PS4 Backwards Compatibility
While backwards compatibility has been available in some shape or form as far back as the Atari 7600, it wasn't a feature gamers expected to find on their consoles; it was a bonus when it appeared but hardly mandatory. The PlayStation 2 changed that by being fully compatible with the entire PlayStation library barring a handful of games. We saw this trend continue with the Wii and, to an extent, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as enabling your system to be backwards compatible provided a large selection of games for your new console and encouraged developers to keep creating software for the previous hardware version. With the PlayStation 4, rumors swirled over whether or not Sony would provide backwards compatibility to past PlayStation consoles and now that the console is officially announced, we have our answer.
Sadly, Sony announced at the February 2013 unveiling of the PlayStation 4 that the console would not be compatible with any past PlayStation 1, 2 or 3 disc-based games. While this came as a shock, Sony does have a good reason for what some gamers are calling a huge mistake. The combination of the unique architecture of past PlayStation hardware releases, such as the Emotion Engine or the Cell Processor, and the fact that Sony is using “off the shelf” parts with the PlayStation 4 means that by default, the PlayStation 4 cannot play past PlayStation games properly. To natively play these games, Sony would have to add the older technology into the PlayStation 4, either compromising some of the features already present or raising the cost or the system. While gamers may lament the fact that backwards compatibility is not a part of the PlayStation 4, would you pay extra for it? Would you sacrifice some of the PlayStation 4 hardware in exchange for the ability to play past games?
The trade-off is for the best, as it's important for Sony to focus on the future rather than be shackled to the past. As you'll read later, this doesn't necessarily mean the PlayStation 4 may never be backwards compatible as Sony has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Downloadable Game and Content Compatibility
Disc-based games are only one part of the type of content the PlayStation 3 has received, with downloadable content, such as new levels, characters and stages and even full games being available for download via the PlayStation Store. However, none of this content will be available on the PlayStation 4 for the same reasons disc-based games are not compatible either. For many gamers, this has been a tougher pill to swallow. You'll always be able to play your disc-based PlayStation 3 games provided you have a working PS3, but what will happen to the digital content once Sony shuts off the servers? It costs money to host this content and it's not feasible to believe that Sony will host this content forever. Will these digital-only games be lost to the sands of time? Many of this content cost money as well, money that will most likely not be refunded should Sony remove the access to the games you paid for. Only time will tell how Sony approaches this, but it's likely we are still many years off from seeing the shutdown of the PS3 PSN. This could be a potential downfall to PS4 PSN sales as well, as gamers will be hesitant to spend money on a game they may one day lose all access to forever.
Compatibility May Yet Live On
As mentioned earlier, just because the PlayStation 4 doesn't ship with compatibility doesn't mean that it may never appear in the future. Sony has mentioned two routes they are looking into: emulation and streaming.
We've already seen PlayStation 2 games emulated on PlayStation 3 hardware, with games such as Bully and Grand Theft Auto III being released digitally for the system with other games like Metal Gear Solid 3 being released in disc form. With this approach, it's up to the developer and publisher to take the time to make their back catalog available for the PlayStation 4; while we'll see some games emulated, it will only be a fraction of the total library. Emulation may also present new glitches or bugs not present in the original release as well.
The other option, streaming, is one that Sony has only hinted at briefly. The streaming option would be provided by the Gaikai service, a cloud service which would deliver games from a location of Sony's choosing to your PlayStation 4. Should Sony be able to stream the actual PlayStation 2 hardware via the cloud to your PS4, theoretically they could offer the entire PS2 back catalog with no problems.
As of right now, Sony isn't talking, with the only quote thus far being from Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, who has stated “We’re not talking about our emulation plans as yet” in a roundtable conversation with journalists a few months back. Don't worry though; the crew of PS4 Experts is on the case to bring you any and all information on backwards compatibility as soon as we hear about it!
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 4/22/2013
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