Home / North American PlayStation 3 To Lose Hardware-based Backward Compatibility

North American PlayStation 3 To Lose Hardware-based Backward Compatibility

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I've been away for a bit, but it seems fitting I return with news directly related to my last piece on the European PS3 launching without hardware backward compatibility for PS1 and PS2 games, and my concerns about it happening in other territories around the world as well.

I was perfectly happy waiting to get a PS3 until some more games actually came out that I wanted, comfy in the fact that we (the U.S.) weren't going to lose hardware backward compatibility from the system, which is as big a factor for me in getting a PS3 eventually as having DVD playback functionality in the PS2 at launch. We launched with hardware compatibility; why take it out now? The recent price drop from $600 to $500 for the 60GB PS3 didn't phase me either since I still didn't want many of the offerings currently available for the system. Here's the official line from Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA):

"The 60GB PS3 will be available in North America for $499 until supplies of that unit are depleted. We have ample inventory to meet the immediate needs of consumers in this territory for several months to come. We won't be making any further announcements regarding our PS3 model hardware strategy in North America until the 60GB model is exhausted and market conditions are evaluated."

Turns out that the price drop is really only being done to get people to buy up all the "premium" systems that didn't sell at launch and the cheaper 20GB "core" SKU that was phased out months ago. Only the remaining 60GB PS3s are going to be available at this price and then the new 80GB model would go back up to $600 with Motorstorm packed in, but again, I was indifferent towards the news.

Then another nugget came out of SCEA, stating that we are in fact losing hardware compatibility just like our friends across the Atlantic.  They start with saying, "The 80GB model uses a software solution for backwards compatibility, similar to that currently found in the [European PS3]."  They went on to specify that part of this change is to emphasize PS3 content on the system and get people spending on their new stuff, and quit living off the greats of yester-year.  Dedicating more resources to making more PS3 and PSN content is a good idea, but taking features away from users won't help earn them any fans.  In other words, they don't care about the PS2 or PS1 content anymore, which is odd since without the hundreds of millions of PS1s and PS2s out there, Sony wouldn't even have a gaming fan base to swindle.

So the Emotion Engine will be removed to lower costs, removing hardware backward compatibility for the less supported route of software emulation. They're removing a big feature to cut their costs, and are then raising the price again rather than pass the savings on to consumers. Seem fair? And they can't use the extra hard drive space to really justify the cost since for $50-100 dollars you could get a larger capacity hard drive on your own and install it yourself (it tells you how right in the PS3 manual, and various places on the web), or just add an external USB hard drive for more space.

Some will argue that nice things can be accomplished through software emulation, and they're right.  Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis games look a lot cleaner in higher resolutions and put through various software filters.  Running Metal Gear Solid on Bleem! made it a lot nicer-looking.  However, with software emulation, typically only the biggest and best-selling handful of games get supported.  Offbeat-but-worthwhile titles like Ico, Katamari Damacy, Skygunner, Okami, and Viewtiful Joe likely won't get support since they didn't sell a billion copies, and Sony's own admission that they're more interested in supporting new content as opposed to old isn't reassuring.

If you're on the fence about getting a PS3 and really want FULL compatibility with your PS1 and PS2 libraries, you'd better get moving. Go figure, Ken Kutaragi retires, and they do away with his promise to keep universal PlayStation brand compatibility. Coincidence? I think not. Factor in Sony's unsavory PSP graffiti scheme and viral blog campaign, and it almost seems like Sony wants to alienate and insult its fan base.

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About Mark Buckingham

  • O

    do you hear anyone in Europe having BC issues? What do you lose with the removal of the emotion engine? Exactly. The PS3 is more BC than any console on the market considering its huge library. Please stop pretending to be a journalist when you’re clearly making a big deal about NOTHING.

  • Junkie

    Ico gets a pass because it’s 1st party. And this isn’t Microsoft buddy, Sony actually emulates their games, and keeps adding functionality rapidly. 90% of 2500 PAL games are fully BC on software – those which don’t have 3 ‘star’ functionality have issues like “On level 3, when opening the door in the 2nd room, the sound file doesn’t play”. USA has fewer than that many games, and it’ll be a shorter road.

