The biggest question for every new console remains the same. Can I still play my old games on the new system? The question was asked about the PS2, PS3, and the Xbox360. For the PS2 and PS3 answered with a resounding yes, while the 360 stood in the corner playing Gears of War 2 for the 350th time. Eventually native backwards compatibility was phased out of later PS3 models. With this latest generation of consoles, none of the latest iterations from the major companies posses backwards compatibility. Which is why this latest rumor about game emulation for the PS4 is so divisive.
Gone are the days of native backwards compatibility. Now the PS4 is rumored to contain software that enables the console to emulate PS2 and PS1 games. While for fans of classic games this is cause for celebration, those that do not want to buy new versions of their old games all over again. The software-based emulation requires gamers to purchase digital copies of these older titles. To be clear, this is a different service than PlayStation Now, the streaming service that allows for the PS4 to stream PS3 titles through a subscription based model. Through both styles, the PS4 retains a manner of backwards compatibility that have set the PlayStation brand apart over the years. But is it enough for sustained success?
A gamer’s back catalogue of titles are a source of pride. You look at your collection of games and reminisce on past conquests. For PlayStation gamers, the ability to replay those games at a moments notice was a big draw. As time went on, the PS3 started to phase out native backwards compatibility and started to offer digital versions of classic games through PS1 and PS2 Classics offered through the PlayStation Network. Of course with that development, you still had to repurchase the digital version but that’s the nature of the business. However, just because it’s good business doesn’t mean that most gamers are going to be happy with the developments. Will it be enough for those longtime PlayStation owners to jump ship? Anything is a possibility at this point.
The PS4 has been selling like gangbusters since the system debuted in November. The early adopters made the console one of the fastest selling consoles in gaming history. Now comes the point in a system’s life cycle where you have to target the consumers who have owned previous consoles but have waited to buy the next generation. That’s where options like backwards compatibility become such fantastic selling points and potential console selling features. The question becomes how much of a deal breaker is the lack of backwards compatibility going to be for the PS4? Will the ability to natively emulate PS1 and PS2 games enough to appease the masses. The sales numbers will eventually definitively answer that.