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Backwards compatibility is a nice bonus, but I'd rather see forward innovation than backward compatibility. If I had a game collection for the older system, chances are I've played them already and want to move on.
But minimizing clutter is a definite plus with backwards compatibility. But for the "hardcore" collectors like Rob, Bill, and others, nothing beats playing the games on their original hardware anyway. Backwards compatibility is something akin to "emulation," and is often not quite the same experience as originally intended.
However, I don't think it will be possible to sell the next generation of consoles without backwards compatibility. With the world economy the way it is at this time, I don't think the general populace would be willing to bet on a system that could effectively become an "orphan."
I also think the development pipelines of "3D consoles" haven't changed that much since the PS2/Xbox generation. More memory, more 3D power, faster processors and so forth, but most of the newer tech seems inherently backwards compatible, which is why I can play games developed 10 or more years ago on my modern PC with few headaches.
If they phase out game discs in favor of all-digital distribution, that will be a major game-changer and risk! Losing discs means losing backwards compatibility, which probably means losing sales in the short term. Considering the lifespan of this console generation, they may be willing to risk it if they plan for the long term.
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