  • I’ll be thrilled if they cover most of the games, and can find an easy all-in-one solution. It’s NOT Microsoft, which makes me hopeful. Reading about the spotty emulation compatibility for the 360 and how each game requires another download didn’t particularly inspire me. And with Sony’s recent trend of not being particularly customer-oriented, I was additionally concerned.

    Here’s hoping they do it right.

  • Jules

    Now that I’ve seen this backwards compatibility story develop, I’m very unlikely to get rid of my PS2 and even more unlikely to buy a PS3. On another note (the 80GB version) even if they give you more in a package people will still (probably) not go for it. The $600 price tag is simply too much for a gaming system, PERIOD. You might as well buy low end laptop or desktop computer for that price. I’m sure to many people it is not about spending the money but more WHERE it is spent, you can spend $600 so much better than on one game system.

  • @ Jules

    $600 is a lot, and a similar price tag didn’t help the 3D0 back in the 90s. The PS3 had/has the advantage of having a huge back catalog of stuff to play on it, which is why possibly losing that functionality bugs me. Again, it may work out well in the end with software emulation. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    However, a lot of people complain about $60 for games, up from $50 in the last generation. I still have receipts around here for old Sega CD games that I paid $60 back in the early 90s and didn’t bat an eyelash (with my own money). Heck, Chrono Trigger cost $70 when it debuted on the Super Nintendo. It’s been 20 years and games are just now going up in price for the first time, so I’m not too worried about it. Besides, if you have even an ounce of patience, the prices will come down soon enough and you can get the same game for a fraction of the price.

  • The Future of Sega

    I think Sony is in link with the mob! I hope to Christ every last one of those bastards working at Sony burn in the flames of Hell!!! I am dead serious! Here it is, I have waited for nearly a year now and Sony has STILL not added rumble functionality yet! By far, that is pissing me off the most! I’ve paid $600 dollars for a faulty product! Sony Playstation 3 is a scam! Why in God’s blood do we have to wait a WHOLE month just to get updates that should’ve already been implemented into the machine upon purchase!? And another thing, why is it in the game Oblivion when ever you’re fighting amongst numerous enemies, the game slows completely down? It’s even worse than on Halo when you keep shooting a dead covenant and you walk over there blood! By far I am disgusted that I have bought a Playstation 3! I should’ve went with my gut feeling and bought an Xbox 360, even though I’d rather kiss my own shit than pay $400 dollars for a fucken Xbox! Come on! IF YOU DEVELOPERS CANT MAKE GOOD AND PROMISING GAME MACHINES, THEN GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE VIDEO GAMING INDUSTRY!!! Cased closed.

  • Jack Mehoffer

    Why is the title of your article a lie?

  • @ Jack

    It’s not a lie. It IS losing the more reliable hardware backward compatibility and going a software emulation route instead with an uncertain future and level of support. If you need clarification, read the rest of the article.

  • Mike

    The title of your article is, and I quote.

    “North American Playstation3 to lose backward compatibility”

    This IS a lie. It will still play PS2 and PS1 games, it may not play all of them, and it won’t play them through hardware but it will still play them. To say it is losing backward compatibility would mean that it will no longer play the games AT ALL.

  • Mike, Again

    I have yet to hear anyone complain about software emulation on the 360 which never had hardware emulation in it..

  • Jaime

    PRICE the gamecube was so cheap and all we know how it ended…
    BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY always been there, and always will be there (is not like you have to download the game so you can play it like in the xbox 360)
    BILLIONS COPIES SOLD you must not have a clue in videogames, never in history a game have sold any billion
    YOU CAN REPLACE HARD DRIVE ON YOUR OWN well, that sound just an idiot complaint, you prefer need to buy extra expensive property hard drives for expansion like in the xbox 360
    I WAS INDIFFERENT TOWARDS THE NEWS and still you write about them and without understand, indifferent and biased

  • Jack Mehoffer

    @ Mark

    You’re stretching deep to justify your article title.

    You really don’t see how the title of your article makes it appear that new PS3s won’t play PS1 or PS2 games?

