Why PS3 games will only stream in the cloud

The new PlayStation Plus offers a Premium tier with games from multiple PS consoles, but PS3 games are only available for streaming. Here’s why.

Sony has finally announced its long-awaited response to Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service. The revamped PlayStation Plus offers different perks on a tiered system, with some serious upgrades from the current “free games tied to a $9.99 monthly subscription” status quo in the higher tiers. The PlayStation Premium tier at $17.99 per month is the obvious challenger to Game Pass’s all-you-can-eat buffet of Xbox and PC titles.

While this doesn’t fit with Microsoft’s strategy of offering first-party titles at launch, it’s a solid collection of games spanning multiple generations of PlayStation. The 700-game selection is an impressive bonus from a company that lags behind its competitors in mining its back catalogue. It’s not all roses, however. Unfortunately, a generation of PlayStation remains inaccessible to many gamers.

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While even PlayStation Vita die-hards have accepted that the Vita is now the black sheep of the PlayStation family, gamers looking to relive the best of PlayStation 3 will be at the mercy of their internet connection speed. On the new PS Plus, PS3 games are only available via cloud streaming, meaning they will be functionally unplayable for gamers without high-speed internet. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best option for offering PS3 games given the contentious relationship the developers had with the console.

The PS3 was notoriously difficult to develop games due to its complex architecture, and game developers were very critical of this. Valve President Gabe Newell’s comments that it was an “utter disaster on so many levels” and a “waste of time” to develop are among the most scathing indictments of a prominent figure in the gaming industry. While Newell ended up backtracking, forming a partnership with Sony for the PS3 release of Portal 2, these comments were always indicative of the general attitude towards the PS3 compared to its main HD console competitor, the Xbox 360.

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The developers were mostly frustrated that what they learned about developing for the PS3 couldn’t be translated to other platforms. Producer Shaun Himmerick, who worked on the Vin Diesel vehicle helmsman for Midway, said the This Xbox Life podcast that the PS3’s memory constraints and rendering difficulty have made PS3 development “a huge pain in the ass”. When it comes to cross-platform game development, Himmerick said “just top on PS3 because if it works on PS3 it will work on 360”.

Even Sony Computer Entertainment CEO during the PS3’s toughest years, Kaz Hirai, openly acknowledged the difficulty of developing on the hardware, saying it was intentional. Hirai is best remembered by many gamers for his disastrous press conference at E3 2006, when it was still a thing, introducing the PS3. His exclamation of “Ridge runner!and the PS3’s “US$599” introductory price have become memes.

Hirai tried to turn the difficulty of the PS3 into a positive. His argument boiled down to the fact that the expensive nature of the PS3 was proof that it had “more to offer” than its competitors. While it’s true that developers like Naughty Dog have shown what the PS3 is capable of with games like Unexplored and The last of usthat was no consolation for developers who weren’t with first-party Sony studios.

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Emulating the PS3 was just as difficult as developing for it. This is one of the reasons why the PlayStation 5 only offered backwards compatibility with the PS4. Rather than offering buggy emulation like Nintendo Switch Online’s Nintendo 64 ports, Sony erred on the safe side by making its PS3 games streaming exclusive. It’s a sad reality for fans who were hoping to relive PS3 classics like Solid metal gear 4 and deeper cuts like God of the war clone A heavenly sword. If the internet of gamers is not up to par, PS3 games will be a useless feature in the Premium tier.

Unfortunately, it would take a time machine to make PS3 emulation possible at this point. It’s frustrating but fitting that the PS3’s difficult hardware is its main legacy after all these years. While disappointing, it’s hard to fault Sony for choosing to make PS3 games playable for a minority of gamers with quality internet instead of giving everyone a broken PS3 emulation. PS3 die-hards will have to hope for remasters and remakes of some games from its era to enjoy on modern hardware. They can at least take comfort in the fact that they have it better than Vita fans.

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