‘I’m Not A Great Believer In Backwards Compatibility’ – Former PlayStation Executive

“We often need to move with the times.”

Posted By | On 11th, Apr. 2016 Under News | Follow This Author @Pramath1605


Backwards compatibility is a major selling point- at least, that’s what we have been told. It can help ease the transition between console generations, and it is a very consumer friendly move. Nintendo have always been at the forefront of backwards compatibility, with continuous support for their previous handhelds each time they introduce a new one, and extremely faithful hardware based backwards compatibility on their consoles, at the very least since the launch of the Wii.

Microsoft and Sony have been iffier on that front- Sony used to provide full backwards compatibility with their consoles, before they cut the feature in the PS3 midcycle, only to not have it return on the PS4, and only in a very limited fashion on the PS Vita. Xbox has never been fully backwards compatible, though of course, the Xbox 360 played a limited amount of Xbox games, and a similar whitelist of backwards compatible games is also enabling partial compatibility on Xbox One.

But Microsoft’s attempts to have backwards compatibility have not helped them any in the marketplace; meanwhile, Sony’s honestly cynical attempts at making users pay for content they may already own don’t seem to have netted them any ill will from customers.

Is Sony’s approach to backwards compatibility, then, better than Microsoft’s? In an exclusive interview with Shahid Kamal Ahmad, former Director of Strategic Content for PlayStation, we raised the question of backwards compatibility with him. Ahmad, who is now working at Double Eleven as part of its advisory board, had an interesting take on the matter.

“I’ve been making games, or helping people to make games since 1982,” Ahmad said. “I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. I’m not a great believer in backwards compatibility. I think that each device should have its own repertoire, its own “vibe.” As for whether publishers should charge for it or not, well that’s really a matter for them.

Ahmad went on to draw analogies with how it is handled in other media, pointing out that backwards compatibility, while always making for a great marketing bullet point, is rarely ever practical for mostly anybody beyond a niche.

“If you look at film and music, those are different categories entirely. Obviously if I’ve paid for a tons of CDs and vinyl, then I don’t like to pay again for the digital streamed version, which is why I think iTunes Match is such a neat idea. Amazon have done a great job of allowing your previous CD purchases via Amazon to become instantly available in your cloud collection. That’s smart, but I bet they had to pay the publishers for that. It’s a great consumer benefit. With film too, if I’ve bought a Blu-ray, I don’t want to pay again for a streamed version, but you know what? I do. I’d bought the Bond collection on DVD, but when it became available on Apple TV, I bought it again, no hesitation. If I want to enjoy the originals, I still can. 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.”

Personally, while i can understand his viewpoint on this matter, I cannot say I agree with it much. Whipping out my 3DS or Vita, and having the ability to play my last gen games on them, or knowing that I don’t need to dig out and set up my Wii to play my favorite games on it, is a much appreciated convenience- and as we move into a market dominated by ecosystems rather than discrete hardware platforms, software continuity becomes more and more important- and backwards compatibility is a big part of that.

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  • spideynut71

    This guy is horrible at making comparisons and analogies. He’s trying to use movies and music to draw comparisons to video games, in terms of bc, but he doesn’t appear to have a real understanding of what bc really is. If I buy a blu-ray player, it not only plays new blu-rays, but it also play DVDs, and CDs. Not only that, it is is now common practice for studios to release Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combos, so you don’t HAVE to “pay again for the streamed version”…you already own it (or a free code to download it).

    • DarthDiggler


      You are not representing his words with accuracy. He was comparing using physical media vs cloud solutions.

      At the end of the day I agree with him that backwards compatibility is a feature people largely like to have, but few use it and even fewer use it with regularity.

    • Michael

      “At the end of the day I agree with him that backwards compatibility is a feature people largely like to have, but few use it and even fewer use it with regularity”
      Few use it, I guess you know whats going on in millions of home around the world. Guess what, no s4 owners use it because they chose the company that just don’t have the skills to bring it. Plain and simple.

    • John Tambanillo

      It’s not so much about the “skills”, dude. It requires an investment in time and resources moving forward. Backwards compatibility is a bonus feature that greatly caters to people “conveniently”, much like toilet bowls. Sure, we all want it for its convenience (and hygienic purposes) but do we actually need it? I don’t think so. We all take it for granted! 😉

  • KashIsKlay

    Everyone I know plays the old games so backwards compatibility apparently is useful.

