News Article

Sony Thought 'Long and Hard' Over PS4's Lack of Backward Compatibility

Posted by Sammy Barker

Losing legacy support wasn't an easy decision for the platform holder

There’s no doubt that the PlayStation 4 is exciting for all sorts of reasons, but the next generation system’s lack of backward compatibility remains one of its biggest blemishes. While the manufacturer has promised to explore other methods of legacy support through Gaikai, the fact remains that your entire PlayStation 3 catalogue may never be supported by the impending machine. This, according to system architect Mark Cerny, was a subject that the entire company agonised over.

Chatting with Japanese publication AV Watch [via NeoGAF], Cerny explained that he spent an entire Thanksgiving weekend trying to solve the problem of backward compatibility. In the end, he decided that switching to the more developer-friendly X86 architecture would result in more advantages for the console than legacy support.

“We struggled with this point,” he said. “We decided to focus on the ‘positive aspects’ of switching to X86. If a different architecture had been selected, it probably would have been even more problematic. The X86 architecture is well known and development is relatively easy.”

Sony’s Masayasu Ito added that while backward compatibility is undoubtedly important, it would have required the company to include the PS3’s cumbersome CELL chip inside the next generation console, which could have led to manufacturing headaches down the line. “We can freely manufacture CELL if the decision is made that it’s needed,” he explained. “However, that’s not the case with supporting hardware. There are parts that will become difficult to obtain.”

Ito added that the company thought “long and hard” about the decision to not include backward compatibility, but ultimately opted to make a clean break. “Using this opportunity, we decided to stop going down this path, and, as Mark said, to focus our efforts on simplifying developer efforts,” he concluded. The advantages of such an approach are plentiful, as we observed in a recent feature on the site.

Are you happy to substitute backward compatibility for better performing games, or do you wish that Sony had found a means to support PS3 titles on the PS4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


User Comments (35)



Dosx001 said:

I got a PS3 why does my PS4 need to support PS3 games. I'm trying to save money not through it outside the window. Plus with X86 maybe we'll see less crappy games like Skyrim and AC3. My god did those games needed patching...



CrazyOtto said:

They should make another model that has a PS3 mode like how the Wii U has a Wii mode.



Stuffgamer1 said:

I tell you what...this still beats them supporting BC at first only to pull it out later like they did with the PS3.



Paranoimia said:

Doesn't bother me personally - I'll keep my PS3 for as long as I want to play PS3 games.

Even with b/c, I didn't play PS1 games on PS2 after the first couple of weeks and sold the lot on eBay; still don't play them now on PS3.

I bought and played exactly one PS2 game on my 60GB b/c capable PS3 and haven't touched one since.

This time it will be slightly different as I'm likely to want to keep and replay the Uncharted games; that and the fact that there are still quality PS3 games being released mean I will probably hold on to the PS3 for a while longer than usual.

Backwards compatibility is hit and miss anyway. It never works 100% and usually leads to complaints when obscure games don't work, or when it gets removed on later models to save on costs. People also want the machine to be as cheap as possible; the Cell is costly to produce and would drive up the cost of the system, while software emulation most likely isn't an option - going by the specs the PS4 is beast, but I doubt it has the grunt to emulate a fully utilised Cell smoothly.

The lack of b/c is a sacrifice I'm happy with, and it shouldn't do PS4 any harm at all. After all, the 360 wasn't compatible with the original Xbox, and it did their sales no harm whatsoever.



Epic said:

Poor Xbox 360 owners that won't be able to play all the awesome PS3 exclusives.



GRIFFEN14 said:

Backwards compatibility would be nice but it's a feature I know that I wouldn't use. I had a launch ps3 with backwards compatibility and I probably only used it a few times to play GTA San Andreas. If I do end up wanting to play any old PS3 games, I will still have a working PS3. After playing some amazing PS4 games I can't see me wanting to go back.



davitpr said:

@Dosx001 @Dosx001 Exactly. Backwards compatibility is SO OVERRATED! Why in the hell would I care? I already have a ps3 and by the time I get a ps4 I'm sure I would have played all ps3 games I care about.



FullbringIchigo said:

yes i happy with the PS4 not playing PS3 games if it means that we get better quality games on the system

and anyway i have my PS3 to play PS3 games same as i use my PS2 to play PS2 games and my PS1 to play PS1 games



Jaz007 said:

It doesn't bother me because I will just play PS3 games on my PS3.



WCamicase said:

I use my PS3 for PS3 games and will use the PS4 for PS4 games, simple as that!



