Do you care about Backward compatibility? Your thoughts, give them to me!

Rob Daviau's picture

JUST A THOUGHT: How many of you care about Backwards compatibility?
The Atari 7800 could play 2600 games, the PS2 could play original PlayStation games, the Wii could play Gamecube games. The PS3 and 360 had some BC options. How useful or important do you think the feature is? Do you factor in BC as part of your buying decision? Do you prefer to just play the newer games for the console instead? What say you?

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davyK
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At best its a nice to have.

At best its a nice to have. To collectors it means very little except for a little bit of convenience during the "hand over" period between consoles. It can on occasion make for a more wife friendly collection of boxes under the main TV too.

No intention of ditching my PS1, Gamecube or 2600. With GC there are particular advantages such as GBA player and LAN modes in some games (for those like me with 2 consoles + 2 BB adaptors + 2 copies of MKDD and 1080 Avalanche).

Rowdy Rob
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Agreed with DavyK

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.

Mark Vergeer
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My take
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Matt Barton
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Ultimately, I think it's a

Ultimately, I think it's a bad thing if it means that the designers have to compromise to accommodate backward compatibility. There's a huge advantage (IMO) of being able to start from scratch, taking from the previous generation only the stuff that works well. If you're worried about backward compatibility, there's a lot of things you'll have to put in or avoid for that reason alone. A lot of people call Windows "bloatware," for example. Well, it wouldn't be so bloated if Microsoft released a version that wasn't backward compatible with all those old devices and software.

From a marketing perspective, it's a huge deal, even for consoles. IIRC, Bill wanted the old PS3 because of it. It's a lot of trouble dragging out an older system, which you may have sold anyway to defray the costs of the new one--just to play an older favorite. I'm sure a lot of Joe Gamer types are easily lulled into thinking that a new console that can't play their favorite current gen games is a rip off--something along the lines of, "I gave those people my money and now I can't even play my games on their system." Irrational, but it's there.

So, in short, I think it's best that a new gen machine is not backward compatible. You'll suffer in the short term, true, but by the next generation, your old favorites will either be re-released or capable of solid emulation anyway. In any case, I think most of us would agree that it's better to keep an older machine than to sell it for money towards the new console.

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Paul H
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When I bought a PS2 the

When I bought a PS2 the backward compatibility (and DVD player) were big selling points for me. There were only two or three PS2 games that I really wanted at the time, but I didn't have a 32 bit console so I was excited to play a lot of the games I had missed out on. I think during the first year or two I owned my PS2 I played more PS1 games than PS2 games.

A year or so after PS3 came out my PS2 stopped reading discs. I didn't want any PS3 games yet but the system was backwards compatible and the new model coming out was losing compatibly, so I bought one to replace my PS2. The bluray player feature also helped push me towards the PS3 instead of the cheaper and available slim PS2 model.

My Gamecube has never failed on me and the Wii doesn't support the Gameboy Player accessory. Ultimately, between too few games I was willing to buy and a still-functioning Gamecube I didn't feel the need to purchase a Wii.

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Paul H
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I should follow that up

I like backward compatibility (BC) when it is there and it works correctly, but it's not something that I need to have in a game system.

I think the "right" way to do BC is to design good hardware and then solve compatibility with software. Nintendo did this with virtual console on the Wii, Microsoft partially did this with Xbox support on the 360, and Sony did it with playing PS1 discs and downloads on the PS3/PSP.

Sticking to a particular architecture is bad for games since it puts limits on how fast the hardware can advance, and shoehorning old chips into new designs limits design options and raises manufacturing costs. I think Nintendo failed to innovate on the Wii hardware side because they wanted to make it compatible with GameCube - in the end we got a slightly faster GameCube that added Bluetooth controllers.

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Bill Loguidice
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Backwards compatibility is

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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Matt Barton
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The Key
Bill Loguidice wrote:

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.

I think that's the key, Bill, but there is a big reason why you can't keep it: You ain't got the cash for the new system. I think that's the crux of it. I bet a huge percentage of people (the majority, I'd imagine) want to trade-in their old systems and games to get the new system for a heavy discount. They might do it for economic reasons or maybe just because "I can't imagine having two systems--what would I do with the old one?" It'd make as much sense (to them) as having two cars for one person. So with this demographic, which I imagine is substantial, the question is just how desirable is it to have the option of playing your old games on the new system?

I imagine it's actually pretty high. These aren't rich people by and large. Each game you bought was a sacrifice, and nobody likes paying $60 for a new game and getting a $5 trade-in a few years later. That's where you probably get the most demand for it, I'm sure; poorer folks who have gradually built up a nice big library. It'd really suck for them to have to get rid of it all or do without the new system.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I'm all for it.. but Tech has

I'm all for it.. but Tech has gotten to the point its not like the old days. The PS1 emulation in the Ps2 cost Sony somejhting like $16 at launch and it was like -$5 later in its life.. it was a single chip .. the PS2 Emulation in the PS3 added somewhere in the range of $50.. now when you are getting in the $600 range and Blue ray drive was $150 a machine it was ugly.. The days of a singel chip (cheap) solution are long gone.. maybe not for Nintendo (my understanding is Nintendos cost for a WII is less the $40 total.. (drive PSU).. so a emu will be dirt cheap for them.. not MS or SONY..

i dont mind using my old machines..but space is a consideration.. a PS3, 360 and Wii.. i dont got room to have a gamecube, a PS2, a Xbox all sitting on my stand too.. and diggin um out is not ahuge deal.. but unhooking and hooking um up is kinda a pain.. small one, but annoying none hte less...

SO if it addes $10-20 to price GO FOR IT.. but anything more it to much.. I honestly dont think you will see it much more.. selling the games in a downloaded again is much better businesse sence to the big guys.

Paul H
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Cable octopus whallops homeowner for 10,000!
clok1966 wrote:

i dont mind using my old machines..but space is a consideration.. a PS3, 360 and Wii.. i dont got room to have a gamecube, a PS2, a Xbox all sitting on my stand too.. and diggin um out is not ahuge deal.. but unhooking and hooking um up is kinda a pain.. small one, but annoying none hte less...

Space is a big consideration for me as well. I have a hard time explaining to my wife why I want space in my office to keep a 27" CRT for playing NES and Genesis games. I don't think I could convince her to let me put every console under the sun in front of the TV in the living room - not that I'd want to anyway because the cabling and shelving would be a complete nightmare.

Software emulation is a good compromise to having the original hardware and I'm happy to support it. My only complaints about the current offerings are Nintendo's poor account system (can't transfer downloads to a new console) and everybody's high prices. It's usually much cheaper to buy used games off ebay than purchase them through the online stores.

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