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Maya has generally been good about backwards compatibility, unless something like a new skinning technology has been used in your scene – sending a dual quaternion skin to Maya 2009 will just show a mess, for example. But Maya 2013 introduces new flags into the file format that will probably break backwards compatibility, even with “ignore version” checked. This is why GoZ also doesn’t work from Maya 2013 to ZBrush (until Pixologic issues a fix).
I learned this the hard way during beta testing and now again with a different scene. I like to use newer versions of Maya to do modelling and then send stuff back to the version with V-Ray until Chaos Group issues a new plug-in. This won’t work anymore – it crashes Maya trying to import or open the very simple 2013 .ma scene. So, be warned - if you have a team of people working on Maya, 2013 effectively forces you all to upgrade at once. Place conspiracy theories here.
Update: there is a workaround for this now. Blog post here:http://polygonspixelsandpaint.tumblr.com/post/28629598569
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