    • Dotcum22

      And everyone I know dont use backwards compatibility at all… So what’s your point? it’s for each there own but the console developers would know it best how much the tech gets used or not. It does look very nice on paper to have the option even if you won’t ever use it. People like to have everything even stuff you don’t need

    • KashIsKlay

      Apparently people use it that was my point. Phones have sd cards, some people use it some don’t. Don’t ask stupid questions

    • Dotcum22

      Then use your brain people don’t use it enough to add the option in your console… It’s not worth it

    • マリオ

      Maybe in the past. Digital purchases are much more significant in today’s market. I am not just going to let my digital purchases sit there even if I have to own a PS3 and Xbox 360. Thankfully X1 has BC.

    • Dotcum22

      That’s why I still have my ps3 hooked on my TV even though it haven’t been turned on for over a year. It’s good to have the option you don’t use but can use when you want it. But for Sony to build in that function in to the ps4 seems worthless they said it numerous times people don’t use it much as you think but people love options. Maybe you personally use it alot could be but it’s not about you alone it’s about all the players. They got there stats

    • DLConspiracy//

      My collection of games that I buy are worth it. It should be included free. PC gaming is the same. They don’t have to worry about BC and they still buy old games. Why is that worthless?

    • Dotcum22

      That’s why people should stop comparing pc to console. You use it cool but seems that most don’t. They said it many times

    • DLConspiracy//

      I disagree. If we compare it to PC then maybe these consoles will listen. I own both PS4 and Xbox One. If we are complacent then they won’t even think it’s an issue.

    • Dotcum22

      I get you this gen I got the two major consoles too and my pc but still Console gamers are different than pc gamers you can’t compare them. Most console gamer friends I have or that are in my friends list on psn xbl never play last gen games this gen but friends on my steam list play then all the time even really really old games. Sony said it many times people don’t use it that much as you would think and even me likes to have it but hardly use it ever.

    • DLConspiracy//

      Well think of it this way. Even if the majority don’t. It’s like having the option that should be included. For example. You get wetnaps after a fancy meal. You don’t need to use them, but they are there. OR You buy a car it comes with a radio and a tape deck. You may not use it but it’s included. We should set the example to them.

      Plus I don’t know about your friends but I have a lot of friends playing Left 4 Dead 2 recently on Xbox. Plus I myself have played a lot of old games I purchased from last gen. I actually have quite a few friends who play the free games that are included with GWG on XBL. Again, I see your point and perhaps they COULD be right, but even still what the harm in offering your customers something they already bought from you to begin with? For the gamers.

    • DLConspiracy//

      You also have to understand that most of these PC gamers play old games because they actually have the option. So if console gamers had the option more would play. Especially if they trade their old for their new. Which happens a lot.

    • Paul

      a lot would use it if they had the choice and I know myself that because of a bigger library of games, I don’t need to rush out to buy new games, I can take my sweet time with them, that’s what Sony are really worried about, money.

    • Dotcum22

      Could be but I have the choice to turn on my ps3 to play old gen games but I don’t I have enough this gen games to play. To me it’s unnecessary personally but I can understand if it’s different for you

    • elnino
    • Michael

      Stop hating, pony. Sony just isn’t good enough to do it. You only wish they could flip flop.

    • Dotcum22

      Ouch for Ms but that’s funny to read right now lol

    • Michael

      “People like to have everything even stuff you don’t need ”
      yep, like ps vita.

    • Dotcum22

      Could be I never bought it
      I do have a psp best handheld ever for me

    • Paul

      Backwards compatibility is just a option we get, I always got the impression they don’t like to offer it on consoles because it could eat into sales of newer games, it’s what I like about the PC, can pretty much play any game going back throughout the history of gaming, even emulate games all the way up to the PS2 and Wii console, I know you can keep hold of your older console but it becomes messes that way.

      Like DL said, on PC we have that option and always have, I think we use it more on the PC because we are more used to it whereas on consoles it’s quite a new thing, also with newer hardware, games can run even better, I can’t imagine any console gamer not wanting that option, PS3 might not be possible on the PS4 or could be very hard to do but there is nothing stopping them putting in full backwards compatibility for PS1 and PS” games, same for the Xbox, they could have full backwards compatibility all the way to the original Xbox if they want.

  • Mr Xrat

    I remember the excuses Xgimps when the Xbone initially didn’t have BC (and still doesn’t properly) while playing down the Wii U’s actual native BC.

    I remember the outcry Xgimps made when they removed PS2 native BC (actual BC, not “here’s a download if you’re lucky”) from the PS3 to cut costs. Oh wait, that didn’t happen.

    Looking at how MS is marketing it, it’s primarily aimed at getting the 16 years old who haven’t got an Xbone yet to finally ask their parents to cough up because they remember how great everything was eight years prior.

    Here’s more tidbits, Xgimps, don’t get too excited.

  • Jimmy DoneGood

    Sony doesn’t have the knowledge or skills to do BC on PS4.

