The PS4 has been announced, and early reports show that it will not be backwards compatible. Of course, this led to a social media backlash, with gamers declaring that not having backwards compatibility is a huge faux pas, and some even saying that they won’t buy the PS4 unless it is backwards compatible.
For me, these responses are, simply put, overdramatic. Backwards compatibility has only reliably existed for one generation of Sony consoles (the PlayStation 2 played original PlayStation games), and as technology advances, I find it hard to believe that the gaming community didn’t see this as simply a temporary perk.
Original consoles used cartridges, so of course they weren’t backwards compatible, since each cartridge was different from the last. Then consoles switched to using disks, and of course they wouldn’t play any cartridges. The Wii was the first Nintendo system that had backwards compatibility in that it would play GameCube games, and the Xbox 360 only has backwards compatibility with certain Xbox games (which I discovered when I bought an older game a few months ago that won’t work on my 360). Even the PS3 is not backwards compatible with PS2 games, minus a few consoles made at the beginning of its cycle.
While it’s easy to understand why gamers would crave backwards compatibility (who doesn’t want to play an old favorite game over again?), I don’t think it should be the biggest concern when it comes to new consoles. If we want our consoles to get better, we need to release them from the stricture of being backwards compatible, because at some point that’s going to hold them back in terms of overall capability. I think that we need to let go of our desire for backwards compatibility and look towards the future of gaming and not its past.