Valky said:

I think Sony did the right thing, because Cell was awful when used for multi plat games. The PS4 having or not the BC is not an issue either, cmon today a PS3 is no more that big 599$, I just bought mine for 199$ bundled with 5 games.
And I'm more than ready to bring in the PS4 as well.



Valky said:

And what about the great "endgen" games that are coming out? The Last of Us and B:TS are just the tip of the iceberg. Personally, I'm waiting for FFXIV, now that's something that I will play for a very long time, ultimately making my PS3 useful even months later the PS4 is here.



SkullHydra said:

I think this is the best decision out of the two. While support for PS3 games will make an impact early on (And it will, no matter how small), it won't be as much of an issue later on. In addition, them switching over to x86 is a very large step forward for them. They'll be able to maintain that throughout the foreseeable future, almost guaranteeing backwards compatibility with their next few consoles.



Hokage17 said:

I don't think it's that big of a deal. Anyone that wants backwards compatibility more than likely owns a PS3 already so there's your backwards compatibility. It was a feature that I wanted but I also understand that sometimes you have to make those difficult decisions even though you know some people will not agree. The end result is a much more polished system this time around and much better games. I'm also curious to know more info about the PS1, PS2, and PS3 streaming that will be available. I know the 8 gigs of ram will help out a lot but my question is will they have a way that we can download the games we stream? If they have that then problem solved.



ShogunRok said:

So really, the PS3's design has yet again put Sony in an awkward position. In retrospect that machine has a lot to answer for.

That said, I personally don't give much of a damn about backwards compatibility.



The3DSisMINE said:

I wish that they decided to go with Backwards compatibility games. Since when do Naughty Dog or Santa Monica make wasn't great "performing" Also just a lazy note here, When you are developing a system that will last what 6 - 8 years before the next. I'd put more thought into it about Backwards Compatibility then just a Thanksgiving Weekend.



hYdeks said:

@The3DSisMINE yay, I'm surprised that your the only one to mention it, but I think it's weird this only took them a thanksgiving weekend to decide too.

I think it's dumb there not, but I also understand why they aren't putting it in. You should buy a system for the system itself and the games on the system, if you want a ps3, BUY ONE!



fishwilson said:

I just keep all of the consoles I ever bough. So far at least. Until the super über-mega box that plays everything arrives sometimes in the future when all the big companies have to merge to stay alive.



rjejr said:

They could give us PS2 support as a consolation prize. I have a much larger collection of PS2 games than PS3.



Ginkgo said:

I honestly think this is a very wise decision on Sony's part. There will be a small % who are really disappointed by no BC and I get that, but value of cheaper hardware (lower price point) and ease of game development will provide benefits that far far outweigh the loss.



3Above said:

I had a launch 60 gig with BC and i played about 5 ps2 games on it over 5 yrs. Its not that big of a deal. It is a good idea that they left it out of PS4 not just for cost but to keep the PS3 selling after. When Ps3 is the only thing that plays PS3 games and is at a lower price point it will keep selling so that eventually even ps4 owners might buy 1 down the road.



NathanUC said:

I agree that it seems silly for PS3 owners to get all in a huff about something like this because.... they already own PS3s.

I also see this as an opportunity for Microsoft to win some consumer support if they can pull off backwards compatibility which from a tech standpoint, I'm sure they will. It will be a bit easier to market when you can say "here's a limited list of launch games, but don't worry you can still play any of the Xbox 360 games on the console!". Some consumers might say "oh, PS4 can only play like 20 games right now where this Xbox720 can play a ton, most of which are dirt cheap!". It would appeal to people looking to get into gaming and it would also appeal to many casual gamers.




It's a wise move, both in terms of hardware cost and availability and of course that they found a huge market in the PS2 HD remaster. I loved that my launch PS3 could run my PS2 games- but by that point I still had a PAL and an NTSCJ PS2 and mostly just played shmups.
I'm looking forward to a clean slate of new games for PS4 myself. So BC isn't an issue this time around.



naruball said:

It bothers me, but it's not a deal breaker. I can only have one console in the living room (not much space at all, plus living with two other guys), so I'll have to choose between ps3 and ps4. I also have a huge ps3 backlog, so I guess I'll wait a couple of years before I buy a ps4.



Reverend_Skeeve said:

Since I don't own a PS3, bc would've been nice for me because there's some PS3 exclusives I'd like to play, but the PS4 not being bc isn't a big issue for me. I'm mostly just looking forward to all the nice next-gen games and new exclusives...and who knows? Maybe I'll be able to play those PS3-exclusives via Gaikai sometimes down the road...I can totally understand why Sony decided to go a different road hardware-wise and think in the end it will prove as a very good move.



