It’s been a long standing argument between gamers and developers, the question: how much priority should backwards compatibility take in the hardware market? On one hand, gamers are reluctant to get rid of their old classics, or they might want to pick up a platinum game in future without having to buy a new console, which is both expensive, and can seem like needless clutter. On the other hand, not catering for backwards compatibility can allow consoles to be more lightweight and streamlined, and free up internal space for more gadgets and hardware. Let’s take a quick look at some good and bad examples of backwards compatibility from our favourite hardware manufacturers:
Good: the Gameboy Advance, the Wii.
The GBA could play Gameboy cartridges, and the Wii could play GameCube discs with four GameCube controller ports and two memory card slots. Many Nintendo classics were also released for download on the online arcade, at pocket money prices. Nintendo even produced Wii games which you could choose to play with a GameCube controller, like Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Bad: the DS.
The DS, bizarrely, was able to play GBA games, but not original Gameboy or Gameboy Color cartridges. They would fit into the machine, as the base was the same size and shape as a GBA cartridge, but they would not run. This just seems lazy on Nintendo’s part, as including a GB emulator would have only taken up a couple of megabytes and a few lines of code in the firmware.
Good: the PS2
The PS2 could play PS1 games, as long as you owned a PS1 memory card, which fitted nicely into the same slot as the PS2 one.
Bad: the PS3.
Most PS3s can’t play PS2 games.
Good: The XBOX360.
The Xbox360 could play many original XBOX games via downloadable patches, and included an online marketplace teeming with cross-console cult classics from the past two decades.
Bad: Microsoft haven’t screwed over the retro lovers yet! Nothing to report here.
So what do you think about modernisation versus backwards compatibility? Do you like your consoles streamlined, or do you prefer a big ugly brick that can play games from 1998? Do you have any good or bad examples of backwards compatibility, or any interesting stories on the subject? Please let me know.