PS5 backwards compatibility could go all the way back to PS1 — here’s how

(Image credit: Sony)

While Microsoft’s Xbox Series X appears to be offering comprehensive multiple generation-spanning backwards compatibility, the PS5’s support for older games seems more constrained. But a Sony patent has suggested that PS1, PS2, and PS3 support could be delivered on the PS5 though cloud power. 

Spotted by Twitter user Renka_schedule and flagged by IGN, the patent effectively suggests older PlayStation hardware could be put into servers and used to support a “cloud gaming library” of older games. This would mean emulating older consoles virtual machine ”that mimics the operating system associated with each game console". 

Taking the cloud-powered approach would enable Sony to bring comprehensive backwards compatibility to the PS5 without needing to bake it in at the hardware level. There’s a chance that this could then avoid the need for expensive development into a feature that some PlayStation gamers might not use; as much as backwards compatibility is a nice-to-have, we expect a lot of people will be more focussed on newer titles on the upcoming consoles. 

It’s worth noting that Sony already offers a similar cloud-powered streaming service in the form of PlayStation Now, which allows PS2, PS3, and PS4 games to be streamed to PCs and the PS4; you can download some PlayStation Now titles on the PS4 as well. So it’s arguably not a huge step for Sony to expand this for the PS5, though it would mean bringing PS1 game support into the mix. 

Renka_schedule also flagged that another patent has information pertaining to how users of the backwards compatibility streaming feature will then be able to record their gameplay and share such clips with their friends through the cloud. It would be easy to see how such a feature would work with the ‘Create’ button on the PS5’s DualSense controller.  

Whether this cloud service would be a free and native feature on PS5 or if it would be bundled into PlayStation Now as an extra feature to the subscription service remains to be seen. And given that this is just a patent, there’s a good chance that this might not be something Sony pursues, though it would give it a compelling service to challenge Microsoft’s xCloud game streaming due for a full release later this year.  

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.