Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The end of console backwards compatability?

Microsoft have revealed their future console the boring titled "XBox One" which is only slightly more original than Sony's revealed (or more like hinted at) Playstation 4. What both platforms have in common (besides using Blu-ray, rechargeable and vibrational controllers etc.) is their lack of backwards compatibility. So what? The current Xbox360 will only play some old Xbox games and the backwards functionality was totally removed from the PS3 - what's the difference here? Architecture.

No not buildings - but the gubbins that goes into each machine. As is despite neither current console being able to natively run older games i.e. just stick in the disc and play (baring PSOne games) that hasn't stopped either manufacturer from re-releasing them as digital-only downloads. How does that work?

Each game runs through an emulation system that comes packed with the download. In simple terms it's a translator - it's as if the PS2 spoke German and the PS3 Japanese; you download the 'German' game and it automatically translates it into 'Japanese' so it can be understood. Why can't this be done with the newer machines?

It's the 'translation' needed. Continuing the analogy the new Xbox One and PS4 both speak 'Earthworm'. A translation can't be made because the 'languages' have no common concepts. An earthworm may think in terms of pressure and movement; whereas human languages tend towards objects.

So sadly it's not a case of 'just creating an emulator' this really could be the start of the major consoles just ditching their entire back catalogues at every new iteration. But only if it works.

Given this lack, given that warnings have been made that pushing this new hardware may require twice the initial investment as for the previous ones it's likely only the big boys will put any new games forward for the launch. If no-one buys the newer consoles the smaller companies may just continue with the existing base and if new games continue to be produced consumers may ponder exactly why they should 'upgrade' at all.