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Replay values: Or why backward compatibility matters.

by Pixielated   //   2:01 PM on 02.10.2013

We live in an age of digital content, technological convergence and portability. We buy devices that do more than one thing and we later replace them with new devices that do even more stuff. It has become natural and reasonable to expect the new device replaces all the functions of the old device.

I think its reasonable to ask that a new gaming platform be able to at least be able to play the prior generation of software. Two or three generations back I don't care about, those can be re-released digitally or have HD remasters or remakes. The prior generation, however, is where most gamers still have a lot of investment and this generation has introduced downloadable software, which are essentially investments into particular services.



If I can't play the prior generation's games I paid into - that's a problem to me. If I don't have access to my digital offerings, that's my money being held hostage and, thus, an even BIGGER problem. Right now with my PS Vita, I'd estimate about $90 of digital content I paid into is unavailable to me and some of that seems to be by design - either because Sony wants to drip feed it out to Vita customers or they're hoping someone remakes them. Most of what I paid into is there, though, so I'm okay with waiting so long as much of that becomes available in a timely fashion. I have my Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the Final Fantasys, Resident Evils and other games I still have access to.

Personally, though, I see no valid reason for Sony to hold back the content - its not like Vita has other games competing for attention right now. I understand there's some re-licensing and authentication involved, but seriously? No Metal Gear Solid or MGS: Peacwalker yet? Light a fire under Konami's ass or something.

That said, I revisit a lot of games. Its not about a need to cling to the past, nostalgia or any of that. It really boils down to the fact that there are things in these games I still haven't done and because I enjoy them already I want to see everything or get better at them. There are people that speed run the shit out of Super Metroid and Castlevania; SOTN to this day. I'm not a hardcore speed runner, but I like to improve my times and challenge myself all the same, so every couple of years I'll go back to those games and see what I can do better.



Since my Vita and the Wii U will allow me to play those games, that's a good thing. I'd honestly be crazy if I insisted that I only bought a Vita for new games right now - there aren't that many new and compelling titles. Persona 4 Golden was the first game I picked up and even that's an enhanced port of a four year old game. I'll be my third run on the game in four years. .

There's enough on the horizon for me to invest in a Vita, but having my old digital titles helps immensely in the time between releases.

I know achievements and trophies have trained gamers of this generation to consume what is essentially a checklist and move on, but to think that's the only way to approach the hobby and insist we all "grow up" and move on is a disservice to gamers everywhere. You have people out there right now playing New Super Mario Bros. U and pulling insane stunts the game never asked them to try. We have charity events were people play through Ninja Gaiden on the NES without killing anyone.except for the bosses. GoG is a service that thrives on selling classic PC games. There clearly is a market for the older games. Hell, the indie developer scene exploits that fact and lots of games end up being like retro games.



We have thousands and thousands of games in our history now, I see no merit in putting them all behind us to focus only on what's new. It boggles my mind with all the time I've spend on Portal or Skyrim that people would just want to leave some of this generation's finest games behind.

Additionally, I shouldn't have to keep around older hardware to play old games. Space is a premium for a lot of people in their homes and I'm no exception ot that. I don't need a closet full of old consoles, I don't want to deal with the hassle of unplugging one console to plug another one in. You can call that lazy if you want, but when there's Wii U, PC, handhelds and phones built to meet that need I'm not wrong for wanting that need met. I'm also not wrong for not wanting my gaming space to become a fire hazard.with all those wires.

I don't care what the reasons are for not supporting backward compatibility. Its not my problem. I'm not here to feel sympathy for big corporations if they're painted themselves into a corner. I don't care if they are having difficulty implementing a feature like backward compatibility. These people had since the launch of the previous console to think about this stuff and work it out. Apparently, these are things Nintendo, Valve, GoG and Apple think about and prepare for. They seem keenly aware of what they're building and have some respect for what consumers invest in them.

I'm actually more than happy to "live in the past." There are plenty of great games there, Its why my PS3 and 360 have been replaced with a PS2. If I want most the games PS3 and 360 offered, I'll just go to PC for them from here on out because when the next generation of games comes, my PC games won't be left behind.



I don't want new console that lives in the past by restricting me from playing the prior generation's games. There's no good reason for it, no matter what the reason is.

In the coming weeks and months as Sony and MS show their hands, they need to realize the game has changed. Smartphones and tablets have changed public perception, the success of Steam and the indie gaming scene has changed public perception and Nintendo continues to defy industry expectations in many respects. There are struggles every platform holder faces as well, but no one can afford to march into the future thinking that things are going to stay the same forever. Cutting out games from a gaming platform just seems like a really bad idea.

Telling me that to play old games I must keep my old hardware is akin to saying to make a phone call I must keep my old phone. Was there some merit to a rotary phone of days gone by or the chunky cellphone from the 80s? Is there a reason I should have clung to an LCD cellphone with no backlight? Is there some value to texting with a numerical pad?



I think the answer is "no" to all of those. Now I have a smartphone that lets me find the directions to a store across town, plays Netflix and can double as a flashlight on top of being a phone, among dozens of other things. When you think about that, telling others to keep an old console for old games is pretty dumb when a new platform can do the job. If that's the mentality console makers like Sony and Microsoft wish to adopt - consoles deserve to go the way of the arcades.

If you have the space and the desire to keep old hardware around - more power to you, but not everyone always does. I like it when my new devices fully replace the old ones. I've been keen on the idea since Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance and PS2. To me, its a standard feature and there's nothing optional about it.Photo Photo Photo view gallery
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