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.
Sony has begun to address this issue since the launch of the PS4 by bringing certain digital games to the new platform. These titles include FlOw, Flower, Escape Plan, and Sound Shapes. In addition, many digital titles that have been released since the launch of the PS4 have been "cross-buy". This means that if you bought the game on the Vita or the PS3, you already own it on the PS4 and you can download the superior version without paying for it again. The same goes for the above mentioned titles and many other releases such as Tiny Brains, and SteamWorld Dig. As time goes on, we will most likely see more and more titles like these make the jump to PS4 with improvements and zero cost for those of us who already purchased them, or wish to play them on multiple Sony gaming systems.
The Upcoming release of PlayStation Now
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 option that Sony has confirmed to be going with is streaming, as mentioned at E3 2013. Confirmed at the beginning of this year, Sony announced a program called PlayStation Now. PlayStation Now is going to be a service available to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Vita, Smart TV, Smartphone, and Tablet owners. The service acts a lot like Netflix, which pioneered home streaming for movies.
With PlayStation Now, you'll be able to instantly access titles across the aforementioned devices simply by logging into your PSN account. All of your saves will go with your, regardless of what devices you play on. The content will come straight to you via Cloud technology so you won't need to wait for it to download. It will be like watching a movie, only you're in control! This is the product of the Gaikai streaming technology that Sony purchased last year, and it's looking to be a great alternative to traditional backwards compatibility.
The first game available to stream on the service will be Naughty Dog's smash hit of 2013, The Last of Us. Beyond: Two Souls has also been named. The catalog will feature PS3 hits to start from what has been announced and will first be available on PS3 and PS4, with support for Vita and other devices coming soon there after. Pricing and subscription models have not been detailed, but it has been said that two options will be available. One is a subscription with all access to the games, while the other would offer a more À la carte option of renting the games on a single purchase basis.
Regardless of how they handle it, this service shows that Sony is not willing to let the timeless experiences of PlayStation 3 to fade into the folds of time. With PlayStation Now, we will have the capacity to relive those experiences not only on our PS4, but on most other devices we own. That alone sounds like a good deal to me.
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 4/22/2013