backwards compatibility

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Matt Barton's picture

Backwards Compatibility in Hindsight

Backwards compatibility is a complicated, multi-faceted problem. The issues are different for players, developers, and engineers. Each has his or her own reasons to wish to extend or shorten the longevity of software designed for the previous generation’s hardware. Ultimately, though, backwards compatibility is a bad short-term solution to a big long-term problem. It’s hedging the bet on a new platform—and it lowers the stakes and thus the potential winnings offered by that platform. While there are certainly some situations where backwards compatibility is arguably very necessary, it quickly becomes a self-defeating activity. A nice, clean break with the last generation’s hardware and system software improves the odds that the new platform really will be something special. Of course, it could also end up six months later as the most expensive doorstop you’ve ever owned, but in the long term, it’s worth the risk—anything else stifles progress and limits the horizon for future gaming. If we want to move beyond present technology, we’ve got to be willing to take those risks.

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