PS5 Will Only Be Backward Compatible With PS4 Games, According To Ubisoft [Update]

Illustration for article titled PS5 Will Only Be Backward Compatible With PS4 Games, According To Ubisoft [Update]
Image: Sony

A new support page about the transition to next-gen consoles over on Ubisoft’s website appears to confirm that PS3, PS2, and PS1 games will not be backward compatible on PS5.

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“Backwards compatibility will be available for supported PlayStation 4 titles, but will not be possible for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, or PlayStation games,” the support page states. While Sony has previously said that PS5 will be backward compatible with PS4 games, it’s never officially said whether any games from past PlayStation consoles will work on the new hardware.

Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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PS5 backward compatibility with the PS4 was confirmed when Wired first revealed information about the new console last year. But we haven’t heard a whole lot of details since, and what Sony has said has been a bit vague. During a March presentation by Mark Cerny, the hardware designer said that PS4 games running on the PS5 would play at a boosted frequency that would allow them to enjoy advantages like faster load times. Shortly after the presentation, Sony put up a subsequent blog post saying that “almost all” of the 100 top-played PS4 games would be backward compatible at launch.

This made it sound like not all, or even a majority of PS4 games, will be playable on PS5 when the console first arrives. “We believe that the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5,” Sony later wrote in an update to the blog post, further obscuring the exact timeline for full PS4 to PS5 backward compatibility. Microsoft has also been somewhat cagey about the exact timeline for Xbox Series X backward compatibility, but confirmed in May that “thousands of games” from across the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One libraries will work on Series X at launch. Some people (like myself) were holding out hope that Sony might be working on similar, legacy backward compatibility for the PS5. If the Ubisoft support page is accurate it sounds like that’s not in the cards.

The PS4 isn’t backward compatible with PS3, PS2, or PS1 either, and was the first Sony console to ditch that capability completely. It does have PlayStation Now, though, which lets you stream certain PS3 games to the PS4. Sony hasn’t yet commented on how PlayStation Now will work on PS5, either. It’s always possible the Netflix-like games service could be expanded to include games from PS2 and PS1 as well.

Update—2:10 p.m. ET, 8/31/20: Sony’s relationship with backward compatibility has always been complicated, and two additional points offer even more interesting context for today’s development.

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The first comes via commenter CrashingEchelon, who noted that Sony had originally suggested PS Now would eventually include PS2 and PS1 games as well. A trip down internet memory lane shows Gaikai founder David Perry did say something along those lines at the PS4’s 2012 reveal event, calling the streaming tech “advanced enough” that one day Sony would be able to stream PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS Mobile games to any device, including future consoles. Unfortunately, almost a decade later, PS Now still doesn’t include PS1 classics.

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The second is from a 2017 interview with Time that’s been making the rounds on Twitter today in which then-Sony global sales chief Jim Ryan explained why more PS2 games never got ported to the PS4.

“When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much,” he told the magazine. “I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”

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Two years later Jim Ryan took over as the new head of Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Update—4:14 p.m. ET, 8/31/20: The Ubisoft support page has been edited to remove any mention of backward compatibility.

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Ubisoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

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DISCUSSION

TheSadClown
Nightshift Nurse

I mean, the only way PSX backwards compatibility is being ‘worked on’ in any capacity is a new classics program. The PlayStation 4's optical drive is incapable of reading CD-ROMs and I’d expect the PlayStation 5 follows suit. PlayStation 2 and 3 are a different story in so much as software-based emulation is possible for both and, in the case of the former, fairly robust.

Admittedly, while Sony never said a thing about legacy support beyond the PlayStation 4 (so this news really shouldn’t come as a shock to all but the most willfully stubborn of pearl clutchers), I’ve always assumed it’d be something they’d keep in their back pocket to help incentivize adoption of the PlayStation 5 Pro. Assuming there’s a consistently loud demand for it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Regardless, ‘classics programs’ and ‘when we feel like it’ appear to be both Sony’s (barring the PlayStation 4) and Nintendo’s stance on legacy support.