This article is in response to Tyler’s editorial, “Does Anyone Care About Backwards Compatibility?”
I myself feel betrayed. I feel many of us have been betrayed over the years, by many of those in whom we trust, or feel we do. I own Steel Battalion, a game many would not have paid $200 for at launch. Though I still own an original Xbox, the game will never be backwards compatible because of the controller connection, will only match an original Xbox, and I wouldn’t expect a company to release an adapter for an extinct product line.
My only means of playing this game when my Xbox inevitably fails will be through emulation. I may not play it soon, or even in 5 years time, but I find I do get to my back catalogue in due course. But there will be no other way than the listed method, and me splicing the cable, or finding one of the USB adaptors for PC connectivity.
In time I found I wanted to simplify my life, gaming or otherwise, and I removed complications. I have only this PC connected at this point, as an emulator and a controller work well and certainly makes things simpler. In many ways Steam has already accomplished this. Digital distribution will make many problems irrelevant, but at a cost we will discuss ahead.
At D.I.C.E last year, Gabe Newell discussed simplicity, among other things. As time moves on legacy gaming becomes more of a chore. When piracy became a simpler method of playing games I already own, then they have failed in keeping many people’s loyalty in them, or perhaps faith in their ability to adapt, without ripping people off. Steam has corrected and restored much of my faith in a working system, just as new services, such as OnLive’s potential, show me how they can be made irrelevant all over again. HDMI replaces more and more legacy connections. Composite connectors are largely gone, I’ve not seen a new S-Video connector in years at this stage, and in time no doubt Component connections will vanish as well.
I understand greatly how this is the price of technology, as anyone who has had a PC for more than 10 years of their life understand clearly. As of now though, we are burned by companies we trust, love, and respect. They despise most forms of emulation, just as they hate the used games market, this among many other reasons, is why they also look forward to digital distribution in the coming years. Also for the most part back catalogues are on the back burner, unless there is a new game coming out and they can be tied in together, seemingly largely driven just for marketing.
To be honest I didn’t buy maybe 10% of the games I own new. Most were used, unless I had read reviews for upcoming games that I was interested in, or they were an Established Franchise Release (Because not every Mario, Sonic, or Blue Bomber game can be defined a sequel anymore). Companies ignore us already, and I fear they will more often to come.
Not long ago a Senior VP at Square Enix mentioned the following:
Implying if fans truly wanted a new Chrono game, then sales of Chrono DS would reflect this. In this the man forgets I own a PSX game and a SNES game that are identical. How many times can one charge someone double, or more, before we decide against any support at all? I personally own four copies of Symphony of the Night. My first for the PSX, I acquired the Saturn version for the extra areas, even though I don’t speak Japanese, I bought it on Xbox Live, just so I didn’t need to connect my old systems all the time, and then I bought Dracula X Chronicles for the Turbo Duo version of Dracula X, and it comes with SOTN as well. I love the game, as evidenced but if I were told sales were not good enough for the PSP DXC, I’d laugh saying how I’ve given more than enough.
I’m getting off subject, but what it comes down to, is that as much as I have respect and have grown respect for many companies over the years, and it feels personal to a lot of gamers, we have been betrayed, by either broken promises, or ignoring how much we have done for them. We support these companies through thick and thin. We are the vocal ones when Congress wants hearings. We are the ones buying 4 copies or more of games, just because we love them. My greatest fear, either with cloud computing , or with console gaming, is that companies will ignore the people who have supported them, and instead gouge us again and again as mentioned by the Square VP above. How many times can one charge someone double, or more, before we decide against any support at all?
I found many, that piracy for them, wasn’t just downloading the new movie they had seen or the game they wanted, but was things they have owned. Of course it goes further than this, but where we have bought games multiple times, or we have recommended games to people, where we have continued to buy game console, and where we have gone to the theater/bookstore, when has any (music, game, movie Industry as a whole) one of these groups of people, ever given back to us for our support? Why is sub-par backwards compatibility or emulated backwards compatibility at 100%, acceptable to anyone? Why am I buying movies on Blu-Ray I owned on VHS? Why do I purchase books or music I own already? There isn’t a person I’ve met yet who didn’t understand when seeing a spindle of discs for sale somewhere, that DVD was cheaper than prior formats, no matter the type of product, and yet our prices maintain consistent, or even go up. Given the opportunity, businesses would close libraries, if they thought it would make them more money.
