Sony's upcoming PlayStation Classic uses the open source emulator PCSX ReARMed to recreate its selection of 20 classic games. Kotaku's recent hands-on report with the plug-and-play HDMI system noticed an on-screen menu listing a legal license for the emulator.
ReARMed is a popular, modernized branch of the original PCSX emulator, which was actively developed from 2000 to 2003 for Linux, Mac, and Windows. A new branch called PCSX Reloaded picked up that development later in the decade, adding new features and fixing bugs and eventually leading to the ReARMed fork. The emulator supports network play and a "save rewind" feature that lets you easily reverse recent gameplay, two features that seem to be missing from the PlayStation Classic.
For its recently released NES and SNES Classic micro-consoles, Nintendo used specially crafted emulators developed by its European Research and Development division. That emulator offered more vibrant colors and less blurriness than Nintendo's previous Virtual Console emulators for the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS.
Sony offered a wide selection of downloadable original PlayStation games for emulation on the PS3 and PlayStation Vita through its Classics line. While some PS2 games are similarly available on the PS4 (and many others can be supported through hacking), the only way to play original PlayStation games on the system is through the paid PlayStation Now streaming service.
Hackers have previously found a fully functional PSP emulator hidden inside recent HD re-releases of Parappa the Rapper and Loco Roco 2 on the PS4.
Some commentators have already attacked Sony for "laziness" by piggybacking off the work of the open source community rather than coding a new "official" emulator for this new release. But Video Game History Foundation Founder Frank Cifaldi instead sees the move as "an acknowledgement that an 'amateur' emulator can be just as valid as an 'official' one (and they're usually better!)... I've seen people complaining that they're buying something that's free, but what the heck alternative is there? Should we expect Sony to spend the time and money making something that is probably not going to end up being as good as PCSX? Why?"