Is Backwards Compatibility As Irrelevant As Executives Claim?
The PlayStation 4 is not backwards compatible, and neither is the Xbox One.
This means that the new consoles can't play games made for the PS3 and Xbox 360 respectively. And while both will eventually offer cloud streaming services that will enable a form of backwards compatibility, most long-time gamers say it isn't the same thing.
Some are annoyed by this lacking, but most head honchos in the industry consider it a non-issue. Back during E3, Xbox executive Don Mattrick said that only about 5 percent of gamers play previous-generation games on new machines. Therefore, it doesn't make much sense to invest time and resources into making new technology backwards compatible. Now, speaking during the Credit Suisse 2013 Technology Conference, Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick essentially echoed those thoughts.
He said he doesn't think the next-gen systems lacking b/c is a problem and in fact, he added- "I don't think backwards compatibility affects consumers at all." He said gamers can just keep older systems hooked up and use an input switch, and that's that. Mattrick went so far as to say that "if you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards." Yes, progress is always the wave of the future and you don't want to be left behind. And there is some truth to these statements, despite what the old gaming guard may say. Backwards compatibility does seem to be a non-issue for many consumers; millions have already bought the PS4 and Xbox One, so not having b/c doesn't appear to be hurting sales.
Furthermore, as the previous generation lasted longer than most any other era in gaming history, many gamers were pining for the new hardware. That's probably another reason why so many took the next-gen plunge immediately. And it's true that it's usually no big deal to leave an older system hooked up; many HDTVs these days have multiple HDMI inputs (mine has four, for example) and most entertainment centers can hold at least a couple systems. But I'm not sold on the idea that backwards compatibility is a complete non-issue, as these executives claim. From a business standpoint, I can easily understand why they don't care. The percentage of gamers who would care, and who would buy the console on launch day just because it has b/c, is negligible.
Still, I think it's a consideration for just about anyone. One of the first questions a consumer will ask is- "Can it play the games I already have?" When the answer is "no," they're visibly annoyed (as I remember well from working in retail). Then you've got the core gamers, who won't need to ask the question but will acknowledge that b/c would be a benefit. I mean, it's basically a 100% good. Even if it's a feature you would never use, isn't it great knowing that you can put in any game from the previous generation and play it? That you never have to switch? That you have access to two, maybe even three past-gen libraries without changing anything? It's too bad that it costs a fair amount to implement the feature because I don't think anyone would refuse it.
But the bosses do have a point, at least in terms of clear economics.
12/3/2013 9:39:03 PM Ben Dutka