Sony Exec's Slam On Old Games Misses The Appeal Of The Classics

How much effort should today's console makers put into keeping the classics in print and playable on modern hardware? There's a lot of room for debate, but one PlayStation exec just weighed in with what has to be the Worst Possible Take.

Parasite Eve. (Original image: VGMuseum)

The Take isn't just about backward compatibility, or about what Sony plans to do with its library of classics. It cuts to the heart of the appeal of older games in general.

"When we've dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much," Sony's head of global sales Jim Ryan said this week to Time.

Understandable enough, but then he goes on: "That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games," he continued, "and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?"


Gran Turismo 2. (Original image: VGMuseum)

Let's first tackle the issue of backward compatibility. Both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched in 2013 without the ability to play games from previous console generations, but Microsoft started adding backward compatibility on a game-by-game basis in 2015.

Sony doesn't seem as hot on the idea. This is a sentiment as old as console transitions themselves — us older gamers didn't really get much use out of the adaptor that let us play Atari 2600 games on our Atari 5200s. Yes, people want to feel that their "investment" in thousands of dollars' worth of previous-generation games won't become trash if they upgrade to a new game machine. But once they actually get that machine, they're generally too enticed by new games to put much time into the old ones.

So Ryan is on the right track that backward compatibility — the idea that you'd be able to just pop a PlayStation 2 disc into your PlayStation 4 and play it — probably wouldn't be a good investment on Sony's part. But then he drives right off the highway and into the weeds with his "why would anybody want to play this" assertion.

Note that we've now sped right past the specific topic of "backward compatibility", and now we're talking about "older games" in a more general sense. This rationale — games made with older technology are not appealing — is an argument against not only the ability to pop a PS2 disc into a PS4, but all straightforward re-releases of older software for new hardware. I bought a library of PlayStation 1 games for PlayStation 3 and Vita, where they are currently languishing. I have a PS4 now, and, yes, I would like to play them on Sony's most powerful gaming hardware. Yes, I do think this looks good.

Suikoden II.

We can disagree over whether we find the low-polygon Gran Turismo games appealing — they strike no nostalgic nerve in me, but you might feel the same way about the simple pixels of Super Mario Bros.. For some, low-poly is the new pixel art: Just browse through the #lowpoly hashtag on Twitter to see the burgeoning community of artists and game makers who are currently making art based around the aesthetic embodied by PlayStation 1.

Sony's strategy on PlayStation 4, so far, seems to be that these "ancient" games have to have a new coat of paint. Here's Parappa the Rapper, but "remastered". Here are some PlayStation 2 games, but with HD upscaling and Trophies — it isn't a real game without Trophies! You might appreciate these upgrades, but the increased amount of effort required to do these necessarily keeps the selection limited and the price high.

Console makers should do more to keep history alive and in print, and allow players to have legal access to as many games as is feasible on modern-day hardware. HD versions like what Microsoft recently did with Phantom Dust or Sony's new Parappa are part of that, but the one-off nature of these products doesn't work at scale.

I don't have to bust out an old reel-to-reel film projector if I want to watch Casablanca (which Ted Turner once refused to show on television unless it was colourised). We shouldn't have to hook up a PlayStation 1 to play Metal Gear Solid, either, no matter how "ancient" it looks.


    He's got a point with games like GT where there have been many sequels over the years which are all just iterations on the same game. I can't imagine why anyone would want to play GT1 when there's GT6 which is objectively better. It would be like playing FIFA 98 when you could just get FIFA 16 dirt cheap.

    But that's about where it ends. If you want to play, say, Vagrant Story, then you can't just grab last year's edition in a sale, you NEED the original and something to play it on.

    I will also point out that maybe Sony isn't getting traction with its BC library because its emulation sucks. Lets take Syphon Filter on the PS3 for example - the PS3 copy doesn't support analog control (the very first release of SF didn't, subsequent revisions did), and runs at the PSX's native resolution, with no AA\AF, upscaling or anything.

    Enter Mednefan. With Mednefan, I can increase the internal resolution pretty much as high as I like. I can add AA\AF and other filters to help with the upscaled textures, I can 'fix' the PSX's infamous 'wobbly pixels' problem that makes so many PSX games look a little shit. The same also applies to PS2 with PCSX2, and with PS3 (with the games that work anyway) with RPCSX3. I recently did this with Parasite Eve 1, and the game, whilst it was no 2017 AAA title, looked pretty great.

    All Sony needs to do is take some investment with its back catalogue and it might actually get some sales.

    Last edited 06/06/17 9:42 am

    Dude... his Take is almost Don Matrick levels of disconnect. That's a bad look.

    I wonder how much of his "people don't actually use backwards compatibility" stance comes from the lack of interest in PS now. Because fuck that service - at least Microsoft has the right idea in letting you download to your console. We aren't there yet with straight streaming of games. Nearly, at least in the states. But it's not indistinguishable from straight playing the game.

