The last two generations have lacked, mostly, the ability to be backwards compatible. Unless you’re Nintendo. I’d like to get angry about the lack of it, but I can’t.
More after the break.
Last week, a gentleman made a comment on my blog talking about how he misses the ability for consoles to be backwards compatible in this generation. And I agreed with him, as you can plainly see by looking back through the comments.
I thought he was right then, and I think he’s right now.
However, my thought process has had time to adjust beyond the default knee-jerk reaction you get as a human in the middle of a discussion, and I’ve come to the following conclusion:
I don’t care.
Let’s take a quick look at the the history of this thing called back-wards compatibility, shall we?
The first generation I really got into gaming with was the N64/PS1 era. I had both, and neither were backwards compatible. N64 couldn’t play SNES games and the PS1 had nothing to go back to. So, on we go.
Enter the era that I call the “Rise of the Gamer”. When my hobby became mainstream and I stopped getting beat up for it at school, and instead got beat up for the games I played rather than playing them at all.
The PS2 was backwards compatible to the PS1 as far as I recall, an this was great. I still had (and still HAVE) my PS1, but it was a nice addition.
The Gamecube, however, was Nintendo’s first foray into disc-based gameplay and so didn’t play N64 cartridge games, and the Xbox was the new boy on the field this time around, and so had nothing to go back to like Sony before it.
The next generation is where things started to get murky, and really where I get annoyed at Sony.
Nintendo released the Wii. And this little, white Monolith from “2001” was 100% backwards compatible. Heck, it even had ports on the top for your Gamecube controllers and memory cards. That was an outstanding addition, but one they couldn’t really forgo as the Wii was using the same internal guts as a Gamecube, and gaming mass media had already told us this.
The PS3 launched with backwards compatibility as well, and to this day the OS software allows you to create a PS1 and PS2 digital memory card. Then, they removed the ability in the second or third run of the consoles, making those with the ability to play old games rare and, consequently, worth more at local game retailers and pawn shops.
This annoyed me. Sony’s less than tolerable reason for this was “people are buying ps3 games now. So we don’t need to support the old Library”.
I’m calling bollocks on this, seeing as I can purchase my old library again from the PSN (minus .hack://G.U.), and have purchased a few of them just so I can play them again without having to dig out my PS2 from the cupboard.
And, while all this was going on, Microsoft flip-flopped and only released a few patches here and there that targeted certain games to be played on the 360. Sadly, KotOR was not among them, and to this day, that wounds me.
And now we come to today, and I can stop writing in that quick format you’ve had to deal with for the past several paragraphs.
Last generation, I cared. Yes. I did. I was annoyed at Sony for making me purchase my old games back at a less-than-agreeable price, and I was annoyed at Microsoft for pigeonholing certain games, while leaving others out. I believe this is an all-or-nothing concept.
So, why aren’t I annoyed this time around?
Well, the Library, only a year into the release of the consoles is interesting enough that I don’t care so much about my older titles. The industry has, for the most part, understood that in order for us to justify the nearly $500 for a new console, we need some good ips to go along with them. And we have that.
Sure, Assassin’s Creed is broken, but we have Mordor. Farcry. Call of Duty (whether you like this game or not, it’s successful), and a host of others just in time for the holidays this year, and Batman right around the corner.
This is Sony’s reason last time around for not having the backwards compatibility. The library is strong. Trouble was, last time, they’d given it to us and then taken away, that’s why I, and a number of other gamers, were unhappy.
And, as we can see by looking over the past 3 generations, this backwards compatibility wasn’t even really a defining part of your console unless you were Nintendo. It was either an added benefit, or something that was a side-note at best.
In a world where the differences between consoles are becoming fewer and far between, I believe the exclusives are going to start to matter more and more.
It’s not the ability to play old games that will sell consoles, but the ability of the console to stand on its exclusive titles and say “pick us, we have a strong library of 3rd party support AND a wealth of well-executed 1st party titles to choose from.”
A lot of these 1st party titles are slated to come out next year, and that, folks, is when I expect complaints of backwards compatibility to stop and the actual competition to swing in to its full force.
I don’t know about you, but I’m exited to look ahead, not behind.