Sony and Backward Compatibility: Preparing for the PlayStation 5

Sony used to offer great backward compatibility support, but that’s no longer the case. This is making would-be PS5 owners uncertain about the future of their PS4 library of games.

Sony and Backward Compatibility: Preparing for the PlayStation 5

Backward compatibility and expiring media systems is a problem gamers are all too familiar with. For a lot of gamers, cultivating a library of video games is part of the fun of being a gamer. But not all console manufacturers have embraced backward compatibility with open arms. One such manufacturer, at least as of recent years, is Sony.

Now, with the impending release of the PlayStation 5, gamers are wondering what this might mean for their collection of games. Will Sony embrace backward compatibility and if so, to what lengths?


The PlayStation 4 has a host of excellent exclusive titles that would be a shame to leave behind.

To answer this question, we need to look back to when it all started, the PlayStation 2. When the PS2 launched in March of 2000 in Japan, and then in October in North America, the system was set up to play original PlayStation games. Not only that, but gamers could still use their old DaulShock controllers in this fancy new system.

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The backwards compatibility allowed gamers to play a huge backlog of original titles while also enjoying new releases. This is obviously the main appeal of the program. Not only do gamers get the pleasure of experiencing cutting-edge titles, but they get to take their favorite games with them to a new system.

PlayStation 3

The behemoth that was the original PS3 released to mixed impressions.

Then the PlayStation 3 came out. The console was heavily criticized, with reviewers, developers, and gamers alike balking at the price and the difficulty of developing for the system. To make matters worse, the backward compatibility was a less than stellar experience.

Only certain models of the PS3 supported backward compatibility, and then later models dropped the feature entirely. If a gamer wanted to play a PS1 or PS2 game, they would need to have either of those systems.

Contrast this to what Microsoft was doing at the time, and it was clear that Sony was in hot water. The Xbox 360 was a resounding backward compatibility success, with clear support for original Xbox titles. Gamers could still play Halo 2 on their Xbox 360 all while waiting for the release of Halo 3.

Halo 2 concept art

Halo 2 players could use their original Xbox disc in their Xbox 360. A small download and they were off and playing.

This stumble led to a full on face-plant with the PlayStation 4. Sony’s latest system offered no backward compatibility.

In an interview with Time, Sony global sales chief Jim Ryan commented on classic PlayStation games like Gran Turismo stating, “They looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?” This was in regards to providing backwards compatibility, a feature Ryan claimed was highly requested but doesn’t actually get used.

While Sony wouldn’t offer a backwards compatibility program like their competitor Microsoft, the manufacturer did put energy into reselling some older titles through PlayStation Now. Players couldn’t use their own discs, but they could buy their own games again.

With PlayStation 5 on the horizon, and Sony’s distancing itself from backward compatibility, gamers are no doubt getting antsy about a new system potentially ditching some PS4 classics.

Since it was revealed, rumors have been circulating that Sony will be looking to implement some sort of backwards compatibility with the PlayStation 5. Eurogamer states that the console will support backwards compatibility at least with “seemingly all PS4 games,” which should put some minds at ease.

However, until Sony confirms the existence of backward compatibility on the PS5, it’s all just hearsay and speculation. One thing is for certain though, including backwards compatibility would help Sony compete with Microsoft’s own back compat program.

Horizon shot of forest and telescope installation from Outer Wilds

Though older games might not get played as much as new titles, supporting backwards compatibility is a good move for the player.

In terms of whether support for this type of feature is worth it to Sony, sometimes value means more than just numbers. Supporting a minority group of gamers is always a good thing. Though the program might not be used as much as other features, it’s still worth it to be able to pop in a copy of Little Big Planet and play it without having to dig out a PS3.

The release of the PlayStation 5 is still several months away, if not more than a year, so there’s still time for plenty of news to be announced regarding various features. While a lot of gamers will no doubt be excited to play the latest and greatest games, there are those that want to have the option to play their older titles, too. All we can do now is hope that Sony is able to implement backwards compatibility in the PlayStation 5.

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