Both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are capable of playing games from previous generations, but why is this so important? Many gamers are probably much more concerned with the convenience than being able to disconnect from the old system as they are backwards compatibility supported.
This year new game consoles will appear: the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. That is a great time for gamers, because that means that we can enjoy a new generation full of new possibilities. We are mainly looking forward to new graphics performance, but also larger video games that simply run better. Meanwhile, we are also making increasing demands on our video game consoles. For example, both game consoles will also function as UHD Blu-ray players, for example. And what about backwards compatibility?
Backwards compatibility: what is it?
In order to answer that question we must first take a step back. What does backwards compatibility mean? Literally translated that is “backward compatibility”. This means that a system works with old techniques, even if it is intended for new techniques. For game consoles, it means that gamers can also play their old video games on the successor. The Wii supports GameCube games, the Wii U supports Wii games and the PlayStation 3 supported PlayStation 2 games.
For the current generation of consoles (at the time of writing, those are the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – the Switch we keep disregarding), we can only partially use backwards compatibility. The Xbox One supports much of the library of the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox, while PlayStation 4 owners can only play PlayStation 3 games through game streaming service PlayStation Now as sony lower the monthly price of PlayStation.
Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5
For the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 we see that both companies behind the consoles are more committed to backwards compatibility. For example, Microsoft has already announced that the Series X will soon support all Xbox games that are now playable on the Xbox One. That means you can play not only all Xbox One games, but also a large portion of the Xbox 360 and a handful of Xbox titles on the Series X. As a result, the game console will soon launch with the largest, immediately available gaming library in history.
And those games will also get a nice makeover when you play them on the Xbox Series X. Sony takes a different approach. The Japanese company has announced that only part of the PS4 games are playable on the PS5. Unfortunately at the time of writing it is not clear which games are involved. However, Sony has said that hundreds of titles have already been tested, so hopefully that means that we can assume that it is just playable on the new game console. But why is that important?
Why the backwards compatibility?
When we reason from games, convenience plays a major role. It is very chill to just be able to play older games on your new console if you are not done with it. Or if multiplayer is still very much alive. This way you don’t have to place two consoles under your TV if you don’t feel like it or don’t have room for it. Many gamers have multiple consoles under their TV in the living room or bedroom. Here, for example, the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X is under the TV, while the Nintendo Switch is next to it.
And that immediately fills the space. Not only the space I have in and on the TV cabinet, but also the space I want to spend in the living room. Because I had a room about this in the house, I transformed it into a game room. It includes the Xbox 360, Wii U and PlayStation 3 (with more than thirty other consoles), which gives me the luxury of doing that too. But not everyone has that luxury, while you should still be able to play your older games if you just feel like it.
In addition, it also gives gamers the peace and freedom to bring the new generation of game consoles into your home. So if your new console also plays your old games, you can sell your old console and possibly use that money to buy the new game console. For companies, this probably means a high install base (number of game consoles in people’s homes), while the HDMI ports are also free for the new consoles. It is a user-friendly process, one that shows that you as a company think along with the consumer.
Another important part is the preservation of video games in general. If you think music and movies can be art, video games are too. And preserving what you have is important in the context of art and historical awareness. Games, like films and other forms of art, are a product of their time. And it is interesting to see how certain ideas have been expressed or how certain technologies have created possibilities or limitations. It says something about the time they date from.
Unfortunately, video game preservation is not going well. For example, once the last PlayStation 2 breaks down, it is quite difficult to play PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games as they used to. For example, not all games have received a remaster or remake, and not every game is available digitally (or has ever been released in a compilation). So it is important that we have and keep hardware to be able to play games, because games of yesteryear are often still super cool and valuable.
Now you could still say that the release of a remake or remaster does not really save of video games. Yes, you can play the old game – in new glory – on a modern device, but in fact you are moving the problem from one generation to the next. Because who says the next game console is also backwards compatible? Who says we have a next generation, maybe we will only play our games through PlayStation Now, Xbox Game Pass (via xCloud ) or Google Stadia.
Backwards compatibility and the future
There are still games that are stuck in the past and not playable on modern devices. And that’s a shame, because every game deserves to be played. Whole communities are active on the PC to give old games new life through an emulator, but these groups often operate in gray areas when it comes to rights. And yes, it is possible to play PS2 games on your PS4. But you have to buy them separately – or even again if you just have the old PS2 disc in your possession, unfortunately.
As far as we are concerned, Microsoft is doing very well at the moment. If the game is part of the program for backwards compatibility (which is a big condition), you will soon be able to play your Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games on your Xbox Series X. In addition, the old games will also be once improved. That’s more than we can ask from such a company as Microsoft; it comes close to perfect video game preservation (provided the disc doesn’t break). Let’s hope Sony and Nintendo decide to do the same someday.