Sony’s Stance on PS5 Backwards Compatibility Has Been a Mess

From lack of information to the lack of a free upgrade for Marvel’s Spider-Man, Sony has a lot to improve on.

Posted By | On 26th, Sep. 2020 Under Article, Editorials


Following a showcase where it not only revealed gameplay for several of its big PS5 exclusives but also the console’s launch date and price, it’s interesting to see Sony being on the back foot. This is due to bungled communication regarding pre-orders, both with retailers and consumers; mixed messaging about its commitment to generations versus cross-gen support; and, perhaps most damning, it’s message on backwards compatibility. Things started off innocently enough during the showcase – Sony unveiled PlayStation Plus Collection, a number of PS4 titles that would be playable on PS5 at launch.

PlayStation Plus Collection

Such titles included God of War, Days Gone, Bloodborne, Persona 5, Until Dawn and so on. This is only available to PlayStation Plus subscribers and already questions were being asked. Is this Sony’s backwards compatibility strategy? Will it add more games to the list in the coming years (which is likely, especially to continue to offer some kind of value to the Instant Game Collection)? What about PlayStation Now? Where is Marvel’s Spider-Man?

Later, Sony’s Jim Ryan would clarify that 99 percent of all PS4 titles would be backwards compatible on the PS5. Which is nice and all but how does it work? What kind of visual enhancements can we expect? Can we learn more about which games are backwards compatible? What is the one percent of games that won’t work?

Finally, the publisher confirmed what many had feared – that Marvel’s Spider-Man would not be receiving a free upgrade from PS4 to PS5. When Insomniac unveiled gameplay for Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, it also confirmed a remaster for the first game. It’s “no simple up-res” as per the developer. Along with completely updated art assets and improved character models with better facial animation, eyes and hair, there’s also ray-traced reflections and ambient shadows, a more busy city with greater draw distance, better lighting and even the option to play at 60 FPS. But wait, there’s more – it will also take advantage of DualSense and 3D audio, feature three new suits and features for Photo Mode and some new Trophies.

spider-man

That sounds like quite a good amount of features added in (especially if the DLC is included). But even if you think that way and wouldn’t mind spending, let’s say, $20 to $40 on the remaster alone, you can’t. Sony has stated that Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered won’t even be sold standalone on PS5. If you want it, you have to purchase the Ultimate Edition of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales which costs a whopping $70. Even if Miles Morales ends up being a stellar title, despite Insomniac admitting to it having a smaller scope and scale, the lack of choice here is pretty surprising.

This is especially when you consider that buying Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS4 does entitle you to a free upgrade to the PS5 version. You can even upgrade it further to the Ultimate Edition (for a price) and receive Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered. Or you could play the non-remastered PS4 version of Spider-Man on the PS5 thanks to backwards compatibility. But not through the PlayStation Plus Collection, mind you, because this clearly wasn’t confusing enough already.

On the one hand, I’m prompted to ask what happened and why Sony couldn’t streamline its approach to backwards compatibility better. My theory – it’s a combination of several things and the publisher trying to have it both ways. It wants to continue having paid remasters for its best-selling PS4 titles, which explains why you haven’t heard a peep about free PS4 to PS5 upgrades for The Last of Us Part 2 and Ghost of Tsushima, two big name exclusives which launched this year. However, it also wants to have some kind of cross-gen strategy especially in light of Microsoft’s approach with the Xbox Series X and S. This strange approach has put Sony in a rather odd position.

horizon forbidden west

It probably doesn’t help that Microsoft came out pretty early on and clarified its position on cross-gen support and backwards compatibility. Features like Smart Delivery, improving frame rates and resolution, and even adding HDR to older titles that never had it are worth praising. Meanwhile, despite many the company’s biggest titles being several years off (and not being available on Xbox One like it promised all first party titles would be at one point), it’s stuck close to supporting previous generations.

Then there’s Sony, which speaks about supporting PS4 players by making upcoming PS5 titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon Forbidden West available for the PS4. However, it won’t properly explain how backwards compatibility works, what games will be backwards compatible on PS5, and what games could potentially receive remastered versions down the line. While some may purchase Ghost of Tsushima or The Last of Us Part 2 to experience them on PS4, there could be others who want to take advantage of the PS5’s power for a higher frame rate and resolution. What happens if they purchase these titles for the console and then Sony announces remastered versions that require another purchase one year later?

There’s no denying that it will earn additional revenue for the publisher (just look at The Last of Us Remastered on PS4). It’s just the lack of transparency that’s getting to fans, especially with the console being less than two months from launch. Look how long it took Sony to even acknowledge PS4 owners of Marvel’s Spider-Man not getting a PS5 upgrade, that too after rumors spread about the same.

ps5

Don’t even get us started on Sony’s approach to PS1, PS2 and PS3 backwards compatibility. Such a feature isn’t included with the PS5 but you can pay $9.99 per month and up to $59.99 for PlayStation Now to stream those titles to the console. Except, PS One titles aren’t available on the service. Also you can only stream PS3 titles, not download them locally like with PS2 and PS4 games.

It also doesn’t help that several big PS4 titles aren’t available on the service like Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Days Gone, Persona 5 and so on. But it’s a good thing that PlayStation Plus Collection is a thing, right? That too, one that requires a separate paid subscription to a completely different service. The fact that Sony hasn’t offered more details on PlayStation Now for the PS5 is a stark contrast to Microsoft’s approach with Game Pass.

Some could argue about backwards compatibility or free upgrades not being important to them. But they’re important enough for a large enough player base to justify numerous companies, from Falcom and Square Enix to Bungie and Bethesda (even before its acquisition by Microsoft), to offer some kind of next-gen support for their titles. While I don’t think Sony will present a backwards compatibility or cross-gen solution that could rival Microsoft’s any time soon, there’s still time for the company to clarify its current initiatives. More details are needed all around, whether it’s backwards compatible PS4 titles requiring a disc or whether PlayStation Now will receive some of the bigger name PS4 titles that it’s currently missing.

It also needs to talk more about its plans for more recent PS4 titles, how it plans to approach PS5 remasters in the future and at least offering some kind of discount for current-gen owners. There’s still time, sure, but the clock is ticking.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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