Thursday, December 27, 2012

Backwards Compatibility Backlash

Next Gen Gaming Systems; Playstation 4, PS4, Xbox 720
As we near official acknowledgment of a new Xbox and PlayStation, "backwards compatibility" (or lack thereof) as a feature is already a lightning rod for criticism over systems not even announced, much less, released.

Is this feature one that we should hold these manufacturers to?

In a word, no.  In more words, click the link below.

At one point, I too thought backwards compatibility was a make or break feature.  But the thing is, I have it, and I don't use it.

I have a Piano Black Fat Boy PlayStation 3.  Purchased about 2 or 3 months after they came out here in the States.  I know what you're thinking..."why on Earth would you have paid that kind of money?!"  Well, I didn't really.  At least that was my justification.  I had received some gift cards as a reward at work (at the time selling plumbing fixtures) and it was enough to grab me a system and a couple games.

When people asked why didn't I get a 360 one of my answers was "backwards compatibility", the real kind, not the "yes and no" answer that Xbox had at the time.  

It wasn't long until it was apparent that Sony was going to remain the underdog in the console wars (Stateside at least) and when they stripped that feature from the newer batches of the PlayStation 3 I was still stymied...thinking they'd done away with one of the features that easily differentiates them from their competitors.

But eventually I came to another realization.  I don't play my old games.  Even the favorites from last generation.  The ones that I played over and over like reading your favorite couple hundred page paperback on a lazy winter day.  Still today, in my entertainment console, The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Shadow of the Colossus are tucked away.  I could never part with them.  But would I play them?  Nope.

The reason?'s kind of obvious really.  Why would I buy my new PlayStation 3 if not to play PlayStation 3 games?  I have (had) a PlayStation 2.  If I wanted to play my PlayStation 2 games, I could simply play them there.

There is no rule, even in Sony or Microsoft's license agreement, that states "You now own a next generation system and your previous console need be destroyed"

I understand the attachment, the investment in your gaming library (though who among us hasn't gotten into the habit of at least selling one game back to the evil empire that is GameStop?) but again, no one is saying you can't play those games on your old machine.  If your old machine breaks?  You can get a new PS2 on Amazon for $150.  Probably a used one on Craigslist for less.

Look, technological advancements shouldn't be beholden to technological complacency.  Apple shouldn't be prevented from making their docking connector smaller, faster, and easier just because you have a 5 year old car charger in your glove box.

But regardless the freedom that manufacturers have in making their new systems, again, I found myself not playing the old games.  To be honest, going back can sometimes damage one's perception of the game.  Whoa, was the AI really that dumb?  Were the textures always that muddy?

And by the way...when did we begin to expect this sort of thing in gaming?  Did the Super Nintendo play NES games?  No.  That's why you moved your NES to your Grandma's house to play when you're not at home playing your fancy new system.  Were you able to pound your SNES cartridges until they fit into your N64?  No.  And you didn't give a shit, because you were too busy picking your jaw up off the floor looking at Wave Race's water effects, the way that the paintings wobbled when Mario popped out, and trying to figure out which was the best controller layout to dominate in 007 GoldenEye.

There's no reason for people to be up in arms about any lack of backwards compatibility.  Keep your old system plugged into your TV, if you're out of HDMI ports pick up something like this, and let's all hope that the launch titles and pipeline of games for next gen systems will help us create new gaming memories and not just be a more expensive way to relive old ones.

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