Earlier this month, Sony finally unveiled the official release window of its next-generation console, the PlayStation 5. The successor to the PS4 is set to release in the holiday season of 2020, and Sony has been slowly unveiling some features that we can expect in its upcoming console. However, apart from the beefier technology that is housed inside the PS5, many PlayStation fans have been wondering whether the upcoming console will include the much-requested feature, backward compatibility.
As of now, Sony still hasn't talked about the feature in detail, but it previously confirmed that the PS5 will be backward compatible with the PS4. However, immediately after the release window announcement, Sony revealed that it isn't entirely sure how the feature will work on PS5. But is backward compatibility on the PS5 just limited to PS4 games? At the moment, no one knows the answer to that since Sony hasn't talked about the feature in detail. But before we speculate on what Sony should do to improve the feature in its next-gen console, let's take a step back and look at what the PS4 currently offers.
Backward Compatibility on the PS4
The PS4 has been out for six years now and everyone knows that the console does not include a native backward compatibility feature. However, with the introduction of the PS Now subscription some time ago, Sony gave PS4 players a taste of backward compatibility since the service allowed players to stream and download games from the PS3 and PS2. The only problem with PS Now for players who wish to play games from yesteryear is that subscribing to it is an additional cost, especially if players already own physical discs of games they want to play. Another barrier with PS Now is that it is only limited to select territories in North America, Europe, and Asia, with Japan being the only country in the continent to have the service.
So having said all that, it is safe to conclude that backward compatibility on the PS4 is pretty much limited. We are hoping that the PS5 would offer a more expanded feature, because if backward compatibility on the PS5 is limited to PS4 games and some titles on PS Now, then the feature is pretty much limited. It does not even compare to what the Xbox One currently offers, not to mention Microsoft's upcoming console, Project Scarlett. So what can Sony do to improve backward compatibility for the PS5?
Make Physical Discs From Previous Generations Playable
While physical PS4 discs would likely be supported on the PS5, it is still unknown whether discs from older consoles would be supported. As previously mentioned, this particular feature is already available on Microsoft's current-generation console that allows players to play select Xbox and Xbox 360 discs on the Xbox One. Microsoft was able to do this through an emulator that has been worked natively on the Xbox One. Now, if Microsoft is able to do this with the Xbox One, what is preventing Sony from doing the same on its upcoming console? One might say that Sony's previous consoles have a bigger catalog of games as compared to the Xbox.
However, it wouldn't be impossible for Sony to start with each console generation's most popular games first, and start working through smaller ones as time goes by. If the PS5 does include this feature, then it would open the console to a wider audience who may want to play games other than PS5 and PS4 titles. It would also be a good incentive for more players to purchase the PS5 at launch since the next-gen console would probably take some time before it can accumulate a steady library of games. While there is still no official confirmation from Sony as to how extensive backward compatibility on the PS5 would be, rumors have surfaced that the PS4's successor will be able to play games from the PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS4.
Expand PlayStation Now's Library And Make It Available For Everyone
If for some reason Sony is unable to include an emulator on the PS5 that will allow players to play games from previous consoles, then another option would be to revamp PS Now. As it stands, PS Now's offerings are still limited and are still yet to include games from the original PlayStation. If backward compatibility on the PS5 will be heavily reliant on PS Now then Sony must make it available to all territories to avoid excluding its fanbase on countries that do not support the service at the moment.
Sure, it would be another subscription that players would have to pay for, especially those that are already subscribed to PS Plus. But, if Sony would be committed to supporting more games with the service, and making it available to anyone who has a PS5, then the additional cost would be worth it, especially to those who are really keen on playing older games.
In the end, backward compatibility, no matter how much fans want it, is still just an added feature should Sony decide to implement it fully and extend its reach beyond the PS4. Of course, it is understandable that Sony's focus would always be on how to improve things going forward, and not backward. However, because of its tight competition with Microsoft that will include extensive backward compatibility to Xbox Scarlett, then Sony is at risk of being left behind should it decide not to include backward compatibility, or offer a limited version of the feature. Adding the ability to play its extensive back catalog of games may be an added challenge and cost to the company, but it will surely pay off in the long run and may even pull some Xbox fans to cross the other side.