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Sony’s Confusing PS5 Strategy for Old-Gen Games Disappoints

  • PlayStation CEO confirms PS5 won’t support backward compatibility for PS1, PS2, and PS3 games.
  • Backward compatibility will be limited to 99% of PS4 titles.
  • The CEO notes implementation hurdles, catering to PS4 players, and maximizing the PS5’s next-gen features as the reasons behind the decision.

Here’s another one to add the ‘you coulda communicated that better, Sony’ pile: the PS5 won’t feature backward compatibility with PS3, PS2, and PS1 games. Despite the PS5 tag line, play certainly has limits.

The news doesn’t exactly come as a surprise; many expected as much. But, for the first time, Sony outright confirmed it, free of the open-ended statements we’ve had to date on the topic that led to speculation that Sony may be preparing a last-minute surprise.

PS5
PS5 won’t feature backward compatibility support beyond PS4 games. | Source: PlayStation/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Speaking in an interview with Japanese gaming outlet Famitsu following Thursday’s PS5 showcase, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan explained as much, confirming backward compatibility with 99% of PS4 titles, though not further back for games from Sony’s original trio of consoles.

Famitsu nudged Ryan about compatibility with previous generation titles, to which Ryan responded:

“We keep in mind the engineering specialized for the PS5, as we produced the device. In the midst of that, the PS4 already has 100 million players; we thought they ought to want to play PS4 titles on the PS5 as well indeed, so we included compatibility with the PS4. While implementing that, we also focused our efforts on taking in the high-speed SSD and the new controller DualSense at the same time. So, unfortunately, we couldn’t reach the implementation of such compatibility.”

PS5 Backward Compatibility Snub

The wording suggests a lack of time and technical hurdles paved the way for Sony’s backward compatibility snub. The response doesn’t specify to what extent the company explored compatibility with PS3 and earlier games.

In 2017, Jim Ryan made clear that he doesn’t see the value in playing older titles, noting in an interview at the time:

“When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”

The CEO’s most recent statement also dashes hopes that Sony had achieved PS5 compatibility beyond PS4 titles by emulating them through a comprehensive revamp of PS Now. The speculation arose thanks to several rumors and even a patent filed by Sony, hinting that the company had, at least, considered the possibility.

It’s likely PS Now will continue to offer an anemic selection of older PlayStation games, but nothing on par with what the rumors suggested.

Why Sony opted to draw out the backward compatibility mystery for so long is unclear. It’s a further example of Sony’s dissonant messaging emerging around a showcase intended as PlayStation’s big moment.

The news is yet another addition to the string of fumbles over the last 48 hours: the pre-order kerfuffle, the not-so-exclusive PS5 games now heading to PS4, and the confusion around which platforms Demon’s Soul and Final Fantasy XVI will release on.

Samburaj Das edited this article for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us.

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