PS5 Digital Edition could have a big compatibility problem

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The PS5 and Xbox Series X continue to get more game announcements by the day, and both systems will facilitate current-gen game upgrades. At EA Play Live last night, we got a few new updates about FIFA 21 and Madden 21: two of this year’s most highly anticipated sports games. 

These two games could provide a glimpse into how PS4 game upgrades will work, since Sony doesn’t have a unified system comparable to Microsoft’s Smart Delivery. While the system sounds fair overall, it does have one annoying drawback: Those who buy a disc won’t be able to upgrade digitally.

Information comes directly from the EA websites on FIFA 21 and Madden 21. The next-gen upgrade system for EA Sports games is called “Dual Entitlement.” For the most part, the process is extremely simple.

If you buy a physical copy of either game on the PS4 or Xbox Series X, all you have to do is pop the disc into either the PS5 or Xbox Series X, and you’ll get a free upgrade to the next-gen version of the game. Likewise, if you buy a digital copy on a current-gen system, you’ll be able to download the upgraded version on a next-gen system for free. Your save data will carry over. You can upgrade only from PS4 to PS5, or from Xbox One to Xbox Series X, but that’s not surprising, considering that the discs, downloads and save data systems are all wholly incompatible.

There is one small snag, however, and it has to do with the PS5 Digital Edition. You’re probably familiar with this discless PS5 variant, which requires digital downloads to play. As such, if you buy FIFA 21 or Madden 21 as a PS4 disc, you won’t get a free upgrade for the PS5 Digital Edition. Without a disc drive, there’s no way to verify game ownership, after all.

This isn’t an issue with the standard PS5, or with the Xbox Series X, both of which have disc drives. As such, it seems like a pretty niche case, and EA has given players ample warning. Remember: The only way you won’t get the free upgrade is if you buy a PS4 disc, then purchase the discless PS5 Digital Edition. You can mitigate this issue by purchasing either game digitally on the PS4, or buy securing a standard PS5 when the console launches.

If this is the case for FIFA and Madden, it stands to reason that other cross-gen titles will probably face the same drawback. There doesn’t seem to be any easy way to verify disc ownership digitally. Luckily, there are two extremely simple workarounds — buying a digital copy, or getting a standard PS5 — so this shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.