    The PS3s with hardware backward compatibility are something like 90%+ compatible with past titles. The European PS3s with software emulation are supposedly 75%+ compatible with past titles…

    You wrote: “However, with software emulation, typically only the biggest and best-selling handful of games get supported.”

    Only a handful? Only the biggest and best selling games? Even 70% would be a sizable majority.

    So Mark… Why so biased?

  • Numanthia

    This is clearly a very poorly researched or a highly anti PS3 article. It is one or the other.

    I must agree squarely with the poster that stated the headline is inaccurate. The PS3 with hardware or software offers backwards gaming capabilities and even with a 90% softeware compatibility list with the previous consoles it is still superior to any other gaming console and easily outshines the scortched earth policy of the Microsoft xbox platform.

    Also to the future of sega poster you are clearly full of crap. Currently any of my friends who had owned an xbox 360 and have now bought a PS3 prefer the PS3 over the 360. I do not believe you own a PS3 and are most likely just attempting to stir it up. The problem with your approach is it is so transparent it is pathetic.

    Here are the undeniable facts. The PS3 is the most dependable and highest quality gaming console available. It is technically the most advanced gaming console available. It is the easiest system to implement and get up and running with. The launch games contained clearly superior quality graphics (shading, pixel rendering) than any game launch in the entire first year of the Xbox 360’s release. The total cost of ownership is lower than the xbox 360 when compared feature for feature and there is no charge for the online service with the PS3.

    The Playstation 3 is a best valued gaming system ever to be launched in the history of gaming consoles while the xbox 360 is the greatest defective electronics release ever seen in the history of a globally distributed electronics item.

    I personally feel the time stolen from Microsoft xbox 360 users during the breakdown of their consoles and during the repeat repair process has also made the xbox 360 the worst gaming console investment in the history of the gaming industry.

    So if you want the best gaming experience, the most dependable console you have to pay for it but be confident you are actually not paying the most for a console as that cost comes along with the xbox 360.

  • I changed the title to clarify.

    And Mike, Again, um… you must have missed the series of articles that Matt and I wrote on Xbox 360 backwards compatibility, where I discussed all the problems with it, and why it is bad that the Xbox does not emulate all the games.

  • Numanthia, its a shame you blow your anti PS3 theory out of the water by going a little far in the PS3 fanboy department.

    And how is it poorly researched, I ask you. As this news broke _weeks ago_ and this news has been out there at other outlets.

    It irritates the piss out of me that my Xbox 360 won’t play all the Xbox games. Some that do play are emulated horribly. Hell, it took them two tries to get Forza to work correctly on the 360.

    That is why I am glad I bought a PS3 with an Emotion Engine, where I do not have to go to some web page to see what the emulation status of X game is.

    As Mark said, it was part of the N.A. launch, why take it out now — and I would add still charge the same price?

    Sony could really use a better price point, seeing as the 360 just got a $50 price drop on all models.

    The PS3 emulation downloads are downloaded in the same fashion as the 360 ones are, there is no difference in that process.

  • What makes the “best gaming experience” and “the best value in gaming” varies greatly from person to person.

    I have a Wii and a PS3 and play the Wii a heck of a lot more than the PS3 (not counting watching movies and playing old PS1/PS2 games…thanks Emotion Engine). That doesn’t mean I don’t like the PS3 or acknowledge that it’s well manufactured. There just isn’t much available for it that *I* want right now. But equal to or more than either of those I play my PC. Personal tastes vary. Deal with it.

    Fun is in the hands and minds of the beholder.

  • RCM

    This is news? This has been known for a while. Way to be current. Can’t believe this was published on BC, doesn’t make me proud to be a contributer. Futhermore, doesn’t make me proud to be a game journalist. Sorry to be harsh but this shouldn’t have been published. Too late and too lame…

  • RCM
    So just because it didn’t happen five seconds ago, people that don’t exclusively frequent gaming-news sites shouldn’t be made aware or discuss it?

    BC doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of gaming news as it is. If you have a beef with it and are such a proud “gaming journalist,” why don’t you fix that? Do something constructive at least instead of attacking me over it.

