Sony’s communication recently hasn’t been one of their finer moments with the community. In June, a Sony Interactive Entertainment Executive VP called Spider-Man: Miles Morales, “an expansion and an enhancement to the previous game.” This led to developer Insomniac having to refute that claim on social media as the game will be a stand-alone, not an expansion, to Marvel’s Spider-Man. Prior to that, SIE President and CEO Jim Ryan boasted in a rare interview that Sony believes in generations. Leaving the impression that some PS5 games would not be released on PS4. Or at least every Sony published title would be a PS5 exclusive. Which turned out to be untrue. Yet still, Sony’s most confusing communication has been how PS5 backward compatibility will work.
The Bumpy Road To PS5
These few missteps Sony had begun with “The Road To PS5” event that engineer Mark Cerny led. This initial talk was scripted and included a slide deck to showcase the PS5 hardware. In addition, this talk was originally planned for only developers on what the PS5 had under the hood. Yet due to COVID-19 and GDC cancelations, many consumers and influencers took this live YouTube video as their first marketing experience with the PS5. As a result, many were left with more questions than answers. Starting with the now infamous quote related to how PS5 backward compatibility will work.
“The boost is truly massive this time around and some game code can’t handle it. Testing has to be done on a title-by-title basis. Results are excellent, though. We recently took a look at the top 100 PlayStation 4 titles as ranked by playtime, and we’re expecting almost all of them to be playable at launch on PlayStation 5.”
This caused massive confusion on social media and understandably so. Some of my own friends within the community expressed that the PS5 would not be able to play almost the entire library of PS4 titles. A number of outlets ran with the story, and rightfully so. Yet even though PlayStation had corrected this following the event, there continued to be confusion. Even this past month during an episode of PlayStation-centric podcast Kinda Funny Games, a listener wrote in and said he could be leaving the PlayStation community as the inability to play his old games on the PS5 is a major factor.
This confusion entirely falls on Sony. They have been too quiet when it comes to PS5. Also, some of what they have said has been downright misleading. While Cerny did go into detail about the boost behind the PS5, he completely left off the “99 percent.” This is why giving consumers this developer-specific talk was a mistake. To clear things up, Ryan recently reiterated to the Washington Post that the PS5 will be able to play “99 percent of all PS4 titles.” Highlighting that Cerny was speaking to the top 100 PS4 titles that would be receiving a performance “boost” from the PS5.
Sony’s idea of a boost that is likely limited to just load times and framerate. Not actually improving the visual fidelity of the game. Nobody expects Sony to go back and re-make these games. Which explains why Marvel’s Spider-Man, one of the top 100 selling PS4 games is getting a paid PS5 release. While the PS4 release of Marvel’s Spider-Man will work on the PS5, it will also be a candidate for boost mode. Additionally, it will be sold as part of the $70 Deluxe Edition of Spider-Man: Miles Morales as Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered. A $20 version of the game that will have 3D audio, haptic feedback, new suits, new trophies, ray-tracing, improved facial animations, as well as some other visual upgrades.
So how will I know if all of my games are supported under PS5 backward compatibility? What if I have a game that’s in the once percent? Again a Sony problem that they need to clear up. Although, I would assume this small handful of games fall under three categories. Category one, untested or unconfirmed games. It would take well over 250 eight-hour working days for a team of twenty-five to test the entire library of PS4 games. Category two, games that already crash under circumstances on the PS4. If you have ever played The Bioshock Collection from an external drive you know that game is unplayable. If you checked out Fallout 76 at launch, that game barely runs. Sony won’t come out and take responsibility for every bug on PS4 by saying “All games will run without a problem.”
Then you have a very problematic third category. Digital games that have been pulled from the PlayStation store or, have been taken offline. The first game that comes to mind is P.T. Konami has taken great lengths to make sure that it’s nearly impossible to re-download it. If you have P.T. already installed on your PS4 there is a very good chance that it will not support PS5 backward compatibility. There are other games where the servers have been shut down that Sony can’t say they are going to work on PS5. These technically fall within that one percent. Games like DriveClub and Gravity Rush 2 no longer have functioning servers for the online content, rendering these types of games as broken.
Additionally, you have games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Deadpool that have been pulled from the store but not removed from libraries as P.T. had been. We just assume that the PS5 will have the library button the PS4 does and, that all of our games will just be there. Although what if it doesn’t? What if the PS5 just allows you to pull PS4 games from the store and not your library? That means any game removed from the storefront could no longer be accessed digitally. When I first turn on my PS5, it’s going to be the first thing that I look for. This is a Sony problem that they need to clear up regarding PS5 backward compatibility.
It’s on Sony to clear up this confusion regarding PS5 backward compatibility. Although it sounds like all of the games playable on PS4 today will run on PS5. Then there are the 100 titles that will receive boost patches, allowing them to take advantage of the PS5 hardware. I can’t wait to find out what PSVR titles will support 120hz. Also, you have to imagine that the PS Plus Collection of games coming with the PS5 are candidates for boost mode. Could we be seeing both Bloodborne and God of War at 60fps at launch? Why isn’t Sony yelling this from the rooftops over in San Mateo?