EA: next-gen consoles unlikely to be backwards compatible

Electronic Arts chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen used a Q&A session at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco yesterday to discuss the publisher’s plans for next-generation consoles.

According to Gamasutra’s coverage of the event, the executive hinted at a Christmas launch for what the company’s calling "gen-four" consoles from Microsoft and Sony.

He also broached topics including the likelihood of backwards compatibility, connectivity with mobiles and tablets, and the possibility of new consoles introducing measures to combat the used games market.

"The reality 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, mainly because a lot of our titles are built around sports calendars,” Jorgensen said. “And so a FIFA, a Madden, an NCAA, an NHL title, all come out aligned with the sports calendar. And 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,” he added. “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.”

Jorgensen went on to say that, based on EA’s experience with next-gen consoles, he expects consumers “to be pretty excited” when the systems are finally exposed to the public. He also believes new console hardware will offer greater connectivity with mobile devices than we’ve seen in the current-gen.

"I do think once again without describing the new consoles... you're going to see a lot more integration between tablets, phones, and the consoles over time. You're going to see people playing on glass at the same time they're playing on the console. And there's going to be some exciting innovations around that. And I think it's going to be an extension of moving from what's in the living room to what's outside the house. Even though it might not be playing on the console, it's connected to the console in some way.”

Jorgensen also touched on recent rumours that next-gen consoles will introduce measures to block the used games market, noting: "I can't really comment on where the next generation boxes are going to be relative to used games. I will say that the trend in the business is to have that always-on connectivity and connect with a customer, and to the extent that the software identifies a certain customer is going to create some issues going down the road in the used game market. But I do believe that the consumer likes it, and it's been good for the retail channel."

Sony is expected to reveal PS4 at an event taking place on Wednesday February 20, which the company has teased will let gamers ”see the future". Check out our PlayStation 4 rumor roundup and Xbox 720 rumour roundup for all the latest leaks and speculation.