I’ve been aware of emulators since before the Game Boy Advance came out. It was always touted as a grey legal area, and a disclaimer “You must own the original game, or delete it after 24 hours!”. Of course, I complied and deleted the first ones I downloaded, within 24 hours. But as I played more, I decided to not delete them. In fact, I wound up downloading games I would never wind up playing simply because I could! Internet!
Being a teenager with no income, I couldn’t go and buy the consoles and games, nor even just the games for the Game Boy Color I actually owned. So I felt justified in ‘sticking it to the man’ by trying out these games -- especially the ones from Japan that had been fan-translated. Heck, all these years later and I still can’t find a copy of Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiya Densetsu, the only card-based game I will ever truly enjoy.
As I’ve aged, emulators for newer and newer consoles have been getting released, with the most recent rumours (that I’ve read, there may be more!) being that some PlayStation 3 titles are almost playable via emulator. With how quickly technology has progressed, not only can you play Super Mario 64 on your Android device, but there are lists of ‘the best’ Nintendo 64 emulators for Android. Phones as “old” as the Samsung Galaxy S3 can run Dreamcast games! I was honestly astounded by the visuals in Shenmue when I got it, and it would make 17-year old me’s head explode to know that my phone would be able to run it.
Now, to the point at hand. Emulators are buggy, they crash computers and take years to be developed to a stage where they are able to actually run games. Just think how much faster development would progress if emulators were an official project?
You might be arguing that they would never go for it, what’s to stop pirates from still stealing games, etc, etc… It’s a well known fact that people will obtain something legally, if the option is there. I bought all of the Ratchet & Clank games when they first came out -- I bought the HD Collection as one of the first games I got for the PS3 and the original Crash Bandicoot sold so well on the PSN, that Sony publicised it!
So, with no plans on a new addition to the franchise, nor any remaster plans, it’s up to Activision to see the worth in poor old Crash. However, since they’re still for sale from Sony, that must mean they retain the rights to the original games which they produced in-house. There’s only so much market for an original PlayStation game, available only on an old-gen console and handheld.
However, if Sony worked on a PlayStation emulator for Windows, Mac and possibly more: you suddenly open the possibilities from two old consoles and a handheld to millions of devices!
There are a load of mobile remakes that are sold at premium prices, just think how much Nintendo could charge for the first four generations of Pokémon useable on PC! What’s more, it would allow for great features such as carrying an entire team from Kanto to Sinnoh or truly stable internet matches.
Sega have a long history of bringing games out on PC, even when they had a booming console business. There were loads of Mega Drive games that hit PC, and some have made their way to Steam in the years since -- they're even bringing Sonic Lost World out on Steam!
Microsoft have also been getting the cross-platform bug -- though admittedly they have more reason to do so. Any titles that are Xbox One exclusive are still easily streamable to your PC, and that list is pretty short compared to the titles that are on both Xbox One and PC.
My point, though, is that these older titles should be more easily available. How often have you had a fit of nostalgia and wanted to stick on Super Mario Sunshine -- only to realise you have a Wii U which won’t run Gamecube games? What’s more, you sold your copy of the game when you sold your Wii!
The reason for consoles not being backwards compatible that is always thrown around, is that it’s too much work for the console, and would make it much more expensive. Never mind the fact that the PS3 can play original PlayStation discs, or that PlayStation Now lets you play PS3 games on your PS4…
The long and the short of it is: console manufacturers know exactly how their machines work. They could easily create and sell emulation programs for computers. If people can do it in their spare time with little knowledge of the product, think how awesome a £30 program would be that plays £10 games you used to love?