Macworld 1999 had two absolutely doomed gaming announcements. The first was the infamous Xbox exclusive gloriole would also start on the Mac. It was ported, but not until years later. Steve Jobs also had a new killer app that would instantly turn the Mac into a powerful gaming machine.
Connectix’s Virtual Game Station emulated Playstation discs for Mac hardware – and it was high-quality software. At that time there were very few emulators for current generation consoles and they were mostly fan projects. Above all, they were a gray market – no one was really sure if they were legal or considered piracy.
So it was surprising to see Steve Jobs on stage bragging about how this software would play a few hundred Playstation games – without having to pay for a Playstation.
My first instinct when I saw this Macworld clip was that the VGS actually represented how little Jobs cared about Mac gaming. An emulator was the easiest and cheapest way to expand the Mac’s game library: no need to woo publishers or make your platform enticing to developers.
Apple’s user base was tiny in the late ’90s, and game makers didn’t want to waste the effort porting their games to such a small audience. Retailers didn’t want to waste shelf space on this niche small business. So an emulator was actually a pretty ingenious strategy to expand Apple’s game repertoire.
But there was no way Sony could let that happen – and not because it would lose sales on the Playstation itself.
Watch the video above to learn more about Sony’s inevitable response and the result of their efforts, which were completely unpredictable.