Update: Sony has delivered the following statement to Wired, but hasn't officially confirmed disc-based PS2 support on the PS4: "We are working on utilizing PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation. We have nothing further to comment at this point in time."
With Microsoft opening up its next-gen console to new heights with the oft-requested backward compatibility feature, Sony has been left out in the cold with its paltry and unpopular PS Now rental service. Now it looks like Sony could be reversing this with a major effort to make PlayStation 2 era games backward compatible on the PS4--a move that could hit Microsoft pretty hard.
The PS4 release of EA's new Star Wars: Battlefront brought something even more exciting that galactic conquest. Certain bundles of DICE's new shooter comes packed with a download code for PS1 and PS2 classics like Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, and Super Star Wars, which are all playable on the PS4. If Sony can do it with these games, what's stopping it from unleashing fully disc-based PS2 support?
A recent analysis from Eurogamer's Digital Foundry goes into the guts of Sony's PlayStation 2 emulation on the PS4, showing how digital PS2 games actually look on the PS4 without being streamed on PS Now. The games are heavily upscaled to match the PS4's HD fidelity, yet PS2 emulation delivers fluid performance with up to 60 FPS.
Adding full disc-based PS2 emulation to the PS4 will benefit Sony tremendously and likely utterly smash any chance of the Xbox One winning the backward compatibility war. In order to get ahead of Microsoft, though, Sony would have to pull its focus away from its PlayStation Now initiative in favor of physical disc-based play. That means forgoing all of its plans and efforts into the cloud-based streaming service and curtailing its massive buyout of Gaikai. Sony spent $380 million to buy Gaikai specifically to power PlayStation Now; amid its flagging revenue streams, Sony's not going to turn its back on a massive infrastructure like that.
If Sony does make PS2 backward compatibility official, we'll probably only see a few core games included at the start, so that means most of the most obscure (and best) J-RPG's probably won't be playable. The Japanese console maker has already confirmed that PS Now will include PlayStation 2 games in the future, so we might be stuck playing our yesteryear classics via rentals and awkward cloud-streaming playback.