The Future of Backwards Compatibility

A slew of people are disappointed in the fact that the next gen consoles are not going to be able to play your PS3/360 gen games. When people learned that the PS3 Slim wouldn’t be able to play PS2 games, there was a bit of complaints, but in the end we got over it. The Xbox 360 only has so many compatible games from the 1st Gen Xbox. There was a report that only 5% of gamers play games from previous gens on their PS3/360s. Sure, it’s convenient for the consumer to have hardware that can play games from previous consoles.

That doesn’t mean anything about it being convenient for the developer of the hardware. By adding hardware from previous gens, developers run out of space to put more up-to-date hardware in the machine. Not only that, they also lose profit to it for every machine produced with backwards compatibility. Depending on the hardware from the previous gen, it also raises the price of the new console for the consumer, if only by even a small amount. Basically, hardware-based backwards compatible consoles are backwards.

Or are they? The guys at Sony are working with their recently purchased company, Gaikai, to make server-based backwards compatibility for the PS4. The aim is to allow the PS4 to play the entire library of games from past home consoles through emulation via servers hosted and/or ran by Gaikai. This would be a big revolution in the realm of backwards compatibility on home game consoles, should it come to fruition. Of course, the announcement at the PS4 event wasn’t an explicit promise that it would be available on launch. The exact words were somewhere along the lines of “PS4 hopes to” or “PS4 will eventually”, implying that they’re still working out the kinks on this feature.

At least, I suppose, Sony was prepared enough to be honest with us and say the console won’t be backwards compatible, at least via hardware anyways, at launch. Who knows how long this new kind of backwards compatibility will take to get into our hands. Maybe it’ll be ready mere months after the console hits shelves. What do you think of this new way for new hardware to play old games? Tell me in the comments below.

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