Editor’s Note: This is a Point/Counter Point discussion between Matt Paprocki and Ken Edwards on the backwards compatibility of games on the Xbox 360. Please let us know what you think of this issue in your comments below. Check back soon to read more on this topic. This is in direct response to Ken’s article.
The Xbox 360 is a different piece of hardware. Backwards compatibility is an issue because of this, and the cost to implement new emulators for games isn’t cheap. Ken’s right to say that newly released titles for the original Xbox should be ready to go on the 360 when they launch.
In theory, that’s a great idea. In execution, it’s not worth the time. How many people out there are buying the new Outrun? King of Fighters NeoWave? Why should Microsoft be worried about niche titles like these when they could be spending money in their gaming division on countless other things?
When it comes down to it, games like King of Fighters are aimed right at the die-hard audience. These gamers have an Xbox, and most likely a 360. They’re not going to give up their old hardware, special controllers, and game saves just to say “I played King of Fighters on my 360.” That continues to dwindle the number of people who would be playing this game on the 360 hardware, and NeoWave is hardly lighting up sales charts. Is it then logical to create an emulator that only a handful of people will ever use?
The issue seems to be turning into “what Microsoft promised.” In strict marketing terms, there’s nothing on the box that says it will be compatible with all Xbox games. There are no flyers or posters in stores that say all games will be playable. Why? Because they never promised it. A quote in a magazine is not a promise; it’s a discussion, and one that’s being blown completely out of proportion by people who believe they need something they really don’t.
Ken also seems to think that backwards compatibility sells consoles. This is where you need to step back and think of the reasons you buy a video game system. Why would anyone NOT buy a 360? Maybe they don’t like the game selection, don’t have access to Xbox Live, or they would prefer to move over to Sony’s and/or Nintendo’s camp. That’s fine, but to think Microsoft will lose sales (or even excessive market share) because the audience can’t play Panzer Dragoon is absurd. You buy a new game console to buy new games, period.
It’s hard to defend the Barbie Horse Adventure scenario, too. It’s doubtful Microsoft will ever live this one down, and they have no one to blame but themselves for not making it clear enough. “Best selling games” being backwards compatible is a statement that will forever haunt them.
Maybe it’s time for a different perspective though. Think to yourself, aside from all the pricing issues and features debate, would the ability to play Madden ’98 on your Playstation 3 be a make it/break it deal for you? How often do you see yourself playing ANY Playstation 1 games on your shiny new Spiderman font-inspired Playstation 3?
After a few weeks, you wouldn’t think twice about it. You’re far too engrossed in gorgeous new worlds and franchises to even think about having the time to go back and enjoy older games you used to play. If anything, this could be seen as a bad thing for the industry, pulling sales away from increased budget next-generation games and putting money into the hands of a developer who spent far less.
The latter is an admittedly weak argument, but there is a point to be extracted from it. This isn’t a consumer-based problem. This isn’t a broken promise scenario. It’s a financial one, and if people are not putting Xbox games into their Xbox 360′s, why should Microsoft continue to waste their time?
It’s time for some true soul checking if you believe backwards compatibility is a needed feature. Ask yourself this one question:
“Have I played/have any desire to play Drake of the 99 Dragons on my Xbox 360?”
I’d be willing to bet the answer is no, and since they’re still losing money on the hardware, it’s only logical for Microsoft to say the same thing.
Be sure to check back to see Ken’s response later this week.