As the manufacturer of the most popular video game system of all time, the PlayStation 2, Sony is no stranger to the electronic entertainment market. Even now, in the era of the PlayStation 5, the company stays at the head of the pack thanks to its emphasis on cutting-edge hardware and outstanding game design. There has long been a problem with Sony’s consoles, however, which the company is recently addressing with some profound new changes to their online store. We’re talking, of course, about backward compatibility.
What is Backward Compatibility?
Backward compatibility refers to the ability of consoles to run games released on previous generations of systems. Sony illustrated this concept early on, as the PS2 could play PS1 disks, but since that point, the relationship between Sony and backward compatibility hasn’t been so simple.
One of the reasons that the PS2 could run PS1 games is that, by comparison, the PS1 was a very simple system. The PS2 relied on much more complicated hardware, however, so getting PS2 games to run on PS3 was more difficult, relying on a dedicated chip that was removed from some versions of the console for cost reasons.
This problem became even more pronounced with the PS3, whose cell architecture was far too complicated to replicate on the PS4. All told, this has essentially meant that the only Sony consoles reliably capable of backward compatibility were the PS2-PS1 and now the PS5-PS4. With Sony’s new plans, this could soon change.
With Microsoft and therefore Xbox buying up major publishers and developers like Bethesda and Activision Blizzard, Sony had a sudden need to prove their library for PlayStation players. Though they already have great first-party games, they also decided to go forward by looking back.
Revamping their online service of PlayStation Plus, Sony announced adding PS1, PS2, PSP, and streaming PS3 games onto it. Though these won’t play straight from an original disk, this move does at least open up Sony’s platform to thousands of classics, bringing in retro enthusiasts and new players alike.
Setting an Example
As promising as Sony’s effort is, it’s not without early missteps. A big one here is that Sony keeps letting PS1 games operate their older European 50hz versions. This is an outdated format that exists due to differences in how televisions outputted images. Ported over to the worldwide modern standard of 60hz, this introduced problems of micro stutter and an inconsistent feel.
The frustrating part of this is that, in other industries, backward compatibility is a solved issue. Take modern online social casinos with cash prizes as listed on a comparison site such as Casinotopsonline.com. As with the different console systems, these services compete through special offers, in this case, bonus coins and free spins, but it’s the games that demonstrate the most relevant changes. Up until the mid-2010s, most online casino games were built on the Flash platform. As this became outdated, the games were rebuilt on HTML5, an incredibly flexible system that runs on a huge range of modern browsing systems. While not a 1-1 match, there is a similar solution in gaming that Sony refused to take.
A Maybe Solution
This solution is found in the world of console emulators. For decades now, fans have been programming emulators to perfectly, well, emulate console games on PC. These overcome practically all of the issues faced by Sony’s efforts, and licensing would be a simple and almost cost-free effort.
So, how will Sony manage their older library as they move forward? While their history is full of repeating mistakes, we’d like to hope that the new level of competition could cause Sony to take a real step back to examine their decisions. There are millions of players out there eager to jump into the classic versions of games like Crash Bandicoot and Final Fantasy 9, so it’s just a matter of the company putting their customers ahead of their pride.