The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Backwards Compatibility Fallacy

2 min


One of the big drawbacks for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 has seemed to be that neither console has any intentions of playing your last generation’s games right off of the disc like you’d wish. Sony has a plan involving streaming of some sort with their Gaikai service, but nothing about it is clear. What is clear for Sony’s PlayStation 4 is that you will not be able to play games that you purchased on a retail disc or downloaded through the PlayStation Network. The same can be said for the Xbox One, although Microsoft was very much more forthcoming in saying that the system cannot support it due to different architecture and they have no plans on making it happen. It might be time for this to become a non-issue, something for a wishlist only.

For both consoles what it means is probably what we see on the current generation of consoles; downloadable games from the last generation of consoles that you’ll have to repurchase as “classics,” or sold in a “collection” on a disc at retail. Understandably, many gamers are incredibly upset by this turn of events, as we all sort of got spoiled by the PlayStation 2 coming out with support for original PlayStation titles out of the box, including the ability to do some texture smoothing on top of that. It meant that gamers could retire their PlayStation (PSX) or to those who never had one, they could purchase games from the last generation and enjoy them on their PlayStation 2.

The Xbox 360 did the same for Xbox titles, although it did feel a bit clunky at times. The PlayStation 3 did the same as the PlayStation 2, as in it played PlayStation titles, but due to technological issues, did not play PlayStation 2 titles. Well, some early models did, but due to having to have a PlayStation 2 chipset included, they ran for a bit more than most other PS3 models, which made them a bit unattractive to the public.

In the week since the Xbox One reveal we’ve seen a lot of upset gamers at the Xbox One not being backwards compatible, talking about instead how the PlayStation 4 will get their business, even if their stance on backwards compatibility is unsure. The truth of that matter is that the PlayStation 3 did exactly what the Xbox One and what the PlayStation 4 probably will do, which is to say not play the last generation’s titles. If it means paying less for the hardware and not playing older games, it might be a bit of a trade off, but most gamers who are upset about not being able to play their older games already have these older consoles, anyway.

In a perfect world each console would be an all-in-one solution; you’d buy it and it would play everything under that brand’s history. Sadly, due to costs, we might not see this in any future console. Never mind that publishers and developers make more money by reselling games in collections or as downloadable “classics.”

Backwards compatibility is something that sadly, we as gamers, will have to live without for the time being. That or buy your games on the PC where they will probably work going forward, or someone will at least patch it to do so. Backwards Compatibility is simply the current fallacy used in arguments to show why one console is better than the other, when the reality is that we know one company’s stance, but not the other, yet. It’s time to let it go.

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  1. “Backwards compatibility is something that sadly, we as gamers, will have to live without for the time being.” Is this article saying that we poor beggars who support the multi-billion dollar gaming industry should take what we get and not complain about it? I say NO! Backwards compatibility is a solvable problem. Publicly complaining and not buying next gen consoles is how we as gamers give MS and Sony the incentive to solve this problem.

    1. So if they do include chipsets in the newer systems so that we could play older games and the prices go up, are you saying that there won’t be a ton of complaints about that as well?

      There is literally no winning with internet fans, I think that we all know that by now.

      1. And I think we all are smart enough to have realized by now, that if these multi-billion-dollar game makers spent enough time in R&D, they’d be able to find a way of creating a system with a cost-effective solution to BC without needing to rely on online streaming.

        Hell, an easy solution is right in front of them in the form of creating a separate unit that would connect to said systems, as an extra resource, for downloading and streaming games to the new system from the unit, no internet required.

        All the game companies would have to do at that point is provide the games themselves for the extra device to download, and best of all, since the device would be an optional thing instead of something included directly into the new system, it’d allow gamers to pick their way to play; get the system for just its games, or get the added unit to expand the library.
        And if the companies were smart about it, they could market the unit at a much cheaper price than normal BC.

        The fact is, not adding BC is LAZY.
        It shows that they’re looking down on the past generations that gave them any of the success that they’re enjoying right now, and they’re ignoring the potential it has for pulling consumers into their systems.
        When the consoles have an expanded library right from the start, rather than having to wait for games specific to the system to come out in numbers great enough to entice someone, the console is obviously going to have more appeal.
        It’s one of the big reasons why the Wii U got even half of the sales that it has right now, not to mention its higher-than-competitions-last-gen sales during its first four or so months, despite not having its heavy-hitting titles out yet; it supports great games from the past, games that players know, love, and want to keep around.

