Backwards compatiblity for next generation consoles? Don't count on it, says Electronic Arts' chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco this week (via Gamasutra), Jorgensen dropped a few hints as to the contents of what he calls "gen-4" machines, given current market trends.
"The reality is, is that fiscal year 2014 will still be a fairly large gen-three if there's a console business that comes in at the tail end of the year," Jorgensen observed at one point. "Mainly because a lot of our titles are built around sports calendars. And so a FIFA, a Madden, an NCAA, an NHL title, all come out aligned with the sports calendar."
As a consequence, he went on, consumers won't rush to upgrade while there are compelling titles on current generation platforms. "If a next-gen console doesn't come out until next Christmas, most people won't wait. 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."
"An important thing to remember is that next-gen consoles will most likely not be backwards compatible..." Jorgensen added, without elaboration. "And if you [play] multiplayer on a game, you'll most likely not be able to play with someone on a different generation.
"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.
"And I think that works for us positively in both ways," he concluded. "It helps us continue to sell gen-three products, and it will help us sell gen-four product as that cycle finally gets into place."
Ensuring backwards compatibility for a console can be an expensive business. Either you build the old tech into your new machine, or you commit to issuing software updates for each of the titles in your old catalogue. Microsoft announced that it was "winding down" original Xbox compatibility efforts in 2008.