Why PlayStation Isn't Focusing On Backward Compatibility, According To One Exec

(Image credit: Sony)

One of the most highly requested features for the PlayStation 4 was native backwards compatibility. There have been so many requests from gamers that Sony has finally decided to answer and address the community on why it isn't focusing on backward compatibility. The excuse is that the games just don't look that good anymore and apparently people don't use it that much.

Speaking with Time about a number of topics related to the PlayStation brand, Sony's global game development head honcho Shawn Layden and global sales chief Jim Ryan were asked some of the hard questions, including why backwards compatibility isn't more of a focus. Ryan leaped in to explain exactly why Sony hasn't pursued a heavy focus on the feature outside of the subscription based streaming service PlayStation Now, saying...

When we've dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?


"Why would anybody play this?" ...because those games were fun?

I play a lot of old games, including trying to recently carve out time to replay Streets of Rage and Bloody Roar. Whether or not the games look "ancient" doesn't matter if they're fun. In fact, one of the most highly anticipated features for the Nintendo Switch set to go live in 2018 with the launch of the premium Nintendo Network service is the tentatively named Classic Game Selection, which will allow gamers to play Nintendo's old classics but with new-school features such as online multiplayer support.

One of the most requested and talked about features for the Switch is also the Virtual Console -- which is separate from the Classic Game Selection, by the way -- because a lot of people can't wait to play some of their classic Nintendo games on the Switch. It was also one of the big selling points for the Wii and Wii U.

That's not to mention that the backwards compatibility for Microsoft's Xbox One is not only one of the most popular features for the console, but old games saw massive sales surges when they were announced for backwards compatibility, including Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Red Dead Redemption, the latter of which saw a 6000% sales increase when it became available for backwards compatibility on the Xbox One, as reported by Gamespot.

What's most interesting about Ryan's comment is that he mentions that backwards compatibility isn't used that much, but what's this based on? The only backwards compatibility metric they could go by is PlayStation Now, but a lot of people have opted out of using it due to its high price and lack of variety in the software catalog. I hope Ryan isn't going by the PS3's backwards compatibility usage. At the time when PS2 backwards compatibility was native to the PS3's hardware a lot of people weren't on PSN at the time, and there would have been no one to accurately gauge just how often people used the feature.

Regardless, Sony seems to think that people don't like playing old games because they look "ancient" and that a lot of people are requesting a feature they don't use often. Maybe Sony should tell that to Microsoft, which has been absolutely cleaning up in good PR and decent sales of older titles when they're made backwards compatible for the Xbox One.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.