The PlayStation 4 has often been criticised for its lack of backwards compatibility with the generations of PlayStation software and hardware that have come before it, but it looks like that probably might be about to go away for the brand when next-gen begins at the end of 2020.
Boost It Again
In an interview with Wired, Sony console system architect and Knack franchise creator extraordinaire Mark Cerny confirmed that they are aiming to have full backwards compatibility with all PlayStation 4 software that has been released or will be released as the PS4 goes forward in tandem for a short while with their new console.
Crystal Dynamics, developer of the 2020 release Marvel’s Avengers also confirmed as much in a video interview stating that the game will have enhancements if you play it on PlayStation 5, a platform the game is as of yet not announced for.
If it does run the disc natively, it could be a lot like running a PS4 game on a PS4 Pro using “Boost Mode”. Whether it would just provide just a framerate and resolution bump or even other enhanced features like support for the haptic rumble and programmable trigger resistance features in the PlayStation 5’s new controller, we don’t yet know.
Imagine You’re Back In Time
There are also several reasons to believe that management at Sony might have done a 180° and changed their mind about letting people play titles from older consoles like the PlayStation 1, 2 and 3 after all.
On April 20th 2017, Mr. Cerny patented for the company a ‘BC Mode’ for a ‘new device’ that determines whether the application attempting to run is for a legacy console that requires a different CPU or not. If this ‘new device’ determines that the software it is attempting to run is for an older PlayStation it can then restrict and/or enable features appropriately so that the software could still run, as demonstrated in the handy flow chart below.
Put simply, this would allow the next-gen console to emulate something like the PlayStation 3’s complex cell processor on a software level, without having to actually have a matching one within the hardware of the new machine. This would then allow them to run the older software but keep both the costs of console production and the size of the machine as small and cost-effective they possibly can.
It could in theory also allow the console to run games slightly better or faster should they receive a developer patch. This is a lot like how current backwards compatibility works for supported enhanced titles on the Xbox One X.
Word On The Tweet
@PSErebus was recently responsible for accurately leaking the PlayStation exclusive title The Last of Us Part 2’s February release date long before the State of Play presentation where it was finally confirmed. We recommend you take his words with a grain of salt, but it does seem to be fairly apparent that he has a source on the inside over at Sony Interactive Entertainment.
At this point it seems very much like the question we should be asking is not “Is the PlayStation 5 backwards compatible?” but instead “How far back does PlayStation 5’s backwards compatibility go?”
PlayStation 5 releases in North America and Canada in the 2020 holiday season.