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Here’s why the PS5 likely won’t be backwards compatible with every PlayStation console

Published May 1st, 2020 10:12PM EDT
PS5 backwards compatibility
Image: Joe Pepler/Shutterstock

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  • Sony hasn’t said much about its plans for backwards compatibility on the PlayStation 5.
  • We know that “most” of the 100 most-played PS4 games will be playable on the PS5 at launch, but we still don’t know if we will be able to play PS3, PS2, or PS1 games.
  • A game developer explained some of the hurdles Sony would face if it did attempt to make games from every classic PlayStation console playable on the PS5.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Sony has yet to show us the PlayStation 5, but the deep dive into the console’s system architecture in March helped to fill in some of the blanks. The specifications of the hardware were finally revealed, and many of the console’s most significant features were detailed as well. But while the presentation answered many of our questions about the PS5, it also complicated some matters further. For example: What’s the deal with backwards compatibility?

The PlayStation 5 GPU is backwards compatible with the PlayStation 4. Lead system architect Mark Cerny confirmed this during the deep dive. He also revealed that “almost all” of the 100 most-played PS4 games will be playable on the PS5 at launch. Sony then posted an update on the PlayStation Blog explaining that “the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5.” That’s good news, but what about other consoles?

A true PS5 reveal event is likely coming within the next two months, but in the meantime, we’re left to speculate, as Sony hasn’t said anything one way or the other about whether or not the PS5 will be able to play PS3, PS2, or PS1 games. In a recent interview with GamingBolt, Cradle Games technical director Marc-André Jutras addressed this topic by discussing how frustrating it would be for the PS5 to lack such a crucial feature:

As a gamer, it’s hard to figure out what’s the big deal with this. How come PS5 isn’t backward compatible with PS4, 3, 2, 1? If I can find some emulator for all those, and the new consoles are as powerful as a good gaming PC, then there’s no reason for all those games to not run, even with glitches. I wish they could just find a way to deal with it and just cover everything, even if not perfectly.

As simple as this might sound, Jutras acknowledges that there are many significant hurdles that would make bringing thousands of classic games to a modern console incredibly difficult in practice:

As a developer however, I can see where some legal stuff could get a bit blurry, especially if the goal is to have those older gamers sold in some stores. Some companies don’t exist anymore and licenses of those titles might not be so easy to figure out. I also understand that older consoles might have some form of hardware DRM that could prevent newer consoles from reading older disks.

At this point, due to Sony’s silence on the matter, we simply don’t know what the plan is for playing old games on the PS5 outside of the top 100 games for PS4. The good news is that the console is launching in less than eight months, and it won’t be long before all of our outstanding questions have been answered.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.