Jun 11, 2021 - Technology

"Why would anybody play this?": PlayStation boss' most notorious quote

Screenshot of a scene from a video game with a red car racing on a track and meters in graphics around it

"Gran Turismo 2" from the original PlayStation. Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Jim Ryan, Sony's head of PlayStation, wants people to know that he doesn't hate old video games.

Why it matters: A dismissive quote about older PlayStation games has dogged Ryan for years and been used to boost theories as to why Sony has not supported its back catalog of games as well as rivals Microsoft and Nintendo.

  • In a 2017 interview with Time, Ryan recalled seeing versions of the PlayStation racing game series "Gran Turismo" running side-by-side on PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS4.
  • "The PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?" he said at the time.

"It goes with the territory, but I get a little bit frustrated at still being hit over the head with this one," he told Axios.

  • "The point I was trying to make — obviously not very well — was just how great the PS4 version looked and how far the series had evolved. I certainly wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to our heritage."
  • He points to PS5 launch game "Astro's Playroom," in which players collect classic items of PlayStation's past, as proof the company supports its past.

The questions about Sony's belief in its back catalogue have merit.

  • While the Xbox Series S and X run games from all prior Xbox generations, the PS5 only supports PS4 natively, with select PS3 and PS2 games only running via a paid streaming service.
  • "What is important to recognize when considering this question about designing a new platform, is that time, engineering resource, and money are all finite, and that important trade-offs have to be made in terms of what’s included, and what's not," Ryan said, before listing some of the PS5's cooler features.
  • He said the PS5's compatibility with PS4 games was due to fans' "real desire" for that support. But he had no comment on whether Sony had plans to officially enable compatibility with PS1 games in any way.

What's next: Ryan pointed to the PS4 remake of a classic PS2 "Ratchet & Clank" game, plus an original sequel on PS5, as a model Sony likes.

  • "We believe this approach keeps our IP fresh and contemporary," he said.
  • As for that old quote: "I guess my big learning from all of this is that when Kazunori Yamauchi unveils the next 'Gran Turismo' side by side with its history, that I will keep my mouth shut."

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