PlayStation 5 backward compatibility should support every PS4 game

Sony's CES 2020 comments strongly hint the PS5 will play every existing and future PS4 game.

13 minutes & 30 seconds read time

CES 2020 - During its CES 2020 keynote, Sony didn't reveal much PS5 info (apart from a logo they were pretty tight-lipped). But they did show some impressive data, and the numbers speak volumes about next-gen's backward compatibility potential.

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I've said many times that the PlayStation 5 is built on preserving and building upon legacy. Backwards compatibility is the single most important feature of the PS5. All of that power won't matter if gamers can't bring their PS4 libraries with them, especially during the critical transitional phase when the PS4 and PS5 overlap and exist at the same time (which will last for years).

Sony's CES 2020 presentation underlines this point many times. At the show, Sony confirmed the PS4 has sold over 106 million units worldwide, making it the second best-selling console of all time. Those sales also come with over one billion game purchases. Sony didn't share these numbers willy-nilly, no, it's trying to make a statement about the PlayStation ecosystem. It's trying to tell us the PlayStation 4 isn't going anywhere, likely because the platform ecosystem will live on through the PlayStation 5 thanks to backward compatibility.

Here's what Sony Interactive Entertainment President Jim Ryan said at the event:

"PS4 has just enjoyed its seventh holiday season, but we're not done yet. With our community of more than 100 million gamers, we will ensure we have a content portfolio that is diverse and includes games from our internal studios as well as our partners, the largest publishers and independent developers alike.

"PlayStation is the true embodiment of a creative entertainment company with a solid foundation of technology. It's our mission to embrace the entire creative community, elevating their content on our platform for PlayStation fans."

Sounds a bit PR-speaky, right? Just lip service? Coupled with what we know about the PlayStation 5's confirmed PS4 backward compatibility support, and the rumored leaks of the PS5's GPU automatic downscaling to fully emulate the PS4 and PS4 Pro, Ryan's words send a clear message: The PS4 isn't dead, and it won't die when the PS5 is out.

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Mixed PlayStation 5 specs, some confirmed, some from leaks/reports.

Read Also: PS5 may only enhance PS4 games, legacy PS1, PS2 and PS3 games unlikely

There's really only one way to keep both systems alive at the same time, especially with such a generational leap in power. That's full backward compatibility support. Even as the PS4 is "retired", which won't happen until 2022, Sony will likely still release two versions of its first-party games for both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

We'll see this happen throughout this year and next year as major publishers launch games simultaneously for both systems, like how Destiny, Advanced Warfare, and even Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag were both released on two generations at the same time.

We'll also likely see current-gen PS4 games get extensive enhancement patches to boost performance on the PlayStation 5, possibly including frame rate optimizations, native 4K textures, and maybe even built-in ray tracing and variable rate shading support to further boost FPS.

Technically the PS5's Navi GPU has three performance profiles:

  • Gen2 mode - Fully unlocks the Navi GPU at 2GHz for next-gen games
  • Gen1 mode - Downscales the GPU to 911MHz, 218GB/sec bandwidth, and 64 ROPs to emulate the PS4 Pro
  • Gen0 mode - Drops the GPU to 800MHz with 176GB/sec bandwidth and 32 ROPs to emulate the base PS4

The real question is if PS4 games can run in Gen2 mode or not.

(Continued below)

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Ryan continues:

"That commitment will carry us through as we embark on the launch of our next-generation console, the PlayStation 5, coming this holiday."

"With the foundation of new technology, the PS5 will inspire developers to create expansive worlds with new gameplay experiences that're more immersive than ever before in how they look, sound, and feel. Our promise to the 100 million-strong PlayStation community is to offer the biggest and best in content, and to deliver unique experiences to gamers with unprecedented speed.

"Community is the bedrock in how we grow our company. It's that promise the PlayStation brand was built on 25 years ago. And we'll continue our mission to bring that to players all around the world."

Again, that focus on community is important. It's erroneous to think of the PlayStation 5 as a separate platform. It'll be an extension of the current PlayStation ecosystem, which currently orbits the PS4. When the PS5 launches in Holiday 2020, that ecosystem will circle two console giants that directly synergize with one another instead of competing.

Total backward compatibility is the main fabric of this synergy--both hardware- and software-based, complete with native DualShock 4 support, PlayStation VR support, and the ability to play any and all PS4 digital games or game discs.

Ryan confirms Sony will reveal new details on the PlayStation "in the months ahead," including new content, games, and services that'll help shape the future of gaming.

Sony is expected to reveal the PS5 in a special event in February 2020. The console will release in Holiday 2020, and it may cost $499.

Check below for more info:

PlayStation 5 specs and details:

  • Custom SoC with second-gen Navi GPU, Zen 2 CPU
  • 8-Core, 16-thread Zen 2 CPU at 3.2GHz
  • Navi GPU at 2.0GHz with 36 Compute Units
  • Navi, Zen SoC uses new AMD RDNA 2.0 architecture
  • Ultra-fast SSD
  • Support for 4K 120 Hz TVs
  • Ray-tracing enabled
  • 8K output support (for gaming)
  • Plays all PS4 games
  • Separate games that ship on BD-XL Blu-ray discs
  • New controller with extensive haptic and tactile feedback

PlayStation 5 Coverage:


Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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