      We've gotta assume that he's got access to some metrics that we don't have that support his statement. I can't imagine he's putting too much weight on the lack of interest in PS Now.

      FWIW I've bought a lot of the HD remasters over the last few years and I've played 2 of them (FFX/X-2 and MGS). So there's at least one person who lives in the "want, not use" camp.

    Well. I guess PS Now wont be getting any more PS3 games on the service? Also PS2 games on PS4 is dead as well ;)

    Guy Said A Thing.

    Then here come the many articles using Said Thing to Say Another Thing Entirely.

    I had never heard of this bloke and don't really care about 'what' he said, but Kohler/others clearly see it as grist for the mill and want to take off on a tangent all their own.

    What Gran Turismo event, exactly? Is the PS4 getting a new one?

    Backwards compatibility is actually separate from older games and their availability/viability, Kohler is right there.

    I know because I've been told I'm becoming known it so I'll refrain from using the N word. The one that ends in 'intendo.'

    I am personally waiting for the renaissance period of the weird roto-scoping graphics or whatever the early Mortal Kombat games did. I will be in hog heaven.

    "Not used much"...yeah because you bury the classics in some arcane hard to find corner of the PSN store, when I last checked on PS4, there wasn't even a direct option to JUST search PSX or PS2 can the feature be used if people don't even know the option is there to begin with!

    Plus I bet this stupidity is why we STILL don't have bloody Legend of Dragoon on the Aussie PSN store. It's so unfair, Americans have had it for ages >.<;

    He's probably right that most games from the past are titles very few will ever play again. My Steam library is littered with games that I've played once and then never touch again - they were fun at the time but they're not titles that are worth replaying or that I feel any connection to.

    But there are titles from the dim and distant past that are still getting played today. Doom is probably the best example - a game from 1993 is still getting lots of play and new content decades after release. Then there are titles from just the last generation that people might revision, like the Mass Effect trilogy. You can't play that on PS4 (you can on the XBO or PC though).

    The cynic in me would think this is just an easy way to push 'remasters' on end users. "Hey guys, remember this game from 2 years ago? Remember how great it was? Rebuy it now for the current console generation! No real updates, it just has weird performance issues now!"

    Balderdash, graphics on older games look bad for around five to ten minutes, as you get used it it. Once you're invested, it all slips by the wayside.

    I always wonder how they get their data on the use of backwards compatibility. I get it, they don't want the consumer to go out, buy a new console (most generations at a loss to the company) only to sit around playing games they already own/pre-owned previous generation games. I recently installed a PS2 emulator on my PC so I could finish off the games I've collected but never finished over the years (mainly Silent Hill and Final Fantasy games) without having the hassle of pulling my TV cabinet out, unplugging something that gets used semi-regularly, finding a temporary spot in front of my TV to awkwardly sit the console and pulling the couch forward so the controller cords comfortably reach me.

    Offering a little backwards compatibility would really help me out, while keeping me looking at a PlayStation, thinking about all the games I have/want for that. Instead, I'm in front of a PC, thinking about my pile of unplayed Steam games.

    I find that 99% of the time when people say things like "Why would anybody want that?" or "No one does that..." what they're really saying is "I don't want or do it so I'm going to just assume everyone is like me."

    Apparently Nintendo and many other companies didn't get that memo though since they still regularly re-release old games and make money from it. Admittedly, many PS One games don't hold up that well these days but there are still quite a lot of classic games that people want to play. Maybe the problem is that Sony's choices for re-released older games are to blame, leading to no one playing them.

    The only way he could have looked any worse is if he ended his rant with "nevertheless, emulation is piracy and wrong". If they refuse to allow us to play the older games unless we have the working, ancient consoles, there's literally no other way but emulators.

    "When we've dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much," Sony's head of global sales Jim Ryan said this week to Time.

    I can only assume the reason they haven't seen it used much is because they didn't fucking bother to 'dabble' in backwards compatibility for the titles that people actually want to play.

    You're SURPRISED no-one wants to play fucking Ape Escape 2 or Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter? No-one wants to play your catalogue which doesn't include Shadow of the Colossus for PS4? Where's fucking Okami? Ico? Silent Hill? Final Fantasy 8, 9, 12? Bully? Time Splitters? Dragon Quest series? Manhunt? Disgaea? God of War? Tony Hawk?

    There's a handful of really good titles (eg: GTA series) in the PS2 classics catalogue out of 44, with the rest pure shit.

    For fuck's sake. It's like saying you set up an ice-cream stand where the flavours were vanilla, earwax, dog-vomit, and dysentery, and hardly anyone was interested.
    So I guess fucking no-one likes ice-cream, right?

    Yeah, that exec clearly doesn't realise how much of a big deal backwards compatibility is.

    Heck, almost half of the games i've purchased for my PS3 are games from the PS1/PS2 era that i simply never got around to since i didn't have to the money to buy one as a kid, now i can enjoy them emulated on my PC or with a controller on the PS3.

    If i could send a real life person to facepalm this person and make it viral, i totally would.

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