It's easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of rumors and speculation that go along with potential next-gen console announcements. But when something comes from an actual industry source — and a powerful one at that — you tend to listen a little more closely. Unfortunately, what Electronic Arts CFO Black Jorgensen had to say may not sit well with many. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Jorgensen gave us a strong indication that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 will "most likely" not support backwards compatibility.
The speculation arose when Jorgensen addressed the issue of EA customers upgrading to next-gen consoles right away and how it could effect the company's sports titles. He explained that because the FIFA, Madden, NCAA, and NHL franchises all align with sports calendars, and not the typical game release calendar, it won't really effect sales. According to Jorgensen, most people "won't wait" to purchase the game.
"They'll want to be involved in getting those titles early, because their friends are all playing those titles, and because they're being played on a current generation's consoles," he said. He then raised the issue of backwards compatibility and how it likely won't be supported with next-gen consoles.
"An important thing to remember is that next-gen consoles will most likely not be backwards compatible… And if you [play] multiplayer on a game, you'll most likely not be able to play with someone on a different generation," he said. "And so if you're a FIFA player and, and the soccer season's starting in August, and all your friends are playing FIFA, you're going to want to be on the same box that they're on. So if they all go out and buy a gen-four box if it comes out at Christmas, then you'll most likely do it. If they all hold on and continue to play on third-generation, you'll probably not see that box purchase until after the soccer season's over."
From a business standpoint, it's easy to understand why Sony and Microsoft would lean towards this option. By not supporting older physical copies of games, it presents them the opportunity to resell many of the older titles as digital downloads. If you haven't noticed already, it's a pretty popular tactic for the PlayStation 3.
Neither Sony nor Microsoft have officially announced their next-gen plans yet, but Sony is set to hold a press event on February 20th where they are expected to finally unveil the next Playstation. If they do announce the PS4, it will be interesting to see what they choose to reveal. Will backwards compatibility be one of the issues? While certainly an important factor, I don't think the ability to play older titles weighs as heavily as, say, the ability to play pre-owned games — which has also been a major topic of discussion and rumor. I think many would agree that the blocking of used games would be suicide for the next-gen.
Would you purchase a next-gen console if it is not backwards compatible?