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An Alternative Opinion: Backwards Compatibility


An Alternative Opinion is a weekly feature where Alt:Mag writers are given a question or topic, and submit their thoughts and opinions. Today's topic of discussion is backwards compatibility: are we annoyed about it's apparent destruction, or do we think it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things?

Aaron: Ahh, backwards compatibility. This used to be something we expected in a games console; perhaps we took it for granted. Ever since the Game Boy Colour could play all Game Boy games, and then the Game Boy Advance played Game Boy colour games, the DS played GBA games and the 3DS played DS games, we've perhaps taken for granted how much value backwards compatibility adds to a console. The PS2 of course could play PS1 games, and even the "main consoles" as recent as the Wii had backwards compatibility involved, with the ability to play Gamecube games. However, the "big 2" of consoles, PS3 and Xbox 360, slowly began to phase out backwards compatibility. The 360 had a rather limited list of Xbox titles playable on 360, with an online connection being needed to play them, whilst the PS3 made a total mess of it, with some consoles being able to play PS1 and PS2 games while most could only play PS1 titles. 
And here we stand as we wait for the next generation to come out later this year, and it seems backwards compatibility is dead. Neither the Xbox One or PS4 seem to be backwards compatible, with a Microsoft mouthpiece going as far as to say that those who want backwards compatibility are in fact "backwards" people. Their reasoning for this is that they had to change the processing infrastructure so it's simply impossible to play those games, which I could almost accept, but then Microsoft say that even your XBLA titles aren't transferable. These are digital titles - it should not be difficult to sort it out.
The PS4's answer is "cloud gaming", but many including myself are already skeptical about just how well this will work. The PS3's online infrastructure already sucks for the amount the PS3 relies on it, now I'm meant to put even more trust on an online system we still don't particularly know the capabilities off, because it's my only choice? Not cool. Factor in the point that it seems you'll have to buy all your PS3 games again on the PS4, as opposed to actually being able to just move them across this mystical internet cloud of wonder, and you start to see some serious problems.
It annoys me to think that if I decided to go the route of the "loyal gamer" and buy a PS4 at launch, then Ni no Kuni (a game I bought in January, which I reviewed previously) is now effectively useless if I don't want to keep my PS3 in my room, or buy it again? And what about digital PS games, like Guacamelee! (which I also reviewed previously) and Journey? Do I have to buy those again, too? Lots of answers are needed from the 2 big consoles, and they don't seem wonderfully keen on giving them. E3 is a big deal this year, and not just for the games themselves.



Lewis: Ah, the PlayStation 2... probably my second favourite console of all time... why? Well, apart from having nearly 4,000 games released worldwide to chose from, backwards compatibility meant that we also had over 2,000 PlayStation games released worldwide to chose from too! This meant when you bought a PS2, sure, the trusty old grey PlayStation had to be put away, but it didn't matter too much, because those fantastic PlayStation games didn't have to be put away with it! Okay, you couldn't save PlayStation data onto PlaysStation 2 memory cards, but that was a minor inconvenience for something that was so convenient! Aaron is right, we did probably take this for granted. But there is something quite comforting about knowing you have one console that counts for two, and that you don't have to consume space in your room by using the other. Although the Atari 7800 and the Mega Drive with its Power Base Converter did it many years before, I still think the PlayStation 2 really set a standard in our heads for that we want to see whenever a new console is released. Everytime a new console is released, we now expect it to come with backwards compatibility and if it doesn't, we rage.
Until the act of purchasing games becomes something that is completely based online, lack of backwards compatibility has the potential to kill off games as an art form. Have you met anyone sane who still plays their original Xbox? Well, perhaps you've met me, but then again, I'm not sane. Anyway, I already had my rant about 'conserving games' in the previous Alternative Opinion on the Xbox One. So check that out here.


What is your opinion on backwards compatibility? Are you annoyed that it could be destroyed or do you think that it is as backward as the name suggests? Let us know in the comments section below or by our Facebook or Twitter page.

 
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