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.