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Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2004) - page 7 / 30





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year of its lifecycle, a next generation console is introduced, and users are migrated from the old console to the new one.


Trends in PC improvements relative to console technology thus create a window of opportunity in which PCs can emulate game consoles.33 Software emulators are typically introduced during the fourth year of the game console lifecycle.34 By this point, emulator developers have had sufficient time to refine their emulators, and PC processing power is high enough relative to the processing power of the gaming console that supports the emulation.



For example, the N64 was introduced in 1996 with processing power that equaled that of the 1994 Intel Pentium processor.36 By the fourth year that N64 was on the market, the processing power of the Intel Pentium III was twenty times greater.37 At this time, the first N64 emulator, UltraHLE, was introduced by Epsilon.




Vol. 2:2]

James Conley,

Prior to the advent of video game emulators, console manufacturers controlled the video game “value chain.” Console manufacturers determined which games were produced for their consoles and thus tightly controlled consumer access to those games. The introduction of emulators disrupted this value chain. Consumers are no longer required to buy the gaming console or the software, since both components can be easily downloaded from the Internet. In Figure 3, the first “bowtie” illustrates the video game value chain prior to the advent of emulators, and the second “bowtie” illustrates the disruptive nature of emulation. 40


Traditionally, console manufacturers have operated on an “installed base” or “razor/razor blade” model: selling game hardware at a loss in order to profit from

33 34 35 36 37 38 Appendix Exhibit 3a: Processing Power Comparison: PC v. Game Console. . .; discussion of Moore’s Law at Section II.A.2. Appendix Exhibit 3b: Processing Power Comparison: Intel v. Nintendo 64. . Emulator Zone, (last visited July 4, 2004). http://www.emulator-zone.com/doc.php/n64/ultrahle.html ,

39 40

Appendix Exhibit 4: Video Game Industry Value Chain.

Analysis Group,


http://www.disruptivetechnologies.com/ (last visited

July 4, 2004).


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