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PS5 backwards compatibility just gave Xbox Series X a big win

PS5
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One of the biggest triumphs for the Xbox Series X and PS5 launches has been both companies’ commitment to backwards compatibility. But now it appears Microsoft's console has extended its lead on this front.

There’s a tiny minority of PS4 games that misbehave, and an even smaller number of Xbox One games that won’t work, but for the most part it’s a great little extra for early adopters looking to catch up on all the great games they missed in the last console generation.

But it’s now clear that Microsoft has an advantage here. 

While both consoles are capable of playing last-gen games at higher frame rates than ever before, it seems that developers are only unlocking the potential for the Xbox Series X version. Last week Activision patched in 120 frames per second support for Call of Duty: Warzone on Xbox Series X, but not PS5 – and now Rocket League gets the same treatment.

Eurogamer has a good idea of why. While Activision wouldn't comment, Rocket League developer Psyonix was a lot more candid. It seems that the process is far simpler on Microsoft’s hardware than it is on Sony’s, and for Psyonix the extra hurdles involved mean it’s not viable at the moment.

“Our team's main focus this year was our recent free to play transition and updating major features like our Tournaments system,” the company said. “Due to this we had to make tough decisions on what else we could achieve. Enabling 120hz on Xbox Series X|S is a minor patch, but enabling it on PS5 requires a full native port due to how backwards compatibility is implemented on the console, and unfortunately wasn't possible due to our focus elsewhere.”

As Eurogamer points out, Sony could change this if it wanted to – PSVR games can run at 1080p at up to 120Hz – but it would be a serious undertaking on the company’s part, and it seems unlikely that the company would bother at this point. Backwards compatibility seems important right now because of the limited number of PS5 games, but it will gradually fade in relevance over time, and the company is probably better served working on other fixes and quality-of-life improvements that will help in the long run.

On top of that, it’s worth remembering that there’s a limit on the number of people who can enjoy 120 fps gameplay anyway. Most television sets are locked to 60Hz, which caps frame rates to 60fps. And while the best TVs with HDMI 2.1 ports that support the 120Hz 4K signal are now available, the vast majority of people won’t have them any time soon. 

For those that do, and those with a large library of last-generation games, it seems that the Xbox Series X is the way to go.   

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.