PlayCast: When Sony’s PlayStation Came to Sega’s Dreamcast

Once upon a time there was a company called Sony. Sony was an electronics giant from the Land of the Rising Sun, and after a recent dispute with Nintendo over a failed collaboration on a games console, Sony decided it would be a good idea to release a console of their own. That console became the PlayStation, and as they say, the rest is history.

Sony’s new baby had been on the market for a little over five years when along came a little company called bleem! with the idea of making PlayStation games playable on a home computer. Most companies would be thankful to have the added marketplace to sell their wares, but Sony wasn’t interested in this and aggressively pursued bleem! through the courts to prevent sale of the program. Things didn’t go well for Sony and they lost every case against bleem!, allowing the start-up company to proceed with sales.

Bleem! wasn’t content with their victory against Sony and expanded their operations in bringing PlayStation games to a rival console! Sega had just released the Dreamcast, their 128-bit console with a built-in modem, a first of its kind. The Dreamcast was the most powerful console on the market and Sony had yet to release the PlayStation 2 and allowing their games catalogue to run on a rival’s flagship console was completely unacceptable. So Sony started to play dirty.

However, the technical brilliance behind bleem!’s achievements with the emulation of PlayStation games should not be understated. Bleem! was emulating current hardware, whereas traditionally emulation is achieved by emulating hardware of older systems, bleem! was shooting for the stars.

Their initial plan was to allow a 1:1 emulation of any PlayStation game on the system using an exploit in the Dreamcast’s protection system to bypass the security check. Due to technical difficulties and limited resources, bleem! was forced to produce Bleempaks, or boot discs to allow the games to run on the Dreamcast console. Those games, Gran Turismo 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Tekken 3, worked like a charm, and many more Bleempaks were planned for release, with WWF Smackdown being lined up as the next game to get the emulation treatment. Then it all stopped.

The games ran at a resolution of 640×480 with anti-aliasing and bilinear filtering, hardware performances the original PlayStation was incapable of producing, but it wasn’t enough. The court battles with Sony had left bleem! destitute and they filed for bankruptcy in late 2001.

It wasn’t all for nothing though. The breakthrough bleem! had made would go on to inspire emulation hobbyists all over the world, the bleem! legacy would live on with millions of enthusiasts enjoying the yesteryear of gaming history.

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