Jan 14, 2020
I'm writing this as a response to all the PlayStation 5 (PS5) news, leaks, rumors and speculation about the PS5 being backwards compatible across all PlayStation generations rumors/leaks etc.
It's entirely possible for this dream to be a reality. Lots of internet news outlets, journalists, podcasts, and YouTube personalities have countered this idea with thoughts about how complicated and/or difficult it would be. So far as to say it's impossible.
First - this has been brewing for quite some time on the internet. When you look at it all together, you can see how long Sony has been developing this idea as well as how long the internet has been pushing the thought. There's a lot of activity here, and not all just leaks and rumors.
Actual Sony Patent Filings:
Now, let's discuss the rumors and leaks. First, to clarify, there's a major 'eh' on the credibility of some of these sites' reports and social media users.
Twitter user: @PESrebus PlayStation®5 will be backwards compatible with the majority of PlayStation®, PlayStation®2, PlayStation® 3 and PlayStation®4 discs #PlayStationLegacy
-PESrebus is supposedly a PlayStation insider who has leaked PlayStation-related information in the past, such as The Last of Us Part 2 release date
HipHopGamer's YouTube supposedly leaking another confirmation of the "remastering engine"
Now, let's look at the history of backwards compatibility with PlayStation.
PS2 and PS3 can natively render/play PSOne games. The later via the PlayStation Classics. This means that the hardware is emulated. The work is done simply through a piece of software that exists. To get PSOne games to run on modern hardware, Sony devs need to port this emulator to PS5.
PS2 backwards compatibility was infamously removed from PS3. Initially, this was actual PS2 hardware installed with the PS3 hardware (Model CECH-A/B). After too many hardware failures and motivated by cost savings, Sony opted for a limited emulator that you can download via the PSN (models CECH-C/E were compatible). There are details online about how this all works.
Again, PS2 emulation exists in software. For PS5 functionality, simply port the emulator.
Right now, we are limited to the use of PlayStation Now or an actual console for all PS3 games. There has never been native backwards compatibility for PS3 software. Sony would need to stand up an entirely new emulator and software to get these games to render on PS5. Of all the generations of PlayStation, this is the most difficult to achieve backwards compatibility for.
For the first time in console history, the PS5 will use the same architecture as the PS4, the x86 architecture. It's a no-brainer for these games to work on PS5. It's just like any modern PC that's been playing games for decades. In lieu of a developer patch for a specific game, PS5 will probably even artificially boost PS4 games' frame rates, just like the PS4 Pro did. That's another topic altogether.
PSP/Vita: There has been backward compatibility for the PS Vita to to play PSP games from the PSN store. This means a PSP emulator exists already. It would need to be ported to PS5 as well. Since the PSP used a proprietary disc format called UMD (Universal Media Disc?), it'd be impossible for the PS5 to read these without additional hardware and a second disc drive.
The PS Vita, likewise, used a proprietary cartridge, very similar to the Nintendo Switch, to house the games. PS5 would likely not have the card slot to read these natively. There's no record of any backward compatibility in existence. Sony would need to stand up a new emulator this. Putting PS Vita in the same category as PS3. Probably unlikely.
Regarding the medium with which to install games, that is physical vs digital
Microsoft's backward compatibility for older generations utilize physical media as a sort of key to prove ownership of the title. The content itself is then downloaded from the Xbox Live store. You must have the disc in the drive to launch the software. I'm sure there's something read from the disc, but nothing substantial. The ROMs are all stored online. I don't know how this works with no internet connectivity.
Sony "could" make a disc drive that reads everything. In fact, most disc drives themselves already read everything. Sony would need software to correctly interpret the PSOne, PS2, and PS3 discs to get the ROMs of the games off of them.
If emulators are all in place, with the software to interpret the discs, then, in theory, PS5 could be backwards compatible with everything. It's not as crazy as it sounds. The patents flesh out the details how Sony may want to achieve this.
This is where the licensing gets crazy and complicated with the PSN Store. Older titles have gone through expired licensing contracts with various publishers, sometimes new publishers pick up older IP. Some developer companies have been shut down. There's a major whirlwind of changes as the eb and flow of the gaming industry has evolved. Of course, this would be major complicated and the digital selection would reflect what's current.
This is where the PSP and PS Vita backwards compatibility would come into play. The offerings that currently exist could in theory persist and be available for any user to purchase and play.
Not sorry for the long post. Seeing all this information in place over time, makes the whole idea seem WAY more achievable and actually makes me pretty excited for an official announcement.
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