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I'm a guy that only plays on PC, but there are some really decent games on Xbox 360 and PS3, that are made exclusively for these platforms.

I was wondering if it's possible to emulate consoles of that generation on a PC? If so, what software would I use? What are the hardware requirements?

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    I really don't see why the controlls are any problem whatsoever, seeing that USB controllers are readily available and that software exists that lets you map keyboard to controller. – 5pike Jan 10 '14 at 12:25
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    I don't understand why this was down voted so heavily, its a perfectly valid question - emulation being completely on topic (so long as you don't link to warez) – Robotnik Jan 10 '14 at 13:09
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    Emulation discussion is specifically allowed here. This is not off-topic. – CloudyMusic Jan 10 '14 at 17:15
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    @Brian emulation does not require piracy of any software. There are legal ways of providing an emulation layer for games to run on that don't involve pirating the OS that runs the consoles, nor would you need to pirate the games. It would be incredibly difficult to do, but by no means impossible. White room reverse engineering isn't illegal (it's how LibreOffice can read Word files and how WINE can let you play Windows games), and the behaviour of the public interfaces for the XBox 360 and PS3 SDKs are already well documented (they kind of have to be). – MBraedley Jan 10 '14 at 17:43
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    @MBraedley Bleem! is another good real-world example of a reversed-engineered emulator that was done with no piracy of system software. (They even won a legal battle with Sony over that fact.) – CloudyMusic Jan 10 '14 at 17:46
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Addressing the Wii part of the question.

As previous answers showed, there are 2 factors in consideration when emulating: the hardware present at the console and the software present at your PC.

A Wii has the following specs (taken from Wikipedia):

  • CPU: IBM PowerPC "Broadway" (Single-Core @ 729MHz)
  • Graphics: ATI "Hollywood" (@ 243 MHz)

As you can see, in terms of processing power, a modern PC clearly surpasses a Wii. Hence, it is possible to emulate Wii on a PC. But this just opens the possibility. In order for this to become a reality, one needs to write specific software. Why? The reasons are too complex to discuss at Arqade but short story the hardware of both console and PC don't talk the same language, and the emulator ends up being a translator program between your PC and the software made for Wii.

The complexity of such program increases as the complexity of the console increases. As the Wii is comparatively simpler than the XBox or the PS3 systems, there exists some emulators for it.

XBox and PS3, however, are slightly more complex systems. The XBox in particular is based around a standard PC. Microsoft however made several modifications to the underlying systems and issued custom hardware. This, coupled with the difficulty of reverse-engineering all the processes involved and translating them to a PC, makes the existing XBox emulators more of experiments. The reasoning I use here for the original XBox can be expanded to XBox 360 or the PS3.

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As of yet, there is no PS3 or Xbox 360 emulator that can run games.

The things you find online are either a hoax, viruses or scam, so do yourself a favour and don't download any of these programs (especially if they are linked in a youtube video).

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There are Xbox 360 and PS3 emulators in development currently:

PS3 and XBox 360 emulation is tough but not impossible. The two emulators are very much 'work in progress' but soon they will run some games (the Xbox 360 project is further along).

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    Thanks for the most practical (and least speculative) answer, and educating us about actual real projects. – wonea Feb 27 '14 at 22:23
  • For Xbox 360 project, video of their progress can be found here: xenia.jp/gallery – Jonathan Apr 23 '16 at 2:07
  • RPCS3 is also evolving quickly, if you take a look at the compatibility list - rpcs3.net/compatibility - Lots of games are marked as "playable" – user65252 Jul 6 '17 at 12:27
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Emulating a PS3 is a difficult task because it's main processor, Cell, resembles a modern GPU more than a regular CPU.

There are several slices of RAM which are only accessible by their respective cores and the main overwatch core, which also communicates between peripherals and the GPU. This contrasts with normal PC processors where cores access the same memory and (with some considerations) are completely transparent to any executable code.

From there emerges the problem that PS3's code cannot be just translated on the spot automatically, meaning that whole processor has to be simulated. In addition to this, some games on the PS3 use output from its GPU for other computations, so that part of the console would have to work like a real thing as well, which just deepens the issue.

This could potentially be solved with a GPGPU approach, given that the hardware has sufficient space to store a shader which works just as Cell's core does.

As of now, the emulator is mostly proof-of-concept.

  • Reminds? In the context that word makes little sense – Ramhound Feb 28 '14 at 3:49
  • Sure @Ramhound I'll try to rephrase it. That's just a figure of speech in my mother tongue. – transistor09 Feb 28 '14 at 17:44
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I agree with @5pike`s answer but want to make a small addition.

First, why this happens. Even today Xbox 360 and PS3 are pretty decent pieces of hardware. To emulate those one will need insanely powerful PC and people willing to dig into those propietary consoles and write complex emulation software (both consoles have unique gaming-oriented hardware).

But not all is lost, actually. It`s not that just you want to play those games, MS and Sony want you to play them too (and pay for them)! So the work is in progress and the first actual solution from Sony was already announced: Playstation Now. It`s a streaming service that allows to play PS3 (and some other) games on different devices. That does not include PC yet, but

Eventually the service will expand beyond PlayStation platforms and Sony devices, allowing you to stream PlayStation games across a broad range of Internet-connected devices.

So my take on the question is the following: as long as Xbox360 and PS3 remain worthwhile platforms, our best bet for playing their exclusives are services from Sony and MS themselves. They are not here yet, but coming. As for independent emulators and such - I just don`t see it happening, not for a long time. But that`s only my opinion anyways =)

  • Sadly, that's not true. The hardware of the PS3 and XBOX 360 is (now) pretty outdated. One can easily build a PC that outclasses both systems. The problem lies not within the hardware, but the software. – 5pike Jan 10 '14 at 11:05
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    You judge this hardware from consumer point of view. But remember, emulator developers basically need to create an Xbox inside a PC. That not only requires sophisticated software, but hardware powerful enough to run that system AND the game at the same time. – icebat Jan 10 '14 at 11:13
  • Yeah, and both are easily possible today. – 5pike Jan 10 '14 at 11:14
  • Well, I guess you understand this things better. But then why there are no decent emulators if software and hardware problems are easily solvable? – icebat Jan 10 '14 at 11:17
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    The price of a gaming PC that would be capable of emulating an Xbox 360 >> price of an Xbox 360, which are still being sold at retail. The use case for a 360 (or ps3 for that matter) emulator is minimal. – TZHX Jan 10 '14 at 12:10
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Forget about emulating x360 or PS3 with playable speed within next 5 years at least. Or maybe 10, or even longer. Emulating weird multicore architectures is a major PITA. Especially PS3.

Wii emulators exist already. The most popular is called Dolphin.

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