Mar 062013

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.

For the most part, the PS3 wasn’t backwards compatible either.

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.

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  2 Responses to “How Important is Backwards Compatibility to the Next Generation of Gaming?”

  1. I think one major factor is missing that is the massive amounts of personal investment people have in this generation as micro-transactions or DLC. I am a large Rock Band player and have close to 1000 songs downloaded. If the new consoles don’t allow me to not only play Rock Band, but be able to use any of my DLC, I probably won’t bother.

    This problem isn’t just in Rock Band; every shooter these days has a minimum of 4 map pack downloads, some of which end up being mandatory to play matchmaking. Overall, people are just annoyed that to use anything they’ve downloaded on their old console, they’d have to use it on their old console, which deters buying a new console.

    • LadyAether

      I can understand wanting to hang on to old content, but new consoles are (and really should be, I think) all about new content, especially when it comes to multiplayer. The map packs are going to be obsolete eventually, especially once a new title in a series has come out, because then people usually move on to the new title. The same applies to games like Rock Band too, I think. I’m certainly not saying it’s a perfect system, and maybe they will find a workaround for the digital stuff, but it still shouldn’t be their first priority.