I love entertainment, and especially games. Don’t get me wrong, the “They make tons of money so I don’t feel bad about pirating said product” argument does not hold up on inspection, but honestly, it is hard to have any sympathy for them either, when they’re asking that I re-buy a game again and again to support their business. With a product that is made inferior through either emulation, bad porting, being on a newer system just so I can enjoy it again with some convenience, or is being made re-released to market a new game in a series from an established franchise.
The new Metroid Prime trilogy is supposed to be very good, but why are the graphics sub-par, and why is there not the option for the original controls as well as motion? Why is it okay to buy an online only game, think Steel Battalion: Line of Contact , and have its servers go down so my purchase has been rendered worthless due to time?
In summary, I believe digital distribution will help, though we have all sacrificed the fact that we used to own something, and now we license the right to use it, per the permission of the owner of said Intellectual Property, but it will get better.
At the point that is up and going well, the better question instead of Backwards Compatibility, is what if one publisher doesn’t like Steam, or Sony, or MS anymore, and pull their games from the Hardware Service you are with, do you get a refund on your purchases? Or do you wait until someone makes a deal, and until then they screw you? Will we get bad ports of games? Certainly. Will they want to charge us to play the game we own, on a portable? Likely.
If I could best sum up what I feel we need, is we need real Journalism in the gaming Industry. We have a lot of review sites, and we have a lot of commentary, but we do not have anyone asking the harder, unloved questions. Game Companies, Publishers, and others need to be held not just accountable, but need to be morally upright about what they are doing.
Where is the article where someone demanded of Nintendo if the Virtual Console, is going to be guaranteed, to be backwards compatible on the new system, not negating everyone who purchased the games for the Wii. WII (I imagined the good ole Castlevania Doubles with the subtlety to be honest), with Virtual Console 2! Xbox Live Arcade 2, re-buy all your favorite Live Arcade games, again and again! Where are the questions to publishers regarding them removing games from Steam, just as 1984 was removed from the Kindle?
The reality is I think for many of us, we forget that all of these companies are businesses. Many who work for, speak for, and appear to be made up of enthusiasts as much as ourselves, the reality is, that they are going to do what’s in their best interest, they need to survive. “The bureaucracy is expanding to meets the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”
But the answer to the question is a resounding ‘Yes!’ There are many who wanted, and begged for compatibility, either for the longevity of their games, ease of access, or really, that I didn’t want to re-buy them all someday on a download service, because they will never acknowledge that what’s best for them shouldn’t always come first, and maybe they ought to give a little back. The people I feel worst for are PSP owners, who with the PSP Go, were shafted immensely. Sony owes them an apology, but that won’t happen.
I’ll leave you with what I asked my friend tonight, who has worked in many game sales positions, and currently still is, and he said his current and consistent, top three questions asked on the job, are as follows:
1. Does my PS3 play PS2 games. He says then there is a long conversation about which PS3 model they have, and which they need to have for this to work.
2. Will my 360 play this Xbox game? Not forgetting the hard drive and Internet is a requirement for most games to work, through patches. His job is focused primarily on used and older game sales, and they have walls of PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, and older systems games.
3. Where can I find the New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I’m sure that question has a few words change every few months and that’s it.
P.S. Jonathon Blow, the creator of Braid, mentions morality in game design. Kotaku stood up to Sony when breaking the story on Playstation Home. I’d point out that the article from which I’m responding to was not when the console launched, but is now, when people likely think the least about the subject, years after many have forgotten. There is certainly good journalism, but I think for all of us who are enthusiasts, the hardcore, whatever we go by, we need to still be objective towards the subject matter, and it can be difficult. We have far more of Entertainment Tonight in gaming news, than we do of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.