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Backwards compatibility is nice if it's "free," but obviously if it in any way compromises the potential of the new system, then it's not worth it. BC first became an issue with the Atari 5200 and it's been a consideration ever since, albeit one that has not necessarily been a requirement given the fact that it's only sporadically been supported. I think it ultimately comes down to a vocal minority wanting the backwards compatibility, and certainly a type of lip service to the casual consumer who is not sophisticated enough to know the reasons why backwards compatibility may not be in their best interests.
Interestingly, all three of the current consoles - Xbox 360, Wii and PS3, have evolved their backwards compatibility stances since their respective launches.
Initially, the Xbox 360 was to have no compatibility, then limited compatibility, then it was expanded to a reasonable portion of the original Xbox's library (all of course assuming you have an official hard drive for it to work).
Initially Sony was offering a model of the PS3 with a full hardware-driven engine to run PS2 and PS1 software with little issue, as well as a software-based engine that wasn't quite as robust. Soon enough, all support was dropped in favor of users having to purchase classic software from the PlayStation Store.
As for Nintendo and the Wii, it obviously was a souped up GameCube, so backwards compatibility and high compatibility was a given, though of course Nintendo reversed that with the latest models not being able to run ANY GameCube software. This late in the Wii's lifecycle, that probably makes sense.
Anyway, Nintendo has already confirmed that the Wii U will be fully compatible with Wii software, and it will likely run GameCube and older software through store download only options, likely with some type of software-based emulation wrapper tuned to each title like what the present 360 and PS3 do. Whether this in any way compromises the potential of the Wii U is open to debate, simply because there was no evidence Nintendo was going for great power anyway, seeming to target 360 and PS3 levels and rely again on a unique selling point (in this case, a tablet-like controller). Certainly Nintendo is uniquely counting to a degree as well on all the casuals who invested in Wii stuff to be delighted they don't "lose" their investments when upgrading. Perhaps the success of that strategy (or, to put it more accurately, impact) will determine how Microsoft and Sony approach their next systems, though the safe money is again on them having sufficient power to do it all in software.
Bottom line with all this, all the money invested or not, the whole point of a new system is to play new games, not replay the same old games. As always, there's no reason you can't also keep the old console for that purpose if it's so important.
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