EA CFO Talks Next-Gen & Used Games; No Backwards Compatibility

Feb 12, 2013 by  

Electronic Arts CFO - No Next Gen Backwards Compatibility

With talk of next-gen consoles significantly heating up in recent weeks, thanks in part to Sony’s ‘See the Future’ teaser trailer, developers and publishers have begun teasing the futures of consoles as well. While they can’t give any specifics, or confirm some of those rumored specs that have been flying around out there, they can speak in broad generalizations.

And that’s just what Electronic Arts‘ Chief Financial Officer, Blake Jorgensen, did at a recent Q&A session. While Jorgensen’s boss, John Riccitiello, has said the publisher was “investing heavily” in the next generation of consoles, namely the Xbox 720 and PS4 (sorry Wii U), Jorgensen spoke a little more about peripheral elements involving the next-gen.

Some of Jorgensen’s talk dealt with EA’s next-gen costs, but most of the more interesting tidbits were in regards to software. For example, Jorgensen revealed that Frostbite has become their de-facto, proprietary engine. Moreover, EA has moved Frostbite over to what they call “gen-four” (an internal shorthand for mentioning the next generation of consoles), which should make development that much easier.

“Moving Frostbite up to gen-four was a big task, but once you’ve done that, you now can do that across multiple titles as long as they’re using the Frostbite engine. That’s been going on over the last year. The early look on some of those products is spectacular. It will be interesting to see how it plays out as it ultimately gets finished.”

One of the more interesting things that Jorgensen revealed, or at least speculated upon, is the backwards compatibility of next-gen consoles. It’s been such a long time that gamers haven’t thought about backwards compatibility, yet it’s likely to be become a hot button issue in the next few months.

Unfortunately, gamers will likely be hearing so much about backwards compatibility because it isn’t coming to next-gen consoles. Or at least that’s what Jorgensen thinks.

“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.”

Jorgensen doesn’t clue gamers in to his line of thinking on the matter, but if there is anyone that might know it’s him.

Jorgensen also touched briefly upon the used games market and how it will be impacted by the next-gen. While rumors thus far have suggested both Microsoft and Sony are seeking out options that would block used games, Jorgensen doesn’t see that happening any time soon.

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He acknowledges that used games hurt sales numbers for EA, but, at the same time, the best alternative — digital distribution — is not yet feasible for all consumers. Maybe as Internet bandwidth and speeds increase, and storage capacity is significantly ramped up, used games can be phased out effectively, but until then EA needs retailers support.

“It’s one of these classic double-edged swords. In one way the used game business has been critical for the health of the retail channel, and having a healthy retail channel is an important thing for us. The business will probably never be 100 percent digital. Bandwidths are a constraint, and will continue to be a constraint for many years to come, which hold back the ability to do full digital downloads of some games. So at the end of the day, it’s storage capacity. Unless you’ve got a giant storage server in your house, keeping hundreds of games can tax your storage capacity. And so having a healthy retail channel out there like GameStop or Best Buy or others is important, and to the extent that used games is important to them, I think that’s a positive.”

On the one hand, Jorgensen’s comments should please gamers concerned about the lack of used game support in consoles. But at the same time, talk of no backwards compatibility is likely to ruffle a few feathers. That said, whatever gives gamers the lowest cost, and the best experience, should win out in the end.

Would you be disappointed if next-gen consoles were not backwards compatible? Do you think used games support is a major issue?

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Source: Gamasutra

23 Comments

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  1. Backwards support is a major issue for me. Whilst my PS3 slim can’t play PS2 games, the graphics on those are now so dated and horrible I don’t think it matters.

    A lot of PS3 games I own are visually gorgeous (and will remain so) AND part of a series; with these series’ likelihood at carrying on into the next gen, “disappointed” doesn’t cover how I feel at their loss if I were to upgrade.

    Also, what’s the point buying the last hurrahs for this gen later in the year- Tomb Raider, Last of Us- if they’re not compatible?

  2. Dear EA, without Gamestop selling me use games like Dead Space and Battlefield I would have never purchased them new because I didn’t want to try them until they were cheaper. Thanks to the used game market I bought dead space 2 and 3 new and when Battlefield 4 comes out I will buy it also new. So there you go EA, without the used game market I would have never bought any of those games. Would you have preferred that alternative EA?

  3. The one thing gamers ask for every year, they wont provide. This is ridiculous. Now all of my PS3 and 360 games will go to waste. Not to mention all of the titles that are coming soon and later this year and early next year.

  4. I never thought the “gen-four” consoles would be backwards compatible. The 720 & PS4 are basically PCs under the hood, unlike the 360 and PS3, which use proprietary hardware. They are so fundamentally different that to expect them to be compatible is wishful thinking.

    Could they build a built in emulator to run the older titles? Sure they could, but it probably wouldn’t run much better than the PS3 and 360 emulators available for the PC right now, as in ‘not very well’.

    • Exactly.

      I’m still looking forward to next gen, because I know I can just…

      wait for it…

      …keep my previous gen console. Big shock.

  5. Sony and Microsoft idiots. Why would someone buy a PS4 or Xbox 720 when they’ve perefectly got a wide range of games that they already own and they won’t be able to play them on a new system? just plain stupid. Shows how much the industry have becme a place for green faces.

    • With this logic, no one would’ve bought PS3 or Xbox 360. Or are you being sarcastic?