    • Bilal Prince-Ali

      of course…. yes.. THAT is EXACTLY why! well done sir 🙂

    • Lilia Dobbs

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    • Mr Xrat

      Neither do MS considering its slapdash nature and worse frame rates.

  • Michael

    He’s not a believer in it because they don’t have it.

  • Miguel Perez

    In my opinion on the discussion of bc for PS4, you should be allowed put the PS3 disc in the PS4, then let you play the game through PS Now, if it’s available. It’d be almost like bc on XBOX ONE, but through the cloud. Everyone would win, but Sony would never do something like that because they’d lose money from potential PS Now customers, but if anything it’d bring in more (or make it for just PS Plus subscribers). Ball is in their court, alienate BC enthusiasts or give them something I just described and have the potential to have more PS Now subscribers as well as more PlayStation Plus members. Win-win, more revenue and happy customers!!!

    • Michael

      “PS Now, if it’s available. It’d be almost like bc on XBOX ONE, but through the cloud. ”
      Yep except you have to pay which is nothing like xbox one.

    • Miguel Perez

      You’re absolutely right and I totally agree, as I have both consoles and backwards compatibility is easiest with XBOX ONE. It doesn’t require Gold to use it and it’s free, but I was saying that it’d be an incentive for Sony to implement the model I described and they’d win some people over with this option, which would suit their ends. It wouldn’t be perfect but both parties on the receiving end would win, consumers getting to play with their libraries and Sony making more money

  • マリオ

    I still play my 360 even though I have PS4 and X1. I’m probably going to get a PS3 again to play my library of games both digital and physical. There really aren’t too many games I even want to play on PS4 or X1.

  • Dirkster_Dude

    During dry months where games I don’t want to play come out I find a lot of the games that are now free Live Gold Subscribers and backward compatible such as Dead Space or Dues Ex I like to play again instead of thinking maybe I should get a PS4? I’m don’t think that because I to busy enjoying myself.

  • Captain Clutch

    And that is why I own built PC.

  • Riggybro

    I think it’s crap that the term “backwards compatibility” even has to exist.

    You buy a PC – an overwhelming majority of the PC catalogue is there at your fingertips.
    You sit there at your screen and can choose to play anything you want basically from whenever. Youre a kid in a candy store.

    And this is on PC remember… that thing that is apparently “difficult” due to the thousands of different possible configurations that exist…

  • Jai

    Former exec of console that cannot do a specific feature is not a believer in said feature. What a shocker.

  • Jai

    The thing that makes me laugh about all these “Backwards compatibility is pointless” people, is the gargantuan number of people who scream that they want it, and are actively using it.

    I mean, what, are all those consumers ‘wrong’? How does one reconcile all that?

    As for ‘moving with the times’, this IS moving with the times. Games are no longer just 2D sidescrolling ‘digital puzzle’ passtimes. They’re on the level of movies and books. And like with those media, people don’t want to be locked out of playing games they’ve purchased purely because the new hardware arbitrarily cannot play them.

    People want their library, and they want to be able to go back at any point and replay a classic. Just like I expect to be able to watch my favourite movie on DVD – I don’t care that the movie is years old, a great movie is a great movie, and a great game is a great game.

    People who only play games because they’re ‘new’ are the same kind of people who only watch ‘new’ movies. In other words, they don’t actually appreciate games, it’s just about doing what they see everyone else doing.

    And the only reason corporate guys at Sony and EA are downplaying the importance of B/C is that they cannot make money off it. It’s not in their interest for consumers to be able to carry forward everything they purchase from them – they want gamers only playing new games because it means more money in their pocket.

  • Gamingsince75

    Was just over on n4g and had to laugh at some of the excused ad to why bc is bad..

    My favorite will always be the backlog excuse.
    You don’t want bc cause you have too many games to play, but what happened between your transfer from ps3 to ps4? Good games stopped being made?
    It’s just a silly excuse that ignores reality in oder to make what you don’t have seem like it isn’t worth it but the moment bc is announced and running on PS4 it’ll be a console moving feature.

    I love Sony but I could never be fan, like having a spine too much

  • Paul

    Way I see it, backwards compatibility is a must, but I can understand why a former Sony exec would say that because it’s a lot harder to do on the PS4 because of how alien the PS3 architecture is.

    I also think money is part of the reason, if PS4 user could play all the games from the PS3 then sales of newer games are likely to be less or more gamers could wait longer before buying new games because they already have a lot from the PS3, simple put, a bigger library of games means more competition to all the games released, it’s why game sales are less on PC because not only do a lot more games get released on PC but it’s got long term backwards compatibility as well as it being a full blown computer, we only have so much time in our lives and all these things are competing for it.


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