When Sony revealed the PlayStation 5, they mentioned two words they had not spoken in a long time: “backwards compatibility.” The PlayStation 4 had none. There were ports of best-selling PS3 games, to be sure, but inserting a PS3 disc into your PS4 would result in nothing. Reportedly this was due to the PS3’s mangled architecture being so different from what came after it.
Last March Sony announced that the PlayStation 5 would indeed be backwards compatible with the PlayStation 4, but lead developer Mark Cerny would only confirm that the top 100 most popular PS4 titles would work. One week later, Sony expanded on that to confirm that the “majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles” would be playable on PS5. That’s great, but it was all anyone was expecting until last month.
What happened last month? A patent design got leaked that suggested the PlayStation 5 could support PS1, PS2 and PS3 games via the cloud. The Japanese text was translated by a Twitter user and said a “virtual machine” would emulate the operating systems of the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2 and Playstation 3, running the games in real time and streaming the results back to you (hopefully without lag).
The patent did not describe how such a feature would be implemented…could we insert our old discs, is this a streaming type of service, or would we have to re-buy everything? All three are options rival Microsoft offers on the current-generation XBox One, and they have plans to continue.
Sony, however, may have no plans at all. The Australian version of Ubisoft’s website was recently updated with the statement that backwards compatibility on the PS5 will be limited to the PS4 only. The site specifically states compatibility with all previous generations “will not be possible.” The US version of this page does not say the same thing, at least not yet.
Sony has not responded to the statement from Ubisoft, so we still have no definitive answer regarding the extent of backwards compatibility on the Playstation 5.