The complete break away from backwards compatibility with the current generation of consoles was definitely a shock to the gamer community. Whilst it’s true that most people don’t use their new consoles to play their old games we still wanted the opportunity. Indeed the announcement from Microsoft that the XboxOne would be able to play some 100+ titles was met with wide praise, with hopes that list would increase over time. It was enough for the wider community to start questioning what Sony would do in response as, up until then, they had been the leaders in current generation’s console war. Some details about Sony’s response have begun to leak through and it looks like they’re going a completely different route to that of Microsoft.
Certain PS2 games will be brought to the PS4 thanks to some new emulation software which Sony has developed. Indeed there are a few titles which are already available on the store which are said to be making use of it. This emulation software however won’t be capable of reading games directly from an old disc, meaning your library of old games will still require a PS2 if you want to play them. Instead Sony wants users to subscribe to their PlayStation Now service which will have a host of classic titles available. Of course when compared to the offering on the XboxOne platform this seems a little mediocre as most people aren’t looking to pay again for a game they already own.
From a business standpoint it’s easy to understand why Sony is doing this. Ever since their current generation console launched they’ve been absolutely dominating sales, almost 400% of Microsoft’s by the latest estimates. This has put Sony in a position of confidence, something which means they likely feel a lot less pressure to deliver on fan requested features. Microsoft on the other hand was backed into the corner on several things, starting with the whole disc sharing saga. In order to regain some market share they’re introducing features that they had explicitly ruled out before and whilst it hasn’t been enough to spur their sales on it has raised questions about what Sony should be doing.
Unfortunately I don’t think that the current path Sony is going down now is changing any time soon. It’s been shown time and time again that re-releases and ports like this are a pretty good moneymaker, both for the publishers and the console makers alike. Making the emulation work with current PS2 discs (I think PS3 emulation is likely out of the question for a little while) would mean that that potential revenue stream would evaporate. Given the rather heavy investment they made in developing the PlayStation Now service, what with it’s crazy rack mounted PS3 hardware, that’s money which Sony probably can’t afford to leave behind.