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Despite Sony's suit, firm moves ahead

Connectix says it is releasing a new software program to help Macs use Sony's PlayStation, even though Sony filed suit to block the software.

Connectix said today it is releasing a new software program that allows Macs to run games designed for Sony's PlayStation console--this in spite of a lawsuit filed yesterday by Sony Computer Entertainment.

Sony filed suit against Connectix of San Mateo, California, in San Francisco federal court for copyright and patent infringements related to Connectix's Virtual Game Station software.

Connectix today announced it was moving ahead with plans to ship an updated version of the software nationwide, even though the first version was only made available during the Macworld Expo show early this month.

Roy McDonald, president and CEO of Connectix, said the company believes no violation of intellectual property rights has occurred in the creation or marketing of Virtual Game Station. What's at stake, he said, is consumer choice, noting that his company is "in the business of letting a wider range of software play on a wider range of hardware platforms."

The $49 program allows Macintosh users to play Sony PlayStation games on their computers. The product was received enthusiastically at Macworld and was even touted by interim CEO Steve Jobs during his keynote speech.

Sony has been less than enthused, though.

"We believe [Game Station] is gravely harmful to [game] publishers, developers, creators, and consumers," a Sony spokesperson said.

In the suit, Sony contends that Connectix's software circumvents the PlayStation's anti-piracy protection technology for inhibiting the sale and distribution of counterfeit software. In theory, it would be easier for a Mac user to play a counterfeit or copied game because of how the Game Station software works.

This is something that Sony is loath to allow, because developers are always at risk to lose money from piracy and eventually may be deterred from making games for the platform--which means Sony loses out on money too.

"We're very committed to preventing piracy," McDonald said. "Version 1.0 prevented people from taking illegal copies [of PlayStation software] and running them on the Mac. We've increased the security in the new version," he noted.

While piracy is certainly a big issue for Sony, it's not the only reason the suit was filed, according to company representatives.

"From the standpoint of this suit, we strongly feel that it is up to the publisher or developer to have control over where their product goes," the spokesperson said, citing concerns about the quality of software playback on the Game Station product.

Connectix maintains that about 80 of more than 500 PlayStation titles can be used on a Mac with the software, according to its Web site. However, on occasion, graphics images can appear to skip, and audio reproduction may not always be accurate.

Sony said it wants to "provide our consumers with the best video gaming entertainment experience, which is possible only through the PlayStation game console."

McDonald said he hoped the companies could eventually "in time" work together in marketing the product.

PlayStation is a cash cow for Sony. The company saw game-related operating profit rise 33 percent to 78.4 billion yen ($679 million) in the most recently completed quarter, even as the company posted weak results in other divisions.

With 50.7 million PlayStation consoles shipped worldwide through 1998, the company holds a commanding lead over rivals Nintendo and Sega in the $15 billion global market for home video games.

Apple Computer was not named in the suit.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.