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PS4 might get PS3 backwards compatibility after all thanks to Gaikai

Rumours that the PS4 games console, expected to be unveiled by Sony at an event in the US tomorrow, will not support last-generation PlayStation 3 games may not be entirely true, it has emerged this week.

Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer of games publishing giant Electronic Arts, went on record last week as stating that neither the Xbox 720 nor the PlayStation 4 would play current-generation games, leaving gamers upgrading from Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 consoles with a useless back-catalogue of games unless they're willing to keep the last-generation device underneath their TV.

It's a move with precedent: while Sony's PlayStation 3 originally launched with support for a sub-set of PlayStation 2 games, this was removed in later models; likewise, Microsoft's rival Xbox 360 included software-based backwards compatibility for selected Xbox games, and while Microsoft added titles to the list regularly at launch it has been a long time since the compatibility list received an update.

Currently, the only company that has complete backwards compatibility is Nintendo: its last-generation Wii console supported almost all GameCube games, and while the latest Wii U ditches this support it does include full compatibility with Wii titles.

While EA's comments as to a lack of backwards compatibility on the PlayStation 4 make sense, given Sony's abandoning of same on the PlayStation 3 and claims that the console will use an AMD x86-architecture processor rather than the incompatible Cell chips of its predecessor, it may not be entirely true. Details obtained by the Wall Street Journal suggest that Sony's next-generation games console will support last-generation titles - but only through a partnership with cloud gaming giant Gaikai.

Sony acquired Gaikai, a company which promises to bring PC-quality gaming to consoles, tablets and smartphones by doing the hard computational work on remote servers and streaming the resulting video to the client device, in July last year, making it highly likely that the PlayStation 4 will launch with Gaikai support. This latest rumour suggests that this support will be used to enable PlayStation 3 compatibility by running the games on Gaikai's servers when a disc is detected.

While such a solution would require an always-on internet connection, it's certainly better than no backwards compatibility at all - and with Sony expected to unveil the PlayStation 4 tomorrow, fans won't have long to wait to see if the claims are true.

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