  6. I would rather spend money on a new desktop and video cards. I can always play classics on my PC. They are getting a bit greedy. Most people would give/sell away old consoles to other people, they would buy “points” or online service to either. I see it as a win, win. No backwards, no bueno.

  7. ….i honestly dont mind the lack of backwards compatibility…..i never sell my old consoles…..

    • I hear you, me too. It’s really not that big of deal for me either. If I want to play a game, I play it on the console it was designed for. I do play Gamecube games on my Wii however, only because component cables for the Gamecube are outrageously priced. I refuse to pay upwards of $150 for a set of cables. I’m holding out, hoping I can find a set in the wild someday.

      • independent store by where i live (NY,NY,USA,10032) sells them for about $20.00

  8. Not the end of the world for backwards compatibility.. It’s become far too easy to call the Develolers greedy and point the finger at Microsoft and Sony for not including it. A lot more goes into providing this feature than we think (hardware/software emulation of the previous console) and we’ve forgotten this because the past 3 console generations utilize similar formats: discs.

    Case in point…did anyone attempt to cram an SNES cartridge in their N64 and get upset that it didn’t fit?

    On another note, I’m not quick to get rid of any of my consoles simply because a new one came out. Is this common?

  9. Not the end of the world for backwards compatibility.. It’s become far too easy to call the Develolers greedy and point the finger at Microsoft and Sony for not including it. A lot more goes into providing this feature than we think (hardware/software emulation of the previous console) and we’ve forgotten this because the past 3 console generations utilize similar formats: discs.

    Case in point…did anyone attempt to cram an SNES cartridge in their N64 and get upset that it didn’t fit?

  10. While backwards compatibility is not a big issue to me because I can afford to have both last gen and next-gen systems, I can see where a lot of consumers will have difficulty with this. That part covered though, used games had better work on the next-gen console or else I will stay with my last gen or any competitor that supports used game play on their system. This is a definite deal breaker for me and mine. To the extent so much that I’m ready to replace console gaming with something else once my kids and I exhaust our current large category of games to get through. The direction the industry is going in is really starting to piss us off anyways and were growing tired of it. It’s taking the attraction away with all the associated extra cost now after initial purchase not to mention that MS customer service is not consumer friendly. The lack of easy and open service really gets more dramatic when I consider I’ve been paying for three Xbox Live accounts now for years. You would think they would bend over backwards for us but that’s not the case at all.. These factors are what will make it easier to replace gaming with something else unless Sony gets smart and does everything the better for the consumer than MS. Storage, bandwidth, and always on Internet availability is not smart either for me. I’m always going to want physical copies of the games and don’t currently care for Steam, Origin, and the like. If they want to do it for piracy or to cut out the middle man then so be it but I won’t be there to support it. I could be completely wrong but it seems as though they are thinking they can do whatever the hell they want because the consumer is so addicted to gaming they’ll throw money into it no matter how tight they place the noose around our necks! Sorry folks but that’s the last thing I will tolerate. In fact, I personally won’t and they can have their systems, games, and service and my family will move on! It’s still a fledgling industry by any standard yet things are happening and being considered that could quickly kill it out in an instant if they were to lose even a third or so of their base in my opinion. That would be an industry and economic nightmare but as I see it, their playing with fire right now. People are seriously paying attention and not thinking or seeing a lot of positives right now for the consumer in regards to the direction next-gen may TRY to make us go.

  11. A lack of backwards compatibility for me isn’t much of an issue. I keep games and consoles for life, and play them all pretty regularly. No used games however is a huge issue because I’m still picking up games that came out 20 years ago and a used game ban would render me unable to play next gen games 20 years from now.

  12. Does anyone realize that backward compatibility will make the console more expensive?

    Just keep your old console.

    My thoughts:
    No backward compatibility? Fine
    Always on internet? Definitely no. Connections drop sometimes from an outside source. Could kill the experience and just be flat out annoying.
    Used games blocking? If I can’t rent games, I need demos that arrive on time and/or digital timed trials of the full game for a small price. And Steam-like discounts.

    Just me though. I understand others live under different circumstances.

  13. I doubt i’d buy another non backwards compatable console but so far sony is the only one to really do it.

  14. Personally, it annoys me to know that backwards-compatibility is being removed, though at least this time they’re stating it before launch instead of modifying the hardware like Sony did with the PS3 (original models were backwards-compatible).

    Xbox did have backwards-compatibility on some games, which was nice, or they were put up on the marketplace for digital download; also nice. I would like to see the bigger titles from the 360 be playable on the new console, much like the more expensive models of the 360 currently can.

    Used game support should be included; that’s just being greedy if it isn’t, considering not everyone can fork out $60+ for a game, though they could still get it used for about $20 less. More importantly, how would they tell if it’s a used game? A piece of software that allows the game to only be used on a certain number of consoles, much like some computer programs that have multiple-use serial keys? If so, then what if a console breaks? Now a gamer’s out possibly hundreds of dollars in games because they’re technically ‘used’ once inserted into another console.

    • @ArenTheFox

      Good point about the console breaking. Maybe link it to the account?

      • That would be one way, though Xbox already does that with any purchases by registering the download on the first console it’s downloaded on, but if you get a new one, it requires an internet connection to play, even if signed in on the same account, so if the new Xbox tracks disks a similar way, the same problem is likely to occur…

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