Who am I? A lover of the video game industry. I read about video games more than I play them. The various aspects and mechanics of design are what really intrigue me, and it's always fun to have a healthy debate about them.
Whenever the topic of backwards compatibility comes up for a system such as the PS Vita or the Xbox 360, inevitably someone will ask ďwhatís so important about backwards compatibility?Ē Now, as someone who hoards their old systems (in fact, I willingly buy obsolete systems purely for novelty value), I can see where they are coming from. However, at the same time I can name 5 darn good reasons why I like to have backwards compatibility.
1. Convenience Letís be honest with ourselves- most people want simplicity and convenience and are willing to pay for it. If I can play Super Smash Bros. on my N64 and my Wii, but I also have many other games I like to play on my Wii, which system stays plugged in? The Wii does, of course. I can sit down and enjoy some classic Smash Bros. whenever I feel like, without fishing out the old N64.
For a portable system, convenience is even more important. Do I want to lug around my Game Boy and my 3DS? Of course not! If I can fit the Game Boy games I like to play on my 3DSís SD card, Iíd rather keep the one system on hand.
2. Some Systems Are Just Better Yes, sometimes the newer systems simply outclass the older ones in some way or form. Going back to my Smash Bros. example, Iíve been playing its sequels with a Gamecube controller for so long that the N64 controller doesnít feel right. Because I can play it on my Wii with a superior controller (for this series, anyways), Iíd rather boot it up from my Wii rather than awkwardly fumble around with the three-pronged beast.
With portable systems, sometimes the differences are even more pronounced than a better controller. An example of a system that completely outshines its predecessors is the Game Boy Advance SP. It is slimmer, is the first Nintendo handheld with a lit-up screen, and also uses a rechargeable battery, meaning you no longer have to deal with the days of feeding your Game Boy AA batteries. The experience of play a Game Boy game on an older system doesnít even compare to playing it on a SP.
3. It Allows Old Games to See a New Audience I donít have too much to say on this, but Iíll put a personal anecdote here instead. I never owned a PS1. When I first got a PS2, I was able to get some older PS1 games to play on it. Had it not been for the PS2ís backwards compatibility, I would have never known about these games or played them. They were games like Top Shop, Digimon World and some others, some of which I remember fondly.
4. It Expands the Library of New Systems This one sort of goes hand in hand with that last point, but consider the fact that I mostly owned PS1 games instead of PS2 titles at the time. Iím not sure the reason why- maybe they were cheaper, or maybe there werenít any PS2 games I wanted to play. Whatever the reason, they still made the system desirable to own for me. Without them, it very well could have collected dust and never used. I probably wouldnít have played that many PS2 games then.
In addition to that, the ability to play old games is a much-welcome feature during slow release periods (which, if youíre a Nintendo guy like me, is damn near all the time). I donít like a lack of new games to play, but what I hate even more is just not using a game system I own at all. Older games flesh out the library and keep me playing. In fact, in several cases I found an old game to be more engaging than whatever new game I happened to be playing.
5. Old Systems Die Itís sad, but true. Many of our favorite systems get worn out and eventually bite the dust. Rather recently my brotherís beloved SNES went the way of the Dodo, rendering us unable to play some of our favorite SNES games. The ability to play old games on new systems not only benefits the new system, but it also preserves the legacy of the old system. It doesnít just ensure new audiences can play old games; it ensures that old games can still see the light of day, even if the systems they are played on stops working.
If youíre still not convinced, then probably nothing will. Just donít give us strange looks the next time we ask for backwards compatibility on a new system. ;D