Let's Talk About: Re-Releases vs. Backwards Compatibility

As you may or may not have read a couple months back, when I was a kid, I always wanted to have a game that had real choices and real consequences. With Heavy Rain and Mass Effect 2, my dream has started to become realized. I had another idea when I was a child that was a lot more shallow, but still pretty interesting.

My main idea was that games should be available for newer systems. Just because I bought a Nintendo 64 didn't mean I didn't want to play Donkey Kong Country. Same thing when I bought a GameCube; I still wanted to play Mario 64 and Goldeneye. I know the reasoning behind them not being able to play older games, but it was a dream and I chose to dream big in that regard.

Then, when the Playstation 2 was released, something amazing happened. Sony announced that the Playstation 2 would have the capability to play original Playstation titles. Even though I didn't get into Playstation until right around the time that the Playstation 2 came out, I thought that it boded well for the future of gaming consoles.

With the next generation, every console was backwards compatible... to an extent. It seems as though emulating the previous generation has gotten more difficult, as the Xbox 360 can play select original Xbox titles, though some are very buggy and the Playstation 3 has basically forgotten all about backwards compatibility other than the original Playstation titles. The strange thing is, the only company that seems to be able to get backwards compatibility right is the company that gets smashed by most hardcore gamers, Nintendo.

Not only has Nintendo made the Gamecube work flawlessly on the Wii, including the Gamecube controller, they've been able to successfully port non-disc titles from the most classic era consoles via the Wii Virtual Console. Even though those titles must be re-bought in order to be played on the Wii, a $10 average price is small when you compare it to the convenience of being able to turn on one console and be able to play titles across several generations. Nintendo has even gained the rights to former rival game consoles like the Sega Genesis.

Instead of attempting to compete with the backward compatibility prowess of Nintendo, Sony has decided to take a different route; re-releases. The first time we saw this was with God of War Collection. This is how a re-release should be. Not only was the collection consisting of two games, but both were redone in beautiful HD and retailed for less than the normal price of a current gen game. Not only that, but the collection was released right before God of War III, which boosted sales for that title as well, which is evident since God of War III is the best selling game on any platform in 2010 thus far.

The Xbox 360 has attempted backwards compatibility in the past through a few methods, but has appeared to have completely abandoned the idea. Originally, Microsoft announced they'd slowly, but surely update their list of original Xbox titles that would work on the 360 around four times a year, but a year or so ago, they announced that no more titles would be added to the list. Microsoft also used the "Xbox Originals" downloadable series to market original Xbox titles on the 360, but with no added features, sales were poor and that series was eventually replaced with the overpriced "Games on Demand" series.

Companies appear to be shifting away from backwards compatibility and towards re-releases for one reason: money. Think about it, having a console that plays older titles doesn't earn the company any extra money, but if Bungie took Halo 1 and 2, redid them with a new layer of HD graphics and enhanced online play and maybe an extra level or map, it would sell millions of copies in the first week. Same thing if Square-Enix took Final Fantasy VII and X and put them in a package. The results would be overwhelming and gamers who missed out on older titles would be able to experience these classics in a much more accessible manner.