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Backwards Compatibility: Essential Feature or Unneeded Add-on?

by on April 14, 2014
 

With the release of the current generation of consoles, many savvy gamers will be holding onto their old 360s and PS3s due to the trend of not making current consoles backwards compatible. For me and many others, the lack of backwards compatible systems in this generation is a complete misstep by Sony and Microsoft as it forces gamers to either stick to their old consoles, as that is where most of the good games are, or have to deal with the usually rubbish first wave of current gen games.  My PS4 is currently gathering dust in my game room, due to the lack of games that I actually want to play on it while my Xbox 360 is still very much in action.

It used to be that the start of a new generation of consoles meant that you could finally catch up on the old. You could buy your shiny new console and even if the new games were terrible, you could go back to the games that you missed last generation and play through them until the first good current gen games came out. Nintendo have and continue to do this, be it with the DS playing GBA games, the 3DS playing DS games, the Wii playing Gamecube games and the Wii U playing Wii games which allows people to catch up on the stuff they’ve missed whilst also not punishing early adopters by giving them something else to play in the early days besides the usually mediocre new stuff.

wii u white

At least I can play all those Wii games on my Wii U… Oh.

Being a new convert to Sony, I could have been playing through all the games I’ve missed like God of War, Uncharted and the Last of Us but no, thanks to the lack of backwards compatibility, I either have to wait for a remastered edition like with the Last of Us or wait for Playstation Now to finally be announced to be out in Europe. Also, the problem with having to wait on companies to release a HD edition or a rerelease on a new console is that you know that the price will be jacked up when you could have got it cheaper if the console was backwards compatible and that some niche games will never get a remake, locking you off from them unless you go out a buy an old console and manage to find the game.

Companies throw out the argument that backwards compatibility increases production cost and that they are bringing out cloud based services to eventually allow you to play old games, in the case of Playstation Now or Microsoft’s recent admission that they are looking into an Xbox 360 emulator for the Xbox One. However, the point still stands that you wouldn’t have to go through all the extra rigmarole of creating these new services if you just gave the gamers backwards compatibility in the first place, or at least gave the original consoles the functionality until your other services are ready to use and then remove the feature from later editions of the console.

TLOU-Remastered-PS4-610x761

It’s good that the Last of Us is getting remastered but how many games will get this treatment?

Furthermore, you can bet that these new services will have incredibly poor selections and ridiculous prices (Nintendo, I’m looking at your appalling Virtual Console line up for the 3DS and Wii U) for the first year or so which again, makes the service effectively useless. I mean, look at the current line-up of games on the Playstation Now beta, only about 3 games on there are actually worth playing while the rest are pretty terrible.

The bottom line is that the lack of backwards compatibility seems a mistake by Sony and Microsoft as it ultimately causes consumers to become bored with your consoles incredibly quickly, as they burn through the opening gambit of games, realise that the good stuff is like months away and switch back to their old consoles until they have a reason to go back. While the argument can be made that companies have made the initial sale and have some kind of install base, there is no sense of player retention and feeling of continued support for the current gen, as the game selection has become stagnant. At the very least, we can solace in the face that due to the PC-like architecture of both the PS4 and Xbox One, future generations will be backwards compatible.


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