Connectix unfazed by Sony suit

Features added to PlayStation emulator are unrelated to Sony suit, company says.

Connectix Corp. said new features it added to Connectix Virtual Game Station 1.1 are unrelated to Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s lawsuit over the Mac-based PlayStation emulation software.

Meanwhile, one analyst predicted that legal issues surrounding the case could take years to clear up in court.

"There is no connection of the changes in Virtual Game Station 1.1 to any possibility of action from Sony," Connectix President and CEO Roy McDonald told MacWEEK on Friday, the day after his company announced the upgrade and two days after Sony fired its first legal salvo.

New features in Virtual Game Station 1.1 include improved copy protection and compatibility as well as a new feature that lets users load games automatically.

"The most exciting thing about Virtual Game Station 1.1 is the new AutoLoader feature, which lets users pop a game into the caddy and start it up immediately," McDonald said. "It makes you think, 'This thing knows how to be a toy,' and that makes it more fun to play the games."

McDonald said San Mateo, Calif.-based Connectix will continue to improve copy protection in Virtual Game Station and next week will list more Virtual Game Station-compatible PlayStation titles on its Virtual Game Station Web site. The list currently contains more than 100 titles, including Tomb Raider and Madden NFL 97.

New version
Virtual Game Station, which debuted at January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, is a $49 application that lets users run Sony PlayStation games on G3 Power Macs. Connectix said it plans to ship the new version next week; users of Version 1.0 will be able to upgrade to Version 1.1 for free.

On Wednesday, Sony Computer Entertainment of Foster City, Calif., filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco accusing Connectix of infringing on its copyrights and intellectual property.

Jack Russo, a specialist in computer litigation with Russo & Hale LLP of Palo Alto, Calif., said trademark and reverse-engineering issues may be involved and predicted that a trial and appeals could last three years or more.

Russo said an important early battle will be whether Sony wins a preliminary injunction blocking Connectix from selling Virtual Game Station.

Compatibility not guaranteed
He said the outcome of a legal struggle between Sony and Connectix will hinge on whether Connectix used reverse engineering to create its PlayStation emulator as well as how faithfully Virtual Game Station approximates the performance of Sony's PlayStation hardware. A disclaimer that accompanies Virtual Game Station ordering information cautions that Connectix does not guarantee compatibility with all PlayStation games and that "games may exhibit some defects including, but not limited to, audio and video flaws, which may affect how the games play."

"Sony could claim that their trademark could be harmed or diluted if Virtual Game Station users have problems with PlayStation titles," Russo said.

"The irony is that Sony's position is similar to Apple's: Users who want the software must also buy the hardware that will run it," Russo said.


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