  • Bill

    This is an overpriced console, sold in two SKU’s,( criticized MS for two SKU’s)…That promised full backwards compatibility,…(Criticized MS for not being backwards compatible), Has SH*T for software, and has now dumped what is their first two chassis (Known as SKU’s) of this game for a lower cost to manufacture chassis,(Third SKU) that which is the Euro PS3 without the “(stupid marketing term)” emotiom engine…
    We didn’t eat up the the original PS3 with the PS2 chips, so they DUMPED them to clear stock and saturate the market (Therefore LOOKING like the demand for the overpriced bloated console) hed gained acceptance. Now the latest Madden games come out at HALF the framerate – Again – This console cant do at $599 what an XBOX360 can do BETTER at $349.
    I bought one at launch like an idiot and paid WAY too much because I bought into the hype. Don’t do what I did…

    My 360 is used daily, if not to game, but to stream Live and recorded TV like, but better than an Apple TV. My PS3, has four inches of dust, now that I’m tired of Resistance…ask PS3 owners
    (that aren’t fanboys), you’ll hear the same thing…
    (Can’t WAIT for Bioshock and Blue Dragon)
    Thanks for listening…

  • RCM

    My apologies, I didn’t mean to attack or insult you. This news is just really old by net standards and sort of seems thrown together.

    Generally BC be it through hardware or software is something core gamers (those who frequent game-centric news sites) care about.

    As for me doing something about the lack of BC news, when they start paying me I’ll gladly be their news guy.

    Again, my apologies if you were offended.

  • Bill
    I agree, Sony has done a number of hypocritical things since the PS3 launch, many of the same things I mentioned here

    If I wasn’t so wary of the 360 hardware failure problems, and so much of the 360 stuff wasn’t also available on the PC (Gears of War is now coming to the PC, too), I’d be more inclined to get one of those.

  • RCM
    No hard feelings…there have been a lot of negative comments, so maybe it got to me a little more than usual.

    I understand timing is important, and I WANTED to have this story up when it first broke, but “real life” (i.e., those paying gigs) kept slowing it down. Better late than never?

  • AzUlo

    even though sony has lost the emotion engine, they deliver the goods and have kept their promise by updating their emulation through a majority of updates. PS3s are more reliable then the 360, why? because the ps3 didnt have to revise their console unlike the 360 that had to go 3 revisions to get it right! AKA the ring of death and that massive block power supply the x360 has. Sony is better if u look at it from this stand point. There is soo much content that u can do with the ps3 now then back then. I believe ppl who have the ps3 and say it suk is because they dont update their friggn ps3, if u update it to latest firmware it is awsome. i bought one and i dont regret it since MGS4 is exclusive to ps3 😀

  • Let’s hear it for the facts…

    The is NOTHING wrong with European BC!!

  • AzUlo
    I remembered reading about early quirks with the PS3–like not being able to download stuff in the background while doing other things–and thinking, “What oversights!” The X360 got that right at least. But with the firmware updates, they’ve added a lot of nice features to the PS3.

    Sure, I’d have rather had them out of the box, but better late than never. I also don’t mind them adding content and new modes to games after release via DLC. What I don’t like is when a company releases a broken game and HAS to patch it later just for basic functionality. PC users have dealt with this for a long time, but I’d hoped it wouldn’t make the jump to consoles.

    Now I did hear some rumbling recently that Konami might port MGS4 to other systems for profitability’s sake (since the PS3 isn’t exactly selling out these days), but no indication as to when or which system(s).

  • Alright, seriously, this article is totally misleading and clearly anti-sony. get your facts straight before you talk shit about a product.
    i have a EU PS3, without the EE. it plays every game i’ve tried on it perfectly, true it’s only around 20 games, but IMO that gets me a 100% BC factor.
    AND, something you’ve obviously missed, if you use the AA or upscaling features that came in FW 1.8 then your PS3 with EE bypasses the emotion engine and runs the game on software emulation instead since the EE chip is incapable of running AA or upscaling.
    software emulation BC is increasing with every firmware update and right now it’s somewhere around 90% on PS1/PS2 PAL titles. AND they run AA in 1920P resolution on those titles.
    how is that inferior to the emotion engine?
    the emotion engine should have been left out of the machine to begin with.

  • Mikael,

    To go and shred someone like that claiming they don’t know what they’re talking about and toss something out there like 1920p doesn’t exactly make your point.

