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PS5 just got a big backwards compatibility boost

(Image credit: Future)

While Microsoft has been pretty bullish about the Xbox Series X’s ability to play any Xbox One title alongside many 360 and original Xbox games, Sony has been a bit more cautious about the PS5. The company has so far only stated that it believes “the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5,” which sounds good, but isn’t much comfort if your personal favorite throws a tantrum when you pop the disc in.

Perhaps aware that this could be a weak spot, the company is set to make a big final push to try and close the gap. Private guidance to game developers seen by Eurogamer states that, from July 13, any PS4 title submitted for certification must also be compatible with PS5 hardware.

The term “compatible” could be a source of ambiguity, which is why Sony has provided additional documentation to explain its definition. In short, any title submitted after July 13 will not only have to run without issues on PS5, but also offer exactly the same features as it does on the previous generation. In other words, a developer can’t flag a game as compatible if the multiplayer doesn’t work, say.

To be clear, the date a game is submitted for certification is not the same thing as a release date for one fairly obvious reason: certification takes time. That means that something like, say, Ghost of Tshushima wouldn’t meet this requirement despite releasing five days after the certification cut off. (It would be pretty surprising if that particular title didn’t work, given it’s a PS4 exclusive published by Sony – but you get the point.)

For games submitted after this date, future patches must also maintain PS5 compatibility, the developer guidelines say. Sony isn’t forcing added PS5 compatibility in patches for developers which certify before this date – which would presumably just incentivize not fixing bugs – but adding support for the new console is “strongly recommended.”

How much difference this will actually make at this point in the PS4’s life cycle is open to question. Even with this change, the PS5’s backwards compatibility is some way behind the Xbox Series X, which not only promises full support for Xbox One titles, but some support for 360 and original Xbox games. On top of that, Microsoft has boasted that performance may well be boosted too, with frame rates of up to 120fps and HDR added to games published before the acronym meant anything. 

Still, for most gamers backwards compatibility is a ‘nice to have’ feature, rather than a system seller, as Sony found the hard way back in 2006 when the PS3 launched with PS2 chips inside. The chips were eventually removed and replaced with software emulation to keep costs down, and even this was eventually abandoned as the console struggled to play catch up with the runaway success of the Xbox 360.    

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.