example, the Atari 7800 contained an encryption algorithm that effectively prevented
emulation for a period of years.29
Likewise, as newer consoles incorporate high quality
graphics, there is a time lag before PCs can provide the requisite graphics/processing power required to offer the user of an emulated system an experience of comparable quality to that of the actual video game console and television. 30
When does Emulation Occur?
Unlike PCs, whose processing power can be upgraded at regular intervals, video game consoles consist of static technology for the duration of the console’s life cycle. The static nature of the video game console makes it a prime target for emulation. As PC processing power increases, so too does the quality of graphics and game play. As such, the more powerful a PC becomes, the easier it is to emulate the latest console systems. The better the emulator can approximate the console experience, the greater the consumer demand for it will be.
A recent study shows that Moore’s Law, which hypothesizes that the processing power of PCs doubles every eighteen months, is also upheld in the video game console industry.32 Figure 2 illustrates the processing power of select gaming consoles over the last twenty-four years. It is important to note that the average lifecycle per gaming console is roughly five years. Each console is designed for obsolescence: during the final
29 AtariAge, 4, 2004).
http://www.atariage.com/7800/faq/?SystemID=7800 (last visited July
31 32 30 Reverse engineering of the targeted product (which includes the software, platform, etc.) is part and parcel of the emulation development task. Lee Liaw, http://ep2010.salzburgresearch.at/knowledge_base/gibson_2003a.pdf (last visited July 4, 2004). Intel and other chipmakers produce processors that support this hypothesis.