    And this statement:

    “true it’s only around 20 games, but IMO that gets me a 100% BC factor.”

    So because it plays the 20 games YOU own it’s perfect? What if the 20 games I own don’t play at all? Should I start spouting off that it’s not BC at all?

    It’s amazing to me how people only think of themselves sometimes.

  • brandon

    It’s a shame that this is the first thing that pops up when you google “playstation 3” and it has the original title. You need to be more responsible as a journalist. Many people just look at headlines. They don’t go in and read the articles themselves and 80 percent don’t go in and read the comments to see all the counter points.

  • Brandon…
    First of all, I just Googled “playstation 3” and BlogCritics isn’t even in the first 30 results, let alone topping the chart. Bzzt, wrong. Even if it did, blame Google’s search heuristics.

    Second, what’s “irresponsible journalism” about this? The title tells exactly what the article’s about, and reading comments and counterpoints isn’t required to get the gist of what the piece is about.

    Think before you comment.

  • I know, who reads the words under the headline anymore. Its so overrated. Maybe The Washington Post should only write headlines from now on.

    And Mark, he was talking of Google News, of which it is at the top, with the original headline.

    And Brandon, it was an honest mistake, headline fubars happen all the time (even in The Washington Post!) so lay off (not just you) this “irresponsible journalism” and the “anti-Sony” crap.

    The FACT is that Sony has taken out hardware emulation. If you read the article, you would have known that is what this article was about.

    Now on earth is it anti-PS3 to complain about not having full hardware backwards compatibility? Am I being anti-360 when I bitch that I can’t play all the original Xbox games on the 360? I am I being anti-Wii if I write a news piece about the latest firmware upgrade disabling the Freeloader disc, and complaining about it?

    No, I would not be anti-anything. Mark owns a PS3, and you think he is hating on the PS3 because it is losing hardware emulation in N. A.

    I just do not get your logic, and am not going to try and figure it out.

    Oh, one more thing, I love the commenter who used the Xbox 360’s large power brick as a “valid” reason in his/her argument. Really, that made me laugh, thanks for that one. The power brick INSIDE the PS3 is tiny, isn’t it.

  • Matt,
    it’s interesting that you choose to only dispute 2 things of what i wrote, 1. 1920P, seeing as the PS3 is highly capable of it i think it’s a legitimate remark, the fact that the emotion engine is not capable of it is also legit.
    running a PS2 game in high resolution makes it a hell of a lot nicer, maybe you should try it.
    2. i mentioned that all games i’ve tried on it works perfectly and for me that give ME a 100% bc. i didn’t say it did for everyone else, in the writing moment the EU PAL software BC percentage is the same as the US NTSC hardware BC percentage, if not higher since each firmware update adds to the BC, while the hardware stays the same.

    everything in this article is trying to point to how negative it is with software emulation, no one running software emulation for PS2/1 titles on the PS3 is complaining about it because it is working more or less flawless, so what’s so bad about it.
    i’m sorry matt but i’m not buying your point in this.

    the emotion engine does NOT support “full backwards compatibility” and software emulation is probably the only way they can ever reach a “full compatibility” which you seem to be so interested in.

    and my point being, if you own a US PS3 and decide to push the button to enable either upscaling or smoothing on your PS2 game, then you ARE NOT using the emotion engine anymore, so why even try to make it a point that the lack of the emotion engin is so bad? the point is obselete. the Emotion engine is obselete. why try to tell people how negative it is when software emulation is working at least as good as the EE, if not better.

    you may not agree with me but i have a valid point here. sure, the they’re cutting the chip because of cost reductions, they are still loosing money on it so your point is flawed.

  • The negativity comes from Sony going back on their word, sniping Microsoft for doing things they ended up doing themselves, and their holier-than-thou attitude towards their consumer base.

    There is a whole paragraph in the piece about how software emu could be a very good thing for whatever games they do it for. The downside is, as of this writing, there’s no full list for what US releases are going to be supported, but it will almost surely be less than the list supported by having the EE under the hood.

    And if your PS3 hard drive fails, needs replaced, etc., you lose your emulation files and have to redownload. This was a FYI for people if they wanted to get the hassle-free emulation, or take their chances with the unknowns later.

