Yesterday, Sony published an extremely detailed guide to PS5 backwards compatibility. Generally speaking, it’s very good news, with only a handful of PS4 games confirmed as incompatible – and, bluntly, they’re games that few will shed a tear over.
But amidst the good news, there were a handful of devils in the details. One example is game streaming. Just as the PS4 can stream games to a PS Vita, the PS4 will also be able to stream games to the PS5.
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The advantage of using Remote Play in this way, as Sony points out, is that you won’t have to use any of that precious SSD space — rumored to be just 664GB after the OS is taken into account — on PS4 games.
But there’s a downside to this. While PS4 games on PS5 generally will get a shot in the arm performance wise, games streamed from the PS4 will be the same as they ever were, minus any latency your home internet connection adds to the mix.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Game streaming means that the heavy lifting is done server side – it’s why things like Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud can theoretically run on basically anything with a screen, from the best Chromebooks to the best cheap phones. In this instance, your PS4 is the server, and your PS5 is doing the relatively menial task of displaying the stream on screen.
For that reason, people may decide that streaming PS4 games to their PS5 is a neat party trick, but one that in practice is never used. Why waste electricity powering two devices in the same house when you could get the same performance or better by just letting one console do it? Moreover, given you’ll need to keep the PS4 to stream games to PS5 anyway, why not just play them natively if the performance is the same?
Solid state drives may be expensive, but if backwards compatibility on PS5 proves to be as solid as Sony is suggesting, then most people will likely be better off trading in their PS4, and using the money on PS5 SSD expansion instead.