The PS5's backwards compatibility will probably only include PS4 games, and shouldn't natively play PS1, PS2, or PS3 game discs.
Sony wants its next-gen PlayStation 5 to play thousands of PS4 games when it releases this holiday. The PS5's custom SoC, OS, and software architecture environment was built from the ground up with PS4 backward compatibility in mind. That doesn't include PS1, PS2 or PS3 games, though. At least that's what's Sony is hinting.
While Sony strongly indicates the PS5 will only be backwards compatible with PS4 games, the company isn't yet ready to disconfirm speculations. In a recent interview with GameSpark, a Sony rep says PS4 game support is currently the top focus:
"We focus working on PS4 BC so that users can move to new console with their PS4 libraries. There is nothing we can answer about BCs with PS1, PS2 & PS3."
It makes sense to focus on the PS4 exclusively from a business standpoint. The PS4 has sold over 1 billion games across 110 million systems, so it's imperative Sony find a way to carry that software ownership forward so they don't interrupt critical engagement, sales, and monetization of games and services.
The stark reality is that Sony won't gain much by adding disc-based PS1, PS2, and PS3 game support. These games aren't being manufactured any more, and are sold in secondhand retailers and used storefronts where Sony doesn't make any money on each sale. At best Sony would sell these games digitally on the PlayStation Network similar to legacy integration on PS Now.
Another reality is that hardware has dramatically evolved since those eras.
These legacy consoles are just too different than the more modern PlayStation architectures, and Sony has changed how the PS5 handles backwards compatibility on a hardware level.
The PlayStation 5 emulates the PS4 and PS4 Pro on a chip logic level instead of literally jamming in another console's chipset into the system. Early PS3s, for example, shipped with a full PS2 chip onto the motherboard. The result was costly for Sony.
"The PlayStation 5 GPU is backwards compatible with the PlayStation 4. One way you can achieve backwards compatibility is to put the previous console's chipset in the new console, like we did with the PS3. But that's of course extremely expensive," Mark Cerny said in a March presentation.
"A better way is to incorporate any differences in the previous console's logic into the new console's custom chips. Meaning that even as the technology evolves, the logic and the feature set that powers the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro titles rely on, is still available in backwards compatibility mode."
Essentially the PlayStation 5 will transform into a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro depending on which games are put in or loaded.
- Native Mode -Fully unlocks the Navi GPU at 2.23GHz for next-gen games
- PS4 Pro Legacy Mode -Downscales the GPU to 911MHz, 218GB/sec bandwidth, and 64 ROPs to emulate the PS4 Pro
- PS4 Legacy Mode - Drops the GPU to 800MHz with 176GB/sec bandwidth and 32 ROPs to emulate the base PS4
Also remember the PlayStation 5 will natively boost any game you play on it. Every PS4 game that's playable on the PS5 will be significantly enhanced and some games simply can't handle the boosts. These titles have to be manually adjusted by developers, hence why Sony is pushing a big backwards compatibility endeavor.
Right now the PlayStation 5 has two different ways to enhance games:
- Native backwards compatibility - These PS4 games will be boosted with enhanced frame rates, visuals/resolution, and tightened anti-aliasing.
- Next-gen specific versions of games -Devs can re-release next-gen exclusive versions of games or release enhancement patches that upgrade PS4 backwards compatible games to PS5-level titles with ray tracing, 120FPS, 4K resolution, and more.
As such, it's very unlikely the PlayStation 5 will play older-generation game discs from the PS1, PS2, or PS3 eras.
The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, supports four generations' worth of backwards compatible console eras: Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
The PlayStation 5 is slated to release holiday 2020. No official release date or pricing has been revealed so far. 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 3.5GHz
- Navi 2X GPU with 36 CUs on RDNA 2 at 2.23GHz
- Ultra-fast 825GB 12-channel PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSD with up to 9GB/sec speeds
- Two SKUs: Digital-only, and standard with a disc drive
- Support for 4K 120 Hz TVs
- Ray-tracing enabled
- 8K output support (for gaming)
- Plays PS4 games, BC is on a title-to-title basis
- Separate games that ship on BD-XL Blu-ray discs
- New controller with extensive haptic and tactile feedback
PlayStation 5 Coverage:
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- PS5's boost mode is so powerful that some PS4 games can't handle it
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- Understanding the PS5's SSD: A deep dive into next-gen storage tech
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- Sony reveals the PlayStation 5...logo
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- PlayStation 5: Everything We Know So Far
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- PS5 rumor: GPU is nearly as powerful as RTX 2080, GPU clocked at 2GHz
- PlayStation 5 rumored to be unveiled on February 12, 2020
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