One hot topic when a new console cycle begins is what to do about all those old games people have accumulated; do we need to keep everything plugged in, or will we be able to enjoy them on our fancy new hardware? If you’re a Sony fan, you now have an answer. According to a report by Digital Foundry, Sony’s streaming service, there are plans to introduce backwards compatibility for PS1 and PS2 games via local emulation software onto the PS4. This is really fantastic news for PS4 customers, as well as for retro fans who want to go back and enjoy classic games from years past.
Having a local emulation service provides an opportunity for a generation who perhaps missed some of this era’s titles the first time around. This, plus the technical benefits of emulating locally as opposed to on a streaming service, points towards a savvy PR move that could really push the PS4 over the top as the must-have console for video game enthusiasts.
While that’s awesome as it is, I get really excited when I put my Librarian hat on. As video game collections in libraries grow, there is also a growing concern about what to do with older games that no longer circulate. Libraries have established weeding processes for out-of-date books, movies, and other materials that help us maintain balanced and relevant collections. Because games are still a new format, and because many library professionals are learning how best to build and develop video game collections with a long-term view, it can be a challenge deciding what should stay and what should go.
This is a challenge compounded by the lack of compatibility between systems, which means that many historically significant games end up falling to the wayside. As an example, the first wave of games in my library consisted of many PS2 titles. Eventually, they ended up being weeded due to their age, wear-and-tear, and need to make room for the next console cycle. Having a simple emulation option on the PS4 for these older games definitely has the potential to alleviate many of these concerns. The PS1 and PS2 were both wonderful systems, and the latter has the single biggest game library of any console in history, so there is an unprecedented opportunity to properly archive and maintain console titles from the sixth generation.
One concern that exists is the lack of a physical copy of a game. It’s certainly not a new issue, but it is something many video game enthusiasts struggle with. Me personally, I couldn’t care less. I hate having my shelves full of a bunch of games I will likely never play again, but I know a number of people who
hoard collect old games as a hobby and display them with pride. This is not much of an issue really though, because the odds are anybody who collects large numbers of games probably also collects the consoles which play them.
On the library side of things, there is not necessarily a problem with having a digital collection of games that can be accessed via one console, aside from licensing for multiple users. Thanks to E-books however, there is some precedence for dealing with this. Where the real challenge lies however is what happens if a publisher (or Sony for that matter) suddenly decides that they don’t want their game to be available anymore and pulls it. This is an aggravating reality of working with publishers, but unlike books or CDs, with many of these games there are no physical copies available as a backup.
Libraries like mine are developing strong video game collections, and here’s hoping this news about emulation on the PS4 can help make them deeper by ensuring older games are represented as well as the new hotness.