  • Last I checked the PS3 displayed 1920×1080, and that the HD standard was called 1080p. That would be 1080 lines of vertical resolution.

  • brandon

    “First of all, I just Googled “playstation 3″ and BlogCritics isn’t even in the first 30 results”
    Google NEWS. You were #1. Not you’re number 5. It would not be bad if you were in the regular list but you are in the NEWS group so more people are going to think this is real news.

    Google is not to blame. You should thank god that this happened because soo many people who would “have no idea this page existed are redirected here. You should not be so ignorant to web technology esp. since you are a blogger.

    “Second, what’s “irresponsible journalism” about this? The title tells exactly what the article’s about”
    It’s true mark. The PS3 is not losing backwards com. It’s a big lie. It was irresponsible of you to use that title to begin with and now everyone who googles ps3 news is going to see it. Blame google? That’s weak.

    “Think before you comment.”

    Think before you write.

  • brandon

    *it’s not true. maybe i should proof read before I write.

  • brandon

    Ken is correct.

    NTSC SD format is 720 by 480 (vertical bars by horizontal bars) hence “480i”

    That is a 4:3 ratio though. HD is 16:9.

    16/9 = x/1080 x=1920

    You end up at 1920 x 1080

    The reason they use the horizontal number as the name of the resolution is because they are the lines that are interlaced when the signal is on the move.

  • and of course i meant 1080p. it’s a typo for you people who didn’t understand. point moot.

  • Yea we all make typos, don’t we 😉

  • Justin McGuirk

    @Mark Buckingham

    Just to curb your misinformed understanding of ‘backwards compatibility’, being a software developer and a businessman myself, these decisions that Sony made are simply ‘transitionary’issues which can be rectified in a short period of time.

    The Sony Playstation 3 is machine that:
    -has full software upgradability (you can install other OS as well as patch up defects through regular system updates). Software emulation would consistently be upgraded in cumulative patches until 100% backwards compatibility is achieved as if it has an Emotion chip installed again. In fact, DVD/PS1/PS2 upscaling is one of the sweet features of the PS3 which is a big bonus not present with previous generation consoles.
    -partial hardware upgradability (HDD only but in a generous way because Sony actually makes the user choose his/her preferred compatible hardware component to replace the one that comes with the machine). On the 360, the user would have to buy a ‘Microsoft only’ hard drive as an add on to their diminutive disc space provided at a hefty price.
    -Backwards compatibility is not determined by the sales quantity of the games but rather on the technical specifications and complexity within the timeline previous generation games were released. Some higher selling games have the same probability of not being supported by PS3’s software emulation when compared with lower selling games. Then again, this is completely rectifiable through cumulative or even single system updates.
    -Another point you misunderstand, if Sony didn’t care about PS1/PS2 gamers, they would have killed off the production of PS2 hardware. But as you know, that is not the case and they are still actually releasing some games for the previous generation system. Your assumption that Sony is killing off backwards compatibility because it wants to force people to accept only PS3 games and PSN titles is completely baseless. You have no proof, and this is basically your accusation of the matter. Mircosoft already killed the original XBOX. So did Nintendo with the Gamecube. Only Sony is still producing and supporting previous generation and ‘current’ generation systems completely.

    “If you’re on the fence about getting a PS3 and really want FULL compatibility with your PS1 and PS2 libraries, you’d better get moving. Go figure, Ken Kutaragi retires, and they do away with his promise to keep universal PlayStation brand compatibility. Coincidence? I think not. Factor in Sony’s unsavory PSP graffiti scheme and viral blog campaign, and it almost seems like Sony wants to alienate and insult its fan base.”

    – quoting from your own statements, your writing seems to be more of a product of rumor mongering, technical incapacity and lastly, malicious ignorance on your part to opinionate about an issue that you don’t fully understand

    A lot of people already understand the implications of this issue so what you’re doing now by writing this so called article/blog dated August 10, 2007 is just beating on a dead horse. It’s gotten old. It stinks.

  • ShooPoo

    BC will be a lesser problem as newer firmware updates are posted. It’s just a matter of time.