The PS5's inability to play games from the PS3 or earlier consoles has been made quite clear by Sony's most senior PlayStation executive.
Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, told Japanese gaming outlet Famitsu that there's a very good reason for this, And it's all about focusing on next-generation console power and features.
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He said the company had decided to focus on the PS5's unique functions during development, namely the new custom SSD and DualSense controller rather than backward compatibility. However support for the PS4 library was implemented due to its huge install base,
In response to the question of PS1, PS2 and PS3 compatibility, Ryan was quoted as saying (machine translated from Japanese):
"We have been building devices with a focus on PS5-specific engineering. Among them, PS4 already has 100 million players, so I thought that I would like to play PS4 titles on PS5 as well, so I introduced PS4 compatibility. While achieving that, we focused on incorporating high-speed SSDs and the new controller 'DualSense' in parallel. So, unfortunately, compatibility with them has not been achieved."
This unfortunate piece of news had already come to light from a Ubisoft support article, which stated clearly that “Backwards compatibility will be available for supported PlayStation 4 titles, but will not be possible for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, or PlayStation games.” However, hearing it from one of Sony's own executives means there's no room left for denying the facts.
You'll still be able to play some older games via PS Now, Sony's game streaming service. Don't confuse that with PS Plus Collection, which is a new PS Plus benefit that doesn't cost extra on top of the PS Plus subscription, but only offers a small selection of PS4 games to play.
Speaking of PS4 games, Sony claims "99%" of titles from the previous PlayStation will be playable on the PS5. That won't necessarily mean you'll be able to play your entire library of games on the PS5 at launch. But it should mean that you'll eventually be able to enjoy your collection of PS4 games on the new console.
The PS5 is currently available for pre-order, although the process hasn't been running particularly smoothly so far. It'll arrive in customers' homes and on store shelves on November 12 in the U.S., and November 19 in the U.K., sporting its super-fast SSD, the DualSense controller and its new haptic technology, as well as a small but interesting selection of launch titles.