        BC is not a bad thing, and developers need to stop treating the past as some sort of evil that needs to be left behind.
        You don’t run from the past in video games, as a smart developer; you embrace it, bring it back when needed to expand upon it, and make use of the lessons it has to offer.
        The more quality games a console has, regardless of when they were made, the more justifiable its price is, to people who truly love games.

        There is no fallacy. There is only games.

        1. You are absolutely right that there could be easy and eloquent solutions. The problem is the market and how we all as consumers have helped to build the market.

          We somehow survived through the days before the PS2 without backwards compatibility, but then got spoiled by the concept and it became expected. When the PS3 didn’t have it, well, people were upset. I mean, it kind of did, but it cost a lot more to have it.

          Like I said, though, we built this market (even if not us, personally, just us as a whole, gamers) and have said that we are OK with repurchasing games in a new, pretty package, or downloading it as long as we get trophies/achievements.

          I’d love to see the numbers as to how much money was made by Sony, Microsoft and yes, even Nintendo, when it came to selling older titles through retail collections and downloadable “classics,” because it has to be good money enough to justify not even considering backwards compatibility.

          We kind of fucked ourselves and then we all whine that we don’t get it, which was my whole point.

          1. I dunno about Microsoft, but I know that Sony and its PSN service has made a decent amount of cash off of older titles.
            Nintendo has definitely raked in the cash with the idea, but that’s because they’ve got a legacy in video games that extends, literally, farther back than any other company in the business, meaning they’ve got a lot more to draw from.
            But as far as the newest gen goes, all they’d really need to do to draw attention with older titles is to offer them up as HD remakes.
            The key, though, would lie in adding additional content that the originals didn’t have, to give people a reason to repurchase.
            Adding a second storyline and new levels/powers to the Panzer Dragoon games, for example.

          2. Oh yeah, I don’t mind repurchasing stuff that has added content. Higher res textures always strikes me as kind of a bunk reason to repurchase a game, although older games will look weird on a larger TV.

            But like I said, this is kind of the reason why BC is pushed aside; we keep buying the damned games no matter what.

          3. Better that than abandoning it altogether like the Ex-Box is going to do, though. I mean, I hate the idea of streaming from online, but at least the PS4 has that solution rather than nothing at all.

            In the end, the fact that we keep buying older titles should have shown them that we value the past and wish to keep it around.

            With the exception of Nintendo, the game makers decided on their own to get rid of BC and rely entirely upon selling older games, though, because they didn’t understand the difference between respecting the past, and money-grubbing.

          4. Well, to be fair, it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows how the PS4 streaming thing will work (unless this has changed over the last day). They might be charging for it, they might not.

            I think that Microsoft has the opportunity to do something similar and that they will need to do some course correction to really make people happy after their big reveal.

      2. No what they could do is make 2 versions, One with backwards compatibility and one without. So those that want it can pay extra for the backwards compatibility.

  2. Or you know, buy a Wii U, you know, the only console that has backward compatibility and not the DRM crap that MS and Sony are doing.

    But what kind of thorough and complete report can be expected from David Walsh? Apparently not a very thoroughfull one.

    1. You are right, maybe I should spend hours extolling the virtues of a system that still doesn’t have enough depth in its library to steer people away from constant bickering about Xbone vs. PS4.

  3. Dude if you already have xbox or Playstation 3 you can still play youre games just saying.

    1. Here’s my problem now though – my 40gb ps3 finally broke down last month and I still enjoy playing many of my ps3 titles. Why should I have to purchase a whole new ps3 just to play those games when the ps4 has the technology to implement the backwards compatibility?

  4. you know why backward compatibility will matter more and more ?

    ps 1 games are obsolete, no one wants to play those clunky games, BUT a 2005 game like nfs underground 2, is still nice looking, I play it all the time!

    as games get better and better, the older games will still be playable, 2001’s max payne is still awesome!

    so thats why we want backwards compatibility!

    1. No one is saying that it’s bad to want it. I still play some PS2 games regularly, but we aren’t going to get it by complaining or petitioning…

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