How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X

Industry trends give us an idea of how publishers will approach current-gen games on next-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles.

Published Feb 17, 2020 12:41 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 11:44 AM CST
27 minute read time

Key industry trends give us major clues on how gaming's billion-dollar titans will approach next-gen game releases, including backwards compatibility, PS5 and Xbox SX ports, and other key business models.

How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X 7 |

Ubisoft, EA, Activision-Blizzard, Capcom, Take-Two Interactive--all the major publishers are gearing their projects for next-gen consoles. So what can we expect with upcoming games? Nearly every major publisher says they're working on next-gen games. But will they also come to current-gen systems? Most likely yes. Will every current-gen game get re-released? Probably not. But then again every publisher loves the opportunity to re-release and re-sell their games (the Switch is proof of this, as is the early remaster fusillade that accompanied the PS4 and Xbox One).

To make the most out of next-gen without disrupting current-gen, devs have to occupy both the present and the future at the same time. This could mean many things, whether it be launching their games simultaneously on both generations, embracing layered cross-play, and picking and choosing which titles get re-released on the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X 8 |

Read Also: Ubisoft confirms support for next- and current-gen consoles

Backwards compatibility

First, let's talk about how the present will carry over into the new generation of console hardware.

There's two main mechanisms to carrying current-gen forward on next-gen, and make no mistake, this carrying forward will happen. There's no way Sony and Microsoft are just going to throw away their respective 100 million+ and 50 million+ install base ecosystem. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are both extensions and evolutions of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One family, and both Microsoft and Sony have confirmed next-gen won't instantly phase out current-gen. PS4 and Xbox One systems will live alongside PS5 and Xbox SX for years.

The two mechanisms are re-releases of current-gen games that're re-tooled and optimized for PS5 and Xbox Series X, and native backward compatibility of current-gen games on next-gen systems.

When it comes to specifics, publisher's plans depend on things we don't know yet.

The biggest of which is ease of development, but some devs say the PS5 in particular is effortless to make games on. Whether or not certain games get re-released onto PS5 and Xbox Series X, or whether they are even supported via backward compatibility, depends on how much work devs have to put in.

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X feature huge hardware upgrades over existing systems. Both have a powerful new AMD SoC outfitted with a Zen 2 CPU and Navi GPU to enable high FPS gaming in 1080p and 4K, and even offers 8K max resolution. The system also allows for new graphical enhancements like ray tracing and new techniques like variable rate shading, which slightly reduces image quality to boost frame rates.

Despite this hardware leap, everything I've seen over the past year or so of reporting tells me both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will have full backward compatibility with current-gen games. The real question is what kind of backward compatibility it is, but more on that later.

The PlayStation 5 in particular has a built-in GPU mode that natively emulates a PlayStation 4's CPU and GPU speeds. And Microsoft has confirmed that four generations of Xbox games are playable on the Xbox Series X.

But there's multiple layers to backward compatibility that we need to consider.

  • Native backward compatibility - PS5 and Xbox Series X may not require any kind of patches or updates to play PS4 and Xbox One games. As mentioned above, the PS5 appears to have native BC support. How far this native support goes remains to be seen, but expect first-party heavy-hitters and the console's best games. I'd like to think native BC will allow all games to be played, but again we don't know that for sure.
  • Enhanced backward compatibility - Developers may step in and release enhancement patches for current-gen games so they play, feel, and look better on next-gen consoles. Think of this like the Xbox One X / PlayStation Pro Enhanced patches that devs launched to push 4K visuals and HDR on the iterative systems.

Read Also: Battlefield 6 to 'blow people's minds' on next-gen consoles

How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X 3 |

Re-releases on next-gen consoles

Next, let's talk about how the present will carry over into the future insofar as games.

Devs could simply rely on native backward compatibility for their games and leave it at that. But it's more likely they'll pick and choose some of their best current-gen games to re-release onto next-gen systems as PS5 and Xbox Series X exclusive ports of the games.

This way publishers get even more sales revenue especially during the critical holiday period.

But again, this totally depends on the complexity of updating older games to new systems, and whether or not publishers want to re-market and re-distribute these games. Logically, I feel the best way to do this is to simply add digital enhancement patches to existing current-gen games and then change up the retail boxes for said games to say "PS4 and PS5 supported," similar to Microsoft's retail game box rebranding with Xbox 360 backward compatibility on the Xbox One.

If re-releases do happen, some games are more likely to get re-launched than others. Not every game will probably make the cut simply because it'd be too costly, both in manpower and

Current-gen games most likely to be re-released/ported to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X:

  • Live games - Publishers are more likely to spend on live game re-launches on PS5 and Xbox Series X because they make money over time. Games like Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Monster Hunter World, Battlefront II, Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Destiny should make the cut.
  • Popular games - This goes without saying. Devs now have to make games for up to eight systems at once in 2020, so their attention is spread thin. Publishers would only select the heavy-hitters for re-releases, kind of like the games in the old-school Greatest Hits label. Games like GTA V and first-party heavy-hitters on Sony's and Microsoft's labels are key contenders. This also goes hand in hand with live games.

