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Sony settles suit over PlayStation emulator

Sony Computer Entertainment and Connectix announce a joint agreement under which they will work together on products that will allow PlayStation software to run on other systems.

Sony Computer Entertainment and Connectix have ended a two-year legal fight by agreeing to jointly develop emulation software for popular PlayStation games.

The companies announced Thursday a joint technology agreement under which they will work together on advanced "emulation" products that will allow PlayStation software to run on other systems. In addition, all legal issues surrounding San Mateo, Calif.-based Connectix's Virtual Game Station software have been resolved.

Sony filed a copyright and patent infringement suit against Connectix, a developer of software that helps PlayStation games run on PCs, in early 1999. Sony argued that because Virtual Game Station allowed PlayStation games to be played on PCs, it was harmful to game publishers, developers, creators and ultimately consumers.

Under the agreement, Sony will acquire Connectix assets related to Virtual Game Station, but Connectix will continue to sell the software for Macintosh and Windows until the end of June. The companies will continue to develop emulation technology.

Sony makes a majority of its PlayStation-related revenue from licensing and royalty fees for PlayStation software; the actual consoles are sold at a loss. The same is true of other game manufacturers. But sales of peripherals such as controllers and memory cards help make up a significant revenue stream, and that may be part of the reason Sony has been so adamant about the suit against Connectix according to Gartner analyst P.J. McNealy.

"No one ever sticks with the one controller that comes with the console," McNealy said. "Additional controllers and memory cards help to relieve the hit they take in console sales."

But it may come down to something as simple as control. IDC analyst Shelley Olhava said she has found that PC gamers generally stick to PC games, and console gamers stick to console games.

"Each type of gamer is used to, and expects, a certain experience that depends on the platform," Olhava said.

Sony may also be looking to create software for other gaming consoles, and this emulation software may help them to achieve that goal.

Competition in the gaming industry is expected to get fierce this year as new consoles from Microsoft and Nintendo are released. However, Sony's PlayStation 2 will have a considerable head start. The consumer electronics giant said it expects to sell 3 million units in the United States by the end of the year and 9 million worldwide.

Microsoft has said that it will begin shipping its Xbox system in the fall, and Nintendo is expected to ship its GameCube in October.