PS4 backwards compatibility dilemma: Gaikai Vs. hardware based emulation?

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Posted November 8, 2012 by Shamarri Miller in Editorials

Sony was the first company to truly embrace backwards compatibility when it released the PS2. It was a pioneering move and it helped garner a ton of loyalty for the PlayStation brand. For the first time gamer’s past  video games weren’t just disposable toys of yesteryear, but were actually a living breathing collection of  games that could play on their new console..

Sony repeated this move when the PS3 launched, but slow sales of the system at launch and high manufacturing costs, forced Sony to make cost cutting measure to lower the price of the PS3 and one way to do this was to remove excess features; Memory stick, SD card and Compact flash reader, and sadly hardware based PS2 backwards compatibility. Sony did however manage to keep PS1 compatibility, which is nice. But the removal of the PS2 hardware based emulation is still a move that many gamers hated to see Sony carry out. Gamers often get angry when features are removed.

But here we are on the dawn of the PlayStation 4. Sony has a chance to atone for past sins. Sony recently purchased Gaikai corporation for $380 million dollars, and while little is known about Gaikai and the PlayStation 4, it’s a logical leap  for many of us to think that Sony will factor Gaikai into their PS4 plans. Many think this will be Sony’s way of providing backwards compatibility on the PS4. It seems like the perfect solution to providing gamers with an option to access Sony’s deep backlog of games.

However there is a potential problem with the Gaikai solution, the price. While we don’t know how much it will cost to access the Gaikai service, it safe to assume that it won’t be free and that’s a problem for the guys who have already purchased games on past PlayStation platforms and are looking to use their games on their new PS4.

Sony could alleviate the fears of the PlayStation loyalist by offering hardware based emulation in the PlayStation 4, that covered PS1-PS3, in addition to the Gaikai solution. This would be the best of both worlds and Sony could even make the backwards compatible model a separate SKU that was only available online and is built on a per order basis, that way they don’t eat the cost.

We gamers are a very savvy bunch and we don’t want to keep re-buying games we have already purchased. How many times is one person supposed to re-buy God of War? or Final Fantasy 7? It will be truly absurd if I have to buy PS3 classics on my PS4. It’s just good customer service to provide backwards compatibility. It also helps PlayStation as a brand cause it lets people know that their investing in a platform past and present. That’s whats so great about PC games, all the past games work on the new hardware, I would love for Sony to continue this ethos with the PS4, I will give them credit cause that was their initial intentions with the PS3 as well.

Well here’s hoping Sony gives use more information on their backwards compatibility plans as we approach the launch of the PS4 hopefully they come up with a plan that satisfies their hardcore fans. A marriage between Gaikai, for the hard to get games, and hardware based emulation, for the games we already purchased, seems to be the best solution.

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Shamarri Miller

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