PS5 won't have one of Xbox Series X's best features

Playstation 5
(Image credit: Sony)

If you pick up a PS5, don’t expect it to upgrade any cross-gen titles you buy for free. While Microsoft has detailed exactly how its Smart Delivery platform will work, Sony has been a little more reticent about similar features on the PS5. 

Fans want to know: If they buy PS4 games that are also available on the PS5, will they receive free upgrades and guaranteed save compatibility? And Sony’s official answer is either “no” or “maybe,” depending on how much you trust third-party developers.

Information comes from Japanese gaming site GameSpark, translated by English-language gaming site Video Games Chronicle. GameSpark talked to a Sony Interactive Entertainment spokesperson, who said that Sony “plans to be as flexible as possible in supporting any publishers choosing to provide upgrade plans.”

There are two important takeaways from that short statement. The more positive take is that Sony will let individual publishers choose whether or not to support automatic upgrades. The more negative take is that Sony won’t necessarily require or encourage automatic upgrades. Whether Sony will offer automatic upgrades for its own games is still anyone’s guess.

On its surface, this seems quite different than Smart Delivery on the Xbox Series X, with its guaranteed upgrades and clear distinction between backwards compatibility and next-gen-optimized versions of games. (We also don’t know exactly how PS4 backwards compatibility will work, so buying late-gen PS4 games sounds like an at-your-own-risk proposition.) But it’s important to remember: Microsoft also doesn’t require Smart Delivery for its games. At present, only about a dozen games are guaranteed to work with it, and we know that some games (Madden 21, for example) won’t have it at all.

The major difference, then, is that Microsoft has committed to Smart Delivery for its own first-party games, and explained exactly how the process will work. Right now, it seems like some PS4 games will get free PS5 upgrades, while others won’t, but we don’t know which games fall into which category, or what kinds of features the “free upgrade” titles will have.

Unlike the Xbox One, which was backwards compatible with many Xbox 360 games, the PS4 wasn’t backwards compatible with the PS3. As such, we don’t really have a Sony roadmap to follow when it comes to backwards compatible games and cross-save abilities. Sony has previously stated that the PS5 should support the vast majority of PS4 games, but hasn't outlined which specific titles will be compatible at launch.

It seems reasonable to think that if a PS4 game also works on PS5, there will be some way to carry over your save data. But the process may not be automatic, as it is on the Xbox systems. It may also cost money, as Sony currently requires a PlayStation Plus subscription to back up save data in the cloud.

Granted, having to finish a game on a current-gen console isn’t the most arduous task in the world. But some clarity about PS5 game upgrades would still be nice, if only so players know how quickly they should aim to get through games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

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. 

  • BossLogic83
    I own but don't play an Xbox console....I still own a PS3 and PS4 Pro.........I don't care the PS5 won't be fully backwards compatible. I have the ability and hdmi ports to have them all connected at the same time but I haven't played my PS3 since PS4 was released. Will probably stop playing my PS4 Pro once I get the PS5. So in essence, Sony has not lost anything yet.