Soapbox: 70 million active PSN users deserve backwards compatibility
News broke early last week, that Sony’s online entertainment service – the PlayStation Network – has now reached an absolutely staggering 70 million unique active users. This is a statistic last garnered the end of 2016 so who knows how much more the service has accumulated within the past five months?
If there’s one thing this highlights however, it’s that denying these users the ability to play their already-purchased past PlayStation games on PS4 is a disservice that can go on no longer, no matter how many times they direct their dedicated fan base to the lag-centric PS Now subscription method of playing old games. This is a nut Microsoft so memorably cracked at E3 2015, so why is this allowed to continue?
It’s no secret that throughout this current generation of consoles, Sony has accrued a phenomenal amount of good will, not least because of their focus to deliver games to gamers, experiment in areas of innovation like virtual reality, and just generally listen to fans. I can’t help but feel that this has made them rather blasé with regards to the specific subject of backwards compatibility, and it’s becoming slightly embarrassing that this is such a persistent issue.
For all of the PS3’s iteration of the PlayStation network’s drawbacks, PS1 classics were a regular treat people could look forward to experiencing once again. Making a purchase here also meant that PlayStation Vita users could take their favourite retro games on the go elsewhere too, so when taking this into account it becomes even more baffling that software first released on Sony’s original grey box can’t be played on the latest console. It’s a never-ending well of disappointment and mystery that only becomes deeper the more you look, at least Nintendo have a good track history of making their back catalogue available even if they do require another purchase.
At least PlayStation Now’s library of games is a wide and eclectic one, letting subscribers experience some of the best games ever made in Journey and The Last of Us. The catch is that as a streaming service, other titles that depend on twitch gameplay or diehard accuracy like the Killzone series are almost unplayable even in single player, and this is an issue that could be resolved if the PlayStation customers’ original PS3 library (PS1 and PS2 games included), was folded into the PS4’s eco-system.
Perhaps it’s a case of impossible technological workaround, an unfortunate side-effect of having PS4’s architecture be so different and improved over the PS3’s tricky to develop for cell processor. When PlayStation acquired Gaikai in 2012 and re-introduced the technology as PS Now, maybe this was seen as the best possible compromise, but charging extra for such a service on top of PS Plus was always going to be a bullet too hard for customers to bite.
Along with players’ inability to change their PSN names, the lack of backwards compatibility is a detrimental factor that remains the bug on a fairly otherwise clear PlayStation windshield. And if the fact that the online service is now regularly pulling in a whopping 70 million users doesn’t motivate the company to relinquish the PSN price tag, maybe nothing ever will. “For the Players”?, not in this instance.