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Why Backwards Compatibility Is So important For The Future of Gaming

Why Backwards Compatibility Is So important For The Future of Gaming

The PlayStation 3 may have had a rocky start to life, but the launch version was by far the best version of the console. Why, I hear you ask? Because you could insert PS1 and PS2 discs into the PS3 and they would work! The 60GB PS3 was the peak and the death of backwards compatibility on Sony’s gaming platform.

The lack of backward compatibility is a touchy subject for some, for others, they are happy with their HD remakes. Whether it interests you or not, the lack of backward compatibility was the start of a bad trend in console gaming and is something that people have gotten far to accepting of.

Microsoft have dug themselves out of the pit with the Xbox One. This system is now the flagship console for backward compatibility. Any Xbox One is capable of playing games from the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox.

The same can’t be said for Sony though. They have not really approached the subject, but for those with decent understanding of computer hardware, it’s no mystery. Due to the unique system architectures of the PS2 and PS3, it is a massive technical issue to make these work. Sort if like putting petrol in your diesel car. The cost may get in the way of this happening any time soon.

When it comes to the future of backwards compatibility, we can divert our attention to the Nintendo switch. Nintendo have always been strong supporters of backwards compatibility. The Wii U was able to play games from the Wii, Gamecube and using the virtual console, pretty much any platform Nintendo has ever released. Now that their latest console has no disc drive, backwards compatibility has been lost. They can’t be blamed for moving ahead with the times, but it highlights the need for some change around the methods that games are being sold.

Physical game releases have negated the need for us to worry about backwards compatibility too much. Yeah, it’s a pain that you can’t play a PS2 game on the PS3, but if you really want to play a PS2 game, you can pop the disc into a PS2 console. What happens in 20 years  when you want to play a PS3 game you bought a digital copy of but the PS store for PS3 is no longer online?

The introduction of digital downloads has made backwards compatibility a critical feature for next gen consoles. A day will come when Sony need to shut the doors on the PlayStation 3. The store will need to go offline as nobody really uses it or maybe we just advance so far that our methods of connecting to the internet are too advanced for the PS3 to connect. How do you gain access to your digital games? The Ps4 is not able to play those games, so they can’t be grandfathered over.

We are facing a potential threat to our digital game collections by the simple fact that we don’t physically own our digital game collection.

In 20 years time, PS3 emulation will likely be a very easy thing to perform, meaning that Sony can end up allowing something like the PlayStation 6 to play Ps3 games simply because the system is so powerful that it doesn’t need games to be tweaked to work properly with the hardware. This does not mean we can just forget supporting last gen and just wait until emulation is a piece of cake, it needs to be planned now, before we hit a problem.

Maybe Sony have some term and condition tucked away in the 500 page contract you agree to when you sign up to PlayStation network that covers themselves for this scenario. We would like to think this will never happen and that consoles will eventually have the same luxury that PC gamers have had since the dawn of gaming, the ability to play any game that has ever been released on their modern PCs.

It is very clear from the past few years that Sony and Microsoft have realised the importance of letting gamers play games from the past generations. We may be a few years away from the PS5 and the Xbox {whatever number they pick next}. We should be watching this reveal very carefully. A PS5 that can’t play PS4 games is sure to kick up a riot!

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