In an interview with Famitsu, as translated by Siliconera, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s CEO Jim Ryan confirmed that the PS5 will not be natively backwards compatible with older PlayStation titles.
“We keep in mind the engineering specialized for the PS5, as we produced the device,” says Ryan (via translation). “In the midst of that, the PS4 already has 100 million players; we thought they ought to want to play PS4 titles on the PS5 as well indeed, so we included compatibility with the PS4. While implementing that, we also focused our efforts on taking in the high-speed SSD and the new controller DualSense at the same time. So, unfortunately, we couldn’t reach the implementation of such compatibilities.”
While it seems that some of the subtleties in Ryan’s explanation may have been slightly lost in translation, it basically sounds like Ryan is saying that implementing fully backwards compatibility wasn’t one of the PlayStation team’s priorities with the PS5. They rightfully recognized that millions of people still own PS4 games they’d like to be able to play in the next generation, but Ryan’s statement indicates that the PS5 engineers were much more focused on the future.
Interestingly, we recently reported that Sony once filed a patent which suggested that older PlayStation titles may be playable on the PS5 via cloud gaming technology. While we suppose Ryan’s statements don’t necessarily rule out that possibility, it does seem that Sony is trying to downplay expectations for the extent of the PS5’s backwards compatibility features.
So far as that goes, the PS5’s compatibility features are limited (at least when compared to the Xbox’s backwards compatibility features). Sony maintains that you’ll be able to play the vast majority of PS4 games on PS5 on day one. We’ve heard that you’ll be able to play 99% of PS4 games on PS5, but we’re still waiting for the specifics regarding which PS4 games may be excluded. Sony also recently revealed that you’ll be able to access a curated collection of digital PS4 titles via a new PlayStation Plus program.
Otherwise, it doesn’t sound like you should expect to be able to play PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 games to be playable on PS5 outside of special re-releases and digital download opportunities. Furthermore, Sony previously confirmed that you will not be able to use PS4 controllers to play PS5 games. The value of such features is arguably based on individual needs and expectations, but again, it’s hard to argue against the idea that Microsoft is winning the backwards compatibility battle.