When I had found out that the PlayStation 2 would be able to play its predecessors games, I was instantly sold on the product. Keeping my old controllers, memory cards and games and using them on the new system was a big deal. It was a genius concept and a great way to keep a consumer base. It makes things an easy sell and sounds like something that should iterated upon with every console generation.
Backwards compatibility is great, I have played and finished numerous games using current gen consoles, namely Persona 3 and Persona 4. Using the feature wasn’t without issues though. Persona 3 would often times fail to save my file properly to the hard drive and Persona 4 would sometimes crash or freeze. These errors were probably not present if played on the originating console. Not only that, the resolution was scaled to fit a certain ratio.
There are some things you have to give away when you use backwards compatibility. Sometimes it is relatively error free when the hardware is built into console. Other times it might use a form of emulation like late models of “fat” PlayStation 3s. This may rub some fans the wrong way. Problems with backwards compatibility have been raised with the Nintendo 3DS with critics citing that old DS games better off on being played on a DS Lite or the like.
Backwards compatibility is not a new concept to the industry. You could even go back to the Super Nintendo to find the Super 8 and the Power Base Converter for the Sega Genesis. I have a feeling we won’t see it at all for the next generation of consoles. Besides some obvious technical and financial reasons console makers have to take into account, I think this generation has proved that it may not matter as much to fans.
If the current generation of consoles have proved anything about backwards compatibility it would be the fact that older games are constantly being re-released for current fan bases to enjoy. Nintendo has the Virtual Console, releasing titles from their previous consoles and even other consoles like the Sega Genesis. Sony does similar things, putting out titles from the PS1 and PS2 to be played on the PS3 and their handheld systems. It’s things like these that beg the question: why even implement hardware/software for backwards compatibility if you can just sell it again for current gen platforms?
I think it simply comes down to profit. You may not make as much as you originally did from the initial release but, you can still make money from it. Some extra money might be needed for porting, emulation and QA testing but, you will certainly make some sort of sales. All of that stuff may or may not come into play. Either way you have released a title that is currently not available on current gen consoles, making it less of a hassle to track down the game and other requirements to play said game.
So in essence, backwards compatibility has just adapted to a changing market and taken advantage of better technological resources. This can best be seen with the plethora of HD collections. From Silent Hill to Sly Cooper, gamers can enjoy dozens of games in a better quality than intended without having to search for multiple titles, consoles and peripherals.
The next problem is deciding which series or gem deserves to be remade/ported to our HD televisions.