During the E3 2015 showcase, Microsoft dropped a surprising announcement that many consider the highlight of the conference: Backwards Compatibility. In the year since then, Xbox has added more than 200 Xbox 360 games to the available catalog, and continues to iterate on almost a weekly basis. From classics such as Mass Effect to the recent addition of Red Dead Redemption, this feature has added a lot of value to the Xbox Ecosystem by allowing players the ability to play games they already own for fee. However, since the introduction its introduction, more often I have heard players inquire whether or not Sony is looking at a similar feature on their platform. While this would most certainly be a “win” for the PlayStation community, there are roadblocks that make the probability off this addition highly unlikely.
Back in 2013, during what is still considered one of the most notorious E3 showcases, Sony described the integration of Gaikai with the PS4 platform and how the technology would be utilized. Through applications such as “Remote Play” on Sony mobile devices and the Vita, then PlayStation Now with cloud based gaming in the console space, it seemed like the service was an obvious “slam dunk” for the PlayStation community. When purchased for $380 million dollars, Sony was placing a large bet on Gaikai to handle the aspect of backwards compatibility for PS4 with a subscription based service that boasts a library over 400 games. The only problem with this, is that if you don’t have internet speed that is consistently “good”, then this service cannot do much for you.
While there are different PlayStation Classics that you are able to purchase through the PS Store, there is no emulator on the hardware that allows you to play these games if you already physically own them. So the question stands: does Sony cut out the legs from underneath PlayStation Now and offer a similar feature as the Xbox One, or do they stick to their guns and try to make their money back through the income generated off of the PS Now Subscription model?
Thus far in the console life cycle of the PS4, Sony has done nearly everything “right” in terms of messaging, product, and overall image to the gaming community- which is a quantum leap when compared to the rocky start of the PS3. Many hold on to the belief that Sony will eventually offer some type of solution that meets in the middle, holding on to the fact that Sony continues to impress. The issue that I see is that PlayStation is still a business, and Sony needs to be able to justify that $380 million dollar check it shelled out for the technology- it can’t simply push it aside for public image/service alone. Basically, Sony is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Regardless of how you want to spin it, this is an issue that we need to address for the sake of keeping the history of these games alive. Too many times I think of a game that I would love to play, however because of hardware constraints I am unable to play it (PC players I envy you for this). Whether publishers embrace the feature of full backwards compatibility or double down on the subscription style model, classic games are getting lost in the void and this needs to change. Now the questions comes to you, the reader. How would you solve this? Do you abandon Gaikai and push forward on efforts to bring an emulator to the console? Or is this not even an issue that justifies the capital lost? Let me know in the comments below.