It's no secret that we here at Throwbacks love old video games. Whether you got your start at the very beginning with an Atari 2600, or if you got into the hobby with one of the many majorly successful game consoles over the years (NES, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, PlayStation, Nintendo 64 etc.), there are always going to be games that people remember fondly from their childhoods, even if they don't always age the best.
As video games have become more and more mainstream, so too has the market increased not just for new games, but for simple, convenient ways for people to access oldschool games whenever they like.
So, naturally, questions of being able to access older libraries of games come up whenever the major console manufacturers talk about the future of their platforms. Of all the major players in the industry right now, the most uncertain on this topic has been Sony.
The PlayStation 3 was originally backwards compatible with PS1 and PS2 games at launch, but that feature was ultimately removed to cut costs. In turn, Sony released a catalog of PS1 and PS2 games as downloadable content on their store.
However, with the arrival of the PlayStation 4, these games were completely unavailable at launch, and the few that have been drip-fed onto the PSN through the console's lifespan have had to be re-bought by anyone who already owned them on PS3.
People have had questions about Sony's strategy regarding backwards compatibility, and it looks like we finally have something of an answer. Speaking to Time about the future of the brand, Sony global sales chief Jim Ryan had some... interesting comments on the subject.
On the subject of backwards compatibility, his statement was simple, stating that;
"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."
Fair enough, I guess? I don't personally have the usage data from their consoles that Sony likely has, so maybe there's some truth to this as far as how many people actually use the service. However, his next comment was a lot more troubling.
"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?"
There is so much wrong with this statement. Let me explain why.
The next page has all the reasons this is wrong.
For starters, there's plenty of sales data to back up the fact that retro games still have a financial impact; Nintendo's NES Classic Edition sold millions of units despite only being available in extremely limited quantities, access to retro games is being touted as a big feature of the Nintendo Switch's upcoming online service, and there's even old consoles like the Sega Genesis being flat-out reprinted.
Video games are currently the only media industry where this type of mentality prevails. There have been extensive projects launched to try to track down and recover films and novels that have all been thought lost to time. Not only that, but when Ted Turner attempted to colorize old black and white movies in order to make them more "modern," it was met with resistance from the industry and was even part of a Congressional hearing, with opponents arguing that he was destroying history.
I get that someone might not understand the appeal of games they have no nostalgia for (though even then I'd argue that you could still hand someone a copy of Super Mario World and watch them have plenty of fun). That's not the issue here. The issue is that someone on the corporate ladder is using the old comment of "I don't care, so clearly nobody else cares" when the industry at large has shown otherwise.
We've seen this mentality before when Don Mattrick, previously the president of Xbox, stated that Microsoft wasn't interested in backwards compatibility on the Xbox One because "gamers don't care about backwards compatibility." As we soon saw, this proved not to be the case; Mattrick was removed as president of Xbox, and one of the first initiatives by new president Phil Spencer was to add Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One, which has continued on to this day.
The graphics haven't always aged well on things that we grew up with. That isn't the point. Video games are more than just graphics: they're that mix of interactivity, sound, and visuals to create something that no other kind of media can do. Yes, I'll agree that The Last of Us looks a lot better today than Final Fantasy VII does, but that hasn't stopped me from replaying the latter at least half a dozen times.
Plus, who's to say that what looks amazing today isn't going to look "ancient" in another 10 to 20 years? Will they be any less amazing achievements then? Are we actually that narrow-minded an audience? Because I don't think so.
The point remains: there's a market here waiting to be tapped that executives like this are too short-sighted to see. I can use plenty of streaming and legal download services to access music, movies, and books that are anywhere from decades to centuries old. Why then do I still have to dust off my old PS1 to play Einhänder when it only came out about 20 years ago?
What do you think?