Backwards compatibility seems to be the ace up the Xbox Series X (opens in new tab)’s sleeve, but Sony isn’t taking it lying down and will support a back catalog of PS4 (opens in new tab) games via a system update.
At least Sony did say that on its Icelandic PS5 (opens in new tab) website, which it then scrubbed from the site. But not before some eagle-eyed Reddit (opens in new tab) users spotted it. Alongside touting “incredible graphics”, the updated web page (opens in new tab) noted PS5 users will be able to “play a back catalog of supported PS4 games with system update”.
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Sony has previously said it will support an extensive back catalog of PS4 games on the PS5 (opens in new tab), with some 4,000 games slated for such support and the top 100 of those are meant to be playable at launch. However, this website update suggests that the PS5 will need an update before you can simply get to running old games on the next-gen console.
Going by our experiences of updates with the PS4 and PS3, such processes can be a little fiddly and disruptive, with the consoles enjoying a good bout of downloading hefty patches and then undergoing a rebooting process, sometimes taking a good while to update and be ready for action. And then there’s the question as to whether a day-one update will be ready for the PS5’s launch — currently slated for a vague “Holiday 2020” — or if PlayStation fans will have to wait for Sony to roll it out.
With the Xbox Series X not only promising solid backwards compatibility across all generations of Xbox games (opens in new tab), Microsoft has also touted how some games will be up-mixed to run at 4K, 120 frames per second and get HDR applied to them. Comparatively, Sony’s backwards compatibility looks to be rather weak at this stage.
The flipside to this is Sony could instead be focusing on supporting a slew of exclusive PS5 games, something we haven’t really seen much of from the Xbox camp. With Sony scheduled to reveal a whole host of next-generation games in the first week of June (opens in new tab), it could send the Xbox Series X packing on that front. Microsoft’s game showcase at the start of May (opens in new tab) was a little lackluster, showing off only brief snippets of third-party games.
We expect to learn more details about the PS5's backward capabilities in the coming weeks, but right now there's reason to be concerned.