PS3: Backward compatible, or just backward?

The PS3 won’t play a number of old PlayStation games properly – or at all. So much for backward compatibility.

If reports are to be believed, background music on Tekken 5 for the PS2 refuses to play on the newer console, and Gran Turismo becomes prone to freezes, while other games simply won’t work. Sony had warned that its latest console would not work with 100 percent of PSone and PS2 titles – indeed, the PS2 doesn’t manage total backward compatibility either – but these are the first specific details of problems. Those of you who can read Japanese may wish to check the Japanese PlayStation site, which now allows users to check for potential problems between the PS3 and earlier games.

Sony has claimed that online updates will fix some of the problems, but has admitted that a significant number will never be dealt with.

Backward compatibility is a thorny issue when games machines bring out a new iteration. After all, consumers have to consider what’s going to happen to their (possibly extensive) library of older titles when they upgrade, and the prospect of finding living-room space for two machines has little appeal.

Nonetheless, to this gamer at least, the importance of backward compatibility always seemed exaggerated. Sure, it’s nice to have the option of popping Duke Nukem on the PS2, but you bought the newer machine for a reason: it could handle games that made your cherished favourites look distinctly shoddy. It always seemed like the sort of thing people cared about when they were pondering an upgrade, then immediately forgot about when they saw how much better the new games were.

Unfortunately for Sony and its console, upgrade decision time is exactly when it needs people onside. And with competition fierce in Next-Gen Console Land, this is the sort of thing the company can do without.



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