Shahid Kamal Ahmad, now there’s a pessimistic sourpuss. He’s the ex-Sony fella who reckons that backwards compatibility is a niche that prevents consoles from having their own vibe. But is he right? Gamespulp investigates.
And in an interview with Gamespot, Ahmad was pretty firm about his views on backwards compatibility, saying…
I’m not a great believer in backwards compatibility. I think that each device should have its own repertoire, its own “vibe”…I can dig out my old consoles, or my CD player, or my DVD player, but do I really want to? It becomes more and more of a niche. An important niche, no doubt, but we are enjoying the benefits of technology and that means we often need to move with the times.
Ok, so Ahmad isn’t a Sony executive any more, but he was with them for more than a decade. If you cut him, he bleeds Playstation. So it’s no surprise that he took the opportunity to take a shot at Xbox’s BC program.
Still, tribal bias aside, is he right?
Unless your brain cells have been lost to a heavy marijuana haze, the one thing you couldn’t describe backwards compatibility as is a fad. It’s never been a flash-in-the-pan like Pogs and Tazos and loom bands that we need to cast off in favour of new tech.
Backwards compatibility has been a feature of gaming for years. The Atari 7200 could play games from the Atari 2600; Nintendo almost always includes it when they release a new console or handheld. You could play original Playstation games on the PS2. Did that console lack its own vibe?
Pretty obviously, then, Ahmad is way off base. Sort of.
The former director of strategic content is right, consoles do need their own vibe – even when that vibe is a dudebro console, a mainstream games system replete with grey and brown shooters. That vibe is what defines each generation; it’s a console’s perceived personality.
And he’s right, too, when he suggests we need to move with the times. Download and streaming-only consoles will probably step onto the scene at some point. 128-player Battlefield will one day become a reality. Although if embracing changing times means more draconian DRM, then we’ll rebel and burn buildings (Or write angry comments online, whichever’s easiest).
These are valid points Ahmad’s making, sure, but the fella’s off his head if he thinks backwards compatibility is an ‘important niche’ and nothing more.
Studios get season pass and DLC sales for games that would otherwise be dead in the water (Literally, when Red Dead Redemption lands on Xbox), and gamers can keep enjoying treasured games without forking out for those they already own. Remind us again about Sony’s backwards compatible offerings…
The old and the new shouldn’t be separated every few years, forcing us to buy the same games over and over. Old technology doesn’t equal bad, the same way black-and-white movies still hold up as cinematic masterpieces today.
Backwards compatibility is good for gaming, it’s good for devs, it’s good for gamers. If that’s a niche interest, it’s one we should all get behind.
…Also, who even says ‘vibe’ any more?