. The Graphics Synthesizer is emulated. Siliconera, change the title, the whole PS2 hardware is emulated on this new patent.

    • Agreed.

      • Darren Tilley

        Not agreed. The diagram clearly shows the Graphics Processor as a seperate I/O module in the final diagram.

  • Lord_Ash

    Maybe they want to sell PS2 games on PSN.

  • sandiego_bri

    It’s about time …

  • Binks

    I think the overall point is being missed here.

    While the fact that the EE engine has been emulated before is old news, the fact that a new patent is going through means that development of the emulation is continuing. The knowledge that they are still trying to streamline things make one hopeful for backwards compatibility in the future.

  • Todd

    The author is an idiot and doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about. The PS3 has been emulating the Emotion Engine for quite some time. Look it up people, a simple Google search will tell you that. It would have been news if they were emulating the Graphics Synthizer, but they aren’t.


  • ld

    This is NOT news, as everybody else pointed out.
    Revise this article!

  • Theshadavid

    If this were to happen would I need a fresh ps3 or the ps3 I own to get it?

  • I want to play PS2 games! i hope this is true and i can update my current PS3

    would really like to get into such games like god of war and kingdom hearts

  • Me

    Certainly one of the biggest drawbacks to me buying a PS3 is that I have about 40 PS2 games and not wanting to have to switch back and forth between systems. I’d buy a PS3 the day they announced they’d dealt with the BC issue and I could use all my games on a single system.

  • i cant wait. i got my ps3 free at
    heres hoping they will finally allow you to play ps2 games as i have hundreds

  • Paul

    So de vercion wen it comes were do i download it here or on the ps3 update

  • Kriss

    I realy want this to happen!



  • Tom Crux

    So basically, it’s rocket sience, right?

  • Actually, they fail to cover a bigger hurdle than emulating the EE, and that would be the GS (PS2 GPU aka the Graphics Synthesizer). As a member of the PCSX2 team, I know firsthand how much harder it is to mimic the GS via software than the EE is. I’m curious to see how Sony will handle that obstacle if they plan to bring backwards compatibility to the PS2.

  • MaxxiCrApple

    This is not a good signed for who ever bought the BC compatible PS3 at a higher price. It’s unfair for them i guessed. But if SONY can do it that way then I bet they will not let people use PS2 games from the DVDs but maybe by downloadable from the PlaystationStore this way they get some moneys for what they worked for. I Hope it is that way, because it sucked to owned a Launched PS3 at twice as expensive to the PS3 that cheaply built now a day.

  • MaxxiCrApple

    Just want to let you know, Who here ever use their PS3 to play PS1 games? I did once to find out how great the Legendary PS1 game is on a PS3, My only comment is ITS FUCKING TERRIBLE. I would not want to touched PS1 games ever again with the graphic just like my mobile phone games. I’d rather play SNES lol.

    I got a 60G PAL PS3 and i dont give a shit about this article. Love my PS3, more bang for the buck. The more you would pay the more functionality it can do :D

  • Why do I don’t I belive in this?? Well Sony isn’t ready to low the prices of PS3, however you’re saying that Sony has Patented the emulation engine, well I hope this is a real news, so I can finaly play PS2 games on PS3, as a matter a fact, I don’t know what were they thinking when they developed a PS3 without backwards compability! Since Ps2 had ps1 compability so PS3 should had PSX /PS2 compabiltiy!

    Well, If we think well, Sony had major losses this year, it’s quite know that they want to make some competition against XBOX360, so it’s probably the PS3 slim is true as the EE it’s also true, if they want to make some competition they need to lower their prices!

  • leanas

    I just want my DDR games to work on my ps3… I don’t want to have to pay $50 for a used ps2 just so I can play five games. My ps2 died… That’s the second one. I’d really like to be able to buy an adapter for the controller and just play my favorite dance games… I really don’t want to have to wait until March for the new one or go to an arcade to play on a crappy machine and waste $40 an hour…

  • Brandon

    I really hope they use this to bring PS2 support for those of us with the more recent versions of the PS3. I bought my PS3 thinking it had PS2 support and was sorely disappointed. With the PS3’s limited library of GOOD games it seems like their only chance at significantly improving their business is by bringing PS2 support to all PS3’s.

  • giovanni123

    I highly disagree with the comment that it’s “only a small demographic of gamers” ie) an older crowd, who wants backwards compatibility. I think EVERYONE, Gamers and Sony can benifit from this simple firmware update. And I think it’s even MORE important to perhaps yonger/ new consumers who missed out on some great ps2 classics. What’s good for consumers is what’s good for Sony. No BC is BS!

  • dreamcastfan

    its simple……. Sony pull the plug on the ps2…leaving only the ps3 on the market….get everyone to sign up for playstation network and download an update to play ps2 games on the ps3….. sales will rocket !!!!

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