Why Backwards Compatibility Is Important

I’ve made a handful of posts about the backwards compatibility (commonly referred to as BC) features of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (PS3). In summary, Microsoft haven’t really bothered and Sony have.

Microsoft’s last BC update was April 2007, three months ago. It is unlikely there will be another update until autumn and that is unlikely to feature much joy for the BC crowd. Only a third of my original Xbox games are listed as working on Xbox 360.

Sony’s last BC update was last week with the 1.82 system software though I haven’t tested my few non-working games again yet. Almost all of my PS2 games work, most of them without noticeable issues. Not only that, they look significantly better and play smoother than they did on my PS2 and, in the case of multi-platform games, usually look sharper and play smoother than the equivalent Xbox version.

Cold Hard Cash

So is BC really important? Yes and here is why. I’m buying old PS2 games. I’ve bought about ten over the past couple of weeks each for a couple of pounds. Some were second-hand, some are new. I haven’t paid for than a fiver for any of them. Even if I’m only contributing a few pounds to Sony’s coffers, that is a few pounds that could have been going on visiting old Xbox games and into Microsoft’s wallet.

While the financial side may seem inconsequential consider that according to www.vgchartz.com there have been 3.57 million PlayStation 3’s sold (by June 2007). Even if my buying generated Sony just a couple of dollars and every PS3 owner did the same Sony would receive a very handy:

$7,140,000

Now Microsoft have sold 10.07 million Xbox 360’s. If the same financial logic is applied to that, it means Microsoft could have squandered:

$20,140,000

You know, that’s getting to be a significant sum of money. Even the fat back pocket of Bill Gates couldn’t object to that.

Warm Cosy Feeling

Not only is there the financial aspect to consider but also the feeling a consumer gets when they feel they are getting a bit of extra value out of their expensive shiny purchase. With each of Sony’s agreeably frequent updates, someone somewhere is getting a better experience with their PS3 than they were before.

It may be in enhanced backward compatibility, it may be in playback of more video formats, it may be in being able to use your old PS2 rumble pad or an PS2 arcade stick, it may be in DVD and PS1 and PS2 video upscaling and smoothing, it may be in industry standard multimedia network connectivity.

In a couple of areas, Sony are simply playing catch-up to Microsoft (network connectivity, for example) but the feeling is one of extra value for the consumer. When updates are released for either console, the consumer feels that the company is still actively working on their behalf and that is a good feeling. At the moment, Sony are releasing updates more frequently and with more significant features. Microsoft updates seem more targeted to tempting consumers to part with more cash. At this rate, I feel Sony will soon leave Microsoft behind in every area, not just backward compatibility.

Now all Sony needs to really drag themselves back into this console generation is a whopping pile of great games. :D

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