The Arguments for (and Against) Backward Compatibility

Backward Compatibility Microsoft Sony Xbox One 360 Playstation 4
Several of the games available on Xbox One through its backward compatibility

Why isn’t the PlayStation 4 backward compatible?

In an article in TIME, Sony’s chief of global sales Jim Ryan notoriously stated that backward compatibility is “much requested, but not actually used much.” He went on to say that PS1 and PS2 games “looked ancient,” asking, “why would anybody play this?” Being a generally nostalgic group that holds “retro” games in high regard (due to nostalgia, critical acclaim, or artistic influence) gamers weren’t having it.

Many are speculating that it has to do with PlayStation wanting to push gamers toward the PlayStation Now service and buy remastered editions of older games.

What is Microsoft’s perspective?

Microsoft has been steadily adding more games to its backward compatibility program. Nevertheless, Ars Technica published research finding that only 1.5% of the time gamers spend on Xbox One is used playing Xbox 360 games in contrast to 54.7% used playing current games for the console.

However, of note is one of Xbox’s most important executives Phil Spencer, declaring his appreciation six months ago that nearly fifty percent of all Xbox One users still play Xbox 360 games on their newer consoles. Xbox CMO Mike Nichols corroborated this, claiming over 508 million hours of game time on past generation titles. Even if gamers don’t spend so much time doing it, there’s clearly still a large audience for keeping older games playable on newer consoles.

Echoing similar sentiments, Xbox Corporate vice president Mike Ybarra responded to Jim Ryan’s comment on backward compatibility on Twitter, disagreeing with his flippant treatment of older titles. Unless interest drastically wanes, it’s safe to assume that Xbox will be supporting the feature on Xbox One and future consoles despite the aforementioned statistics.

What are gamers saying?

With Ryan’s comment going everywhere in the gaming community, many are understandably disappointed with him for the remark. Some are voicing their opinions online, reasoning that backward compatibility is user and consumer friendly, convenient, and helpful in the long run.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of not only the convenience of backward compatibility, but because I love to go back to games I haven’t played in a few years—or even longer than that. Sure, I could just hook up an old console, but I’m equally sure that many gamers know the feeling of missing a cable or controller necessary to get a system running. Backward compatibility solves this problem entirely and easily.

Are there any reasons you can sympathize with Sony’s disregard for the feature? Or are they setting up to focus their efforts (or gamers’ attention) on something else?

I imagine that most gamers would want it regardless. As the old adage goes, better to have and not need than need and not have.

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I'm not really a Hex Girl, so I play in my own goth band instead. Aside from music and gaming, I write films and comics, and develop my own cartoon. Lollipop Chainsaw is underrated and misunderstood!
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