Backward Compatibility of Video Games on Consoles – Good or Bad?

June 1, 2020 3:09 am

With the new console cycle just coming around the corner, we see a lot of discussions relating to the new generation of gaming technology. The greater specs, more efficient hardware, and better system architecture promises to provide an amazing gaming experience for everybody. But, a hot topic of discussion in these times has been in relation to cross-generation gaming. Cross-Gen gaming is when video games released on one generation of consoles can be played on the other, and vice versa. 

This happens mainly in two ways – backward compatibility, and multi-gen releases.

Backward compatibility is how we can play older titles (from previous generations) on the latest, bleeding-edge hardware. This is something that is generally well accepted within the gaming community. Lesser loading times, better framerates and textures, are all clear advantages of playing the games on newer hardware.

The real issue here becomes cross-generation releases. As stated by Jason Ronald, Director of Program Management for Xbox Series X, “It is important for gamers to preserve their gaming legacies.” But should this be done at the cost of holding back bigger, more ambitious games and developers?

Also Read – Top 10 Xbox One 2019 Games to Play Before Series X Launch

Can older console designs compromise new video games?

Both Sony and Microsoft have made it clear that at least for the near future, the PS4 and Xbox One will not be rendered completely obsolete. This is to say that games will still be released for these older consoles, and the newer generation of consoles at the same time. 

However, there occurs a problem, when a game is designed for older hardware. That is, the games may not utilize the entirety of the hardware in the console itself. If this is the case, then fans would be robbed of having a full next-gen gaming experience. A developed recently chimed in with his opinion while reacting to the PS5 hardware exhibition

KravenGod’s followers, however, have rebuked his opinion. Many users pointed out the fact that game developers have taken care to ensure that the next-gen version of their releases will not be compromised or optimized for older hardware. Specifically, TeamKill Media (the studio behind the upcoming PS5 release Quantum Error) has made this clear. The studio has stated that they would be developing for the PS5 first. They would then scale back that version to run on the PS4.

New Releases on Old Systems?

This would be fine in most cases. Having a more inclusive gaming community is better for everybody. Older generation titles being played on newer systems are not the problem here. In fact, it is extremely welcome, since the nostalgia factor for gamers and their older games is a real thing. 

The problem comes up again when studios develop new video games with old systems in mind. Take, for example, the heavily anticipated upcoming release, The Last of Us Part II. Naughty Dog has taken care to inculcate extremely nuanced and intricate details into the game. Things like better environmental effects, individually rendered blades of grass, extremely well-detailed character models, etc.

All of these aspects utilize the PS4 Pro to the fullest. All of these aspects are also very integral parts of the game itself. Now imagine having to develop the game, and all of its features, with the PS3 or base PS4 in mind. Aren’t the developers compelled to tone down these amazing features to run it on the older hardware? Aren’t we as gamers losing out on an amazing, fully realized version of The Last of Us Part II, only because older consoles would not be able to run that version of the game?

Developers may take care to design their games with the best experience in mind, accommodating old hardware by scaling down the game. This would be similar to turning down the in-game detail, rendering lower resolution textures, etc. But developers would not be able to create brand new aspects of gameplay, story, or the world, because they are held back by older technology.

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