Hard facts and numbers demonstrate that Sony is wrong.
There has been a lot of discussion on backward compatibility as of late- this started with a rather unusual remark about the feature made by Sony’s Jim Ryan. He said to Time, “When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”
This was followed by Xbox’s Mike Ybarra doubling down on his company’s stance regarding the feature. Meanwhile, Ars Technica went ahead and published a report on how the feature is used very little, if at all, by Xbox owners. All of this has been used to further a narrative that backward compatibility is a feature people ask for, but never use, so why bother implementing it to begin with?
To set the record straight, we have Xbox’s Mike Nichols sharing hard numbers on Twitter– he claims that 50% of all Xbox One owners have used backward compatibility at some point or the other, and over 508 million hours have been clocked in cumulatively. Those are actually really good numbers, on the whole, and they all serve to reinforce the central point- backward compatibility is a fantastic feature, and anyone who attempts to deny that is doubling down on an untenable position, out of misguided corporate loyalty. If you work for Sony and are paid for that loyalty, at least you have an excuse- but it’s the shocking to see so many players downplaying this feature that truly stands out to me.
The fact of the matter is, backward compatibility is a great, consumer friendly, digital friendly, feature. It helps ensure continuity of purchases, it is convenient, it enhances old games, it ensures costumers don’t have to rebuy old games if they want to play them on newer hardware, and it is good for maintaining older software that otherwise might be lost to time. This is non negotiable, and indisputable. For the Sony fans who feel the need to downplay it, because Xbox is doing it, I ask you to, for a minute, ignore the fact that Xbox is doing it, and come up with actual reasons for why the feature is bad. It’s not. At its worst, it hurts no one. At its best, it protects your purchases, and gives you a wider pool to draw from.
Sony is going to continue speaking against backward compatibility, because it is a feature that the competition has as an advantage over them, and also because Sony has a vested agenda in pushing PS Now, PS2 Classics, and HD remasters. However, all logic dictates Sony is wrong. Numbers, such as the performance of Red Dead Redemption and Black Ops 2 once they went live on the backward compatibility service, demonstrate this. And now, Xbox’s own shared numbers demonstrate that not just is backward compatibility a feature that people ask for, but it is also one that they use in an appreciable fashion.
Furthermore, backwards compatbility if done right can also enhance games with better image quality and frame rates (Xbox One’s backwards compatability and PS4’s PS2 classics is proof of this). I think Sony’s comments and their commitment towards backwards compatibility is undermining the fantastic feeling of playing age old classics all over again.
In this regard, Sony is wrong, and I really hope they change their stance for the inevitable PlayStation 5, if not for the PlayStation 4.