Zetrayrus said:

The only issue I see with this is that some people just don't have the space. But other than that, I think this is a very good move on Sony's part.



Goadabed said:

For the people who are saying that backwards compatibility should be gone are either rich, work for sony, or are completely insensitive to the average consumer.

Most people don't have space for three different systems, much less want to have to keep switching back and forth to play their favorite games. I don't believe they thought long and hard, i believe they thought about the money, as in how much money they can squeeze out of dlc/playstation network licensed content that you already own and what people are willing to pay even more money for. If the system was backward compatible , you wouldn't have to buy brand new Ps4 accessories either, and they would need a specific reason for you to buy special controllers.

Backward compatibility gives incentives to lower income buyers to shell out the money for the system, for places like EB/Gamestop, Power Gamers, etc, they could trade in old systems for money towards the new ones, along with games they no longer want for the new system, while keeping the games they love to play. I have known people that when the ps3 came out because they couldn't get one that was backwards compatible sold all their ps2 games and console just to get one, and regretted it later.

I currently have a ps2, and a ps3, and i can tell i will not be selling any of my games or consoles just for a ps4, or buying a Ps4 for that matter, no matter how good the graphics are. This is why pcs will always be better than consoles, there is not any exclusive console game worth me shelling out 500 or 600 bucks everytime a new console comes out that i can't find something comparable on pc that isn't better. If anything sony needs to rethink this again.

Also i used to work at a gaming store for several years, i saw the trends and i know how it goes.



gbollard said:

Wow, thanks for clarifying all that for me. Here's a message for you now....


Sony, I've waited years wondering if you were ever going to fix the compatibility mess you made with the PS3. I refused to buy a PS3 until you did. In the meantime, I got given a Wii (which btw is backward compatible with many things). I didn't particularly want the wii but now my kids and I have now amassed many wii games (almost as many as we have for the PS2 - which the kids still play).

I kept thinking that if Sony figured themselves out on the PS4, maybe we could get one but now I know that I NEVER have to concern myself with them again.

To paraphrase Emperor Palpatine; "now you will pay the price for your lack of vision".



failburdy said:

I was hoping to get the ps4 to play ps3 games :< now I have to get both which I didn't want to do in the first place >>

I got sick of xbox 360s stupidity



PadSanda43 said:

Couldn't they just make PS4 versions of PS3 games and allow you to trade your PS3 games in for the PS4 versions. If needed they could charge you a trade in fee, but the point is just make PS4 versions of PS3 games.



Elliander said:

I have no intention of purchasing a PS4 unless backwards compatibility is included. I only bought a PS3 because it could play PS2 and PS1 games, and only bought a Wii because it would play Gamecube games. When the time eventually comes for me to buy a new console it will be the Wii-U because it will at least have SOME backwards compatibility.

I don't see why they can't produce a limited edition launch PS4 with PS3 hardware included. The thing is that software companies won't produce for a console that isn't selling units and no one is going to buy a console that can't play any games. They will have to have some pretty amazing launch titles to make a sale, and even in that scenario they would do better if there was at least a version which could play older games.

On the bright side, at least Sony isn't going to be as bad as Microsoft. I hope Microsoft's choice to kill rental games kicks them out of the gaming market so that all the exclusive games for the xbox get moved to other more responsible console. I might eventually buy a PS4 (in maybe 5 years or so), but I will never buy an Xbox One, Ever.



sallyB said:

Grrrrrrr " for the players " my backside, I will not be buying a ps4 ...we love the PS3 and play ps3 and ps 2 games on it we have spent thousands of pounds on them and will keep playing old games as they entertain my daughter with their creativity.
If Sony wanted to develop a totally new system that wasn't backwardsly compatible it should have no controller like the xbox new one.
I have my lounge ( and telly) clogged up with a ps3, a wii, a DVD, a Greek satellite box and a sky box just how big a room and how many sockets in the back of our tellies do they want us to need?
"For the players?!?!?!?". To line there own pockets as much as possible more like. I shall be voting with my wallet and keeping buying ps3 games as long as they come out !
Just like I vote with my wallet on shitty quality, glasses needing, 3D films by boycotting them and watching the 2D version will they ever listen to the viewers and stop wasting money on 3 D which belongs in Disneyquest until they develop one who works... Don't even get me started on not paying extra to watch HD programs and films on satellite telly.
Sony you have loyal fans who have bought psps ps1 ps2 ps3 are you kidding you want us to buy a ps4 which doesn't play our 40 odd PS3 games on? In recent years it's bad enough there is hardly ever a two player kids game out it's all adult blood and gore galore now you want us to shell out again and make space for another console .
You can stuff your ps4 where the sun doesn't shine !

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