In the late 1990s, Connectix sold a product called the Virtual Game Station, an emulator program that could play Sony Playstation games, intended for play on the Playstation game console, on Apple Macintosh computers. Bleem, a vendor of Playstation emulator software for Windows computers, was also sued. Initially, Sony won a permanent injunction against the Connectix Virtual Game Station in 1999, but the decision was successfully appealed in 2000. Connectix and Bleem both won rulings that their reverse engineering of the Sony products constituted fair and non-infringing uses. However, their products were eventually taken off the market because they could not bear the high costs of litigation against Sony.
Emulators typically contained additional features not found on the real console and generally had completely different interfaces. To create the emulator, Connectix programmers had to first purchase a Sony Playstation and reverse engineer the source code. The court ruled that this and other intermediate copies made by Connectix were all legitimate fair uses. Regardless of Connectix and Bleem’s financial state, the landmark decision shocked the gaming industry. Emulators existed prior to the trial, but the question of their legality was always unknown.
Since personal computers are much more popular than game consoles due to their ability to run many types of applications, gamers have the option of purchasing emulators and emulator games instead of a separate game console. For Sony, one of their primary arguments was that this software would negatively impact the market for their consoles. Vendors of the system claimed that emulators would take away from their console and game revenue. However, emulations of games were never the same in quality and in experience as the real games. In the end, the Sony v. Connectix trial set a huge precedent for future emulator and associated game software. As long as the software did not infringe on original intellectual property rights, then emulators were deemed lawful. A system vendor cannot prohibit the distribution of non-infringing third-party emulators such as the Virtual Game Station. The result of this case has prompted questioning of the amount of control that companies should have over their intellectual property.