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Computer Games Technology

Backwards-compatibility or forwards-compatibility: choose either one

(or “Why you should never change your hardware platform”)

As reported at play, GTA IV was tested as being 100% compatible with the current model of PS3, but unfortunately not with any of the older (60Gb) versions which retained PS2 compatibility via hardware custom chips.

Sony is no stranger to making significant internal changes to its consoles – there is a fairly large list of titles which won’t work on the most recent PS2 (which during its lifetime lost i.LINK/Firewire ports and gained then subsequently lost the ability to host an internal hard disc).

However, people did worry as Sony were flailing around in an attempt to finalise the Playstation 3 spec after it had launched that they were setting themselves up for a fall – and these recent events do seem to bear this out. The fix – a firmware update – will probably make the problem itself fairly short-lived, but the greater damage is to the already tattered image of the platform: The PS3 is now the console which doesn’t run GTA as well as the Xbox 360. In the battle to win hearts and minds, this really isn’t good.

(And it has to be asked – why wasn’t GTA tested against all hardware revisions, and why wasn’t this problem picked up before launch? I’d imagine that it can only be because Sony wasn’t telling developers to test their products against older consoles. The question is whether early-adopters will find more games that won’t work in the future, and how motivated Sony will be to fix glitches which might occur in less high-profile titles…)

Can Microsoft avoid similar issues as it process-shrinks the Xbox and adds Blu-ray drives for the ‘Jasper’ release?

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