When this generation of gaming consoles started, two of the consoles, the Wii and the PlayStation 3, contained backwards compatibility for the games from their previous systems. The Xbox 360 had limited backwards compatibility for only the most popular games from the original Xbox. While the Wii has kept backwards compatibility for GameCube games and the 360 has continued to support more and more Xbox games via updates and patches, the newer models of the PS3, released after August 2008, have lost PS2 backwards compatibility. Late in 2007, due to complaints about the PS3’s price and other factors we may not be aware of, Sony decided to pull the full backwards compatibility for PS2 games that was in the original 60gb and 20gb systems and replace it with partial backwards compatibility in a new 80gb model. Sony removed the Emotion Engine but left the GPU from the PS2 in the original 80gb model so PS2 backwards compatibility was done through software emulation. Many people griped about the quality of the emulation on the 80gb models, but Sony did as much as they could to improve the quality of it through firmware updates. Then in 2008, Sony removed PS2 backwards compatibility from all new PS3’s completely leaving only backwards compatibility for PSOne games.
This left many people scratching their heads as to why Sony would take a step back and remove a feature that many people wanted. At first, I didn’t really care about backwards compatibility because I have a 60gb PS3 and I do not play many, if any, PS2 games. After some time though, my attitude changed because the forums were full of people who wanted backwards compatibility back in the PS3. I think Sony forgot the number one rule of business: “Give consumers what they want or they will go elsewhere.” With an extensive PS2 library, well over 1000 games, and such powerful hardware in the PS3, Sony should have really thought about this before they made the decision to pull backwards compatibility. Yes they needed to get the PS3’s price down, yes the wanted to focus on the PS3 and its games, but this is one feature that Sony should have left alone. For the sake of the argument I do feel as though people who really wanted backwards compatibility should have bought one when the original SKU’s were out or when the MGS4 bundle was released. You can still find brand new MGS4 bundles on Amazon and other sites, so they are still available, and you can still buy a PS2 for $99.99 so you have options, but I do understand the convenience of having it all in one console. Sony is the primary reason that backwards compatibility is a big deal. The PS2 played PSOne games and the PS3 played both PS2 and PSOne games, at first. As much as people complained about the Xbox 360 only playing “select” Xbox games Sony should have known better than to ever touch backwards compatibility.
Now the word is out that Sony has patented the software emulation that is necessary for backwards compatibility using either an application or an update to the firmware that will allow all PS3’s, no matter what model, to emulate all PS2 games. Sony has stayed quiet on its plans but many people have felt for a long time that this would be something Sony would either have to consider or they were already working on it. Based on the patent information, Sony was already working on it and it is near completion or finished with the development of the emulation method to enable software emulation of all PS2 games on any PS3. This is something I think that Sony should have planned a little better. I realize that a project like this takes time, but why not have the problem solved before the PS3 even came out? They could have had a team strictly work on backwards compatibility without using the PS2’s hardware, which would have either saved them money, or been a wash depending on how you look at it. Firmware updates could have increased the quality of the emulation just as they are doing now and it would have saved Sony a lot of headaches.
Sony has had some missteps this generation and this may turn out to be one of the biggest ones they have made so far. By removing backwards compatibility they essentially removed an entire group of consumers from even considering purchasing a PS3. But like Sony’s other mistakes, such as the PSN and its slow start, Sony has a chance to rectify the situation. If Sony adds backwards compatibility by the end of the year, as some rumors have stated, it will be one more complaint marked off the short list that was once very long for Sony. Sony could also start offering PS2 titles on the PSN store, which would make many gamers very happy. The same gamers who are mad because Sony removed backwards compatibility would be ecstatic if they were to do this, and Christmas time would be perfect timing. The importance of backwards compatibility is in the eye of the beholder, but obviously Sony wasn’t paying attention to their consumers when they made their decision. Was the money they saved worth the losses they incurred because people refused to buy a PS3 without backwards compatibility? That question can’t be answered by anyone other than Sony, but hopefully the reports are true and all PS3’s will receive backwards compatibility for PS2 games by the end of 2009.