If a publisher has a popular live game, then it's of course more likely to cross-over.

Read Also: Next-gen console exclusives will be few and far between through 2021

How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X 23 |

Cross-generation harmony

Next we have to consider how the two systems will live alongside each other, and this means cross-gen ports.

Publishers are far less likely to release next-gen exclusive ports of their biggest AAA games. We'll most likely see new games launch on both PS5/Xbox Series X and PS4/Xbox One to maximize sales, exposure, and overall monetization potential. Next-gen offers a new opportunity to sell (or resell) on a new platform, which is extremely potent for games-makers.

Again, there's two ways this could happen: With a dual-SKU launch that sees two versions of games released for both current- and next-gen systems, or a single base current-gen SKU that's marked as "PlayStation 5 supported" on the box.

The latter option would basically automatically download enhancement patches when you stick the disc into a next-gen system. Or come with the files baked in when you download it digitally, activated by each respective system's intelligent delivery systems.

One of the biggest things publishers have to consider is cross-generation play. This is 100% necessary and almost goes without saying. Whether or not PS5 and Xbox Series X players will get an edge thanks to higher FPS remains to be seen, but publishers absolutely have to connect the generations together on a network, service, and software level to maximize potential earnings and monetization opportunities.

Combined with general cross-play with console users and PC gamers, this will help spark tons of engagement, which is something that benefits everyone: developers, publishers, Sony, Microsoft, you name it.

All of these features of expanded support are critical to ensure a smooth transition between console cycles, and Sony and Microsoft are eager to provide tools to make this as easy as possible for developers.

Xbox Series X is due out by Holiday 2020. No pricing has been announced.

Check below for confirmed specs and details, and a huge content listing of everything we've heard about Xbox Series X so far:

How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X 11 |

Xbox Series X confirmed details (Formerly Project Scarlett):

  • 8-core, 16-thread Zen 2 CPU
  • Navi GPU on RDNA architecture
  • Highly customized 7nm SoC from AMD
  • GDDR6 memory
  • 2x Xbox One X's 6TFLOPs of GPU perf
  • 4x CPU power of Xbox One generation
  • Can deliver up to 40x more performance than Xbox One in specific use cases
  • Adaptive sync supported
  • Super-fast SSD that can be used as VRAM
  • Supports 8K resolution (likely media playback)
  • 120FPS gaming
  • Variable refresh rate (adaptive sync/FreeSync)
  • Variable Rate Shading
  • Raytracing confirmed with dedicated raytracing cores
  • Backward compatible with thousands of Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games
  • New controller with a dedicated share button
  • Compatible with Xbox One accessories

Lockhart (Unconfirmed lower-end Xbox Series hardware)

  • 1440p 60FPS
  • No disc drive
  • Super-fast SSD that can be used as VRAM
  • 7nm AMD SoC w/ scaled-down 8-core, 16 thread Zen 2 CPU at 3.5GHZ and Navi GPU
  • Lower GDDR6 memory pool (Possibly 12GB)
  • ~6-8 TFLOPs of power?
  • Aims to rival PS4 Pro/Replace Xbox One S
  • Full backward compatibility with all Xbox One games
  • Cheaper MSRP

Anaconda/Xbox Series X/Project Scarlett

  • 4K 60FPS
  • Disc drive with 4K UHD playback
  • Super-fast SSD that can be used as VRAM
  • 7nm AMD SoC with 8-core, 16 thread Zen 2 CPU at 3.5GHz and Navi GPU
  • 16GB GDDR6 RAM
  • 12 TFLOPs of power
  • 2x GPU power as Xbox One X/aims to replace Xbox One X
  • Full backward compatibility with all Xbox One games
  • More expensive MSRP

Xbox Series X coverage:

The console will release in Holiday 2020, and it may cost $499.

Check below for more info on everything we know about the PlayStation 5 so far:

How publishers will approach current-gen on PS5, Xbox Series X 11 |

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:

Buy at Amazon

PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console (3003346)

TodayYesterday7 days ago30 days ago
* Prices last scanned on 9/26/2022 at 11:33 pm CDT - prices may not be accurate, click links above for the latest price. We may earn an affiliate commission.

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.

Newsletter Subscription

    Related Tags

    Newsletter Subscription
    Latest News
    View More News
    Latest Reviews
    View More Reviews
    Latest Articles
    View More Articles
    Partner Content
    Advertise With Us