For months, there have been questions about what Sony’s backward compatibility looked like, and which titles would and wouldn’t be supported. The company has been cagey on this issue, stating that 99 percent of PS4 games would work, but declining to offer specifics much past that. Sony has now published what it calls “a list” of PS4 games that won’t work on its newest console. They are:
Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1, in addition to being one of the worst-named titles of all time, was one of the worst-received games of all time. How bad is it? Well, GameSpot gave Daikatana a 4.6/10, while AS2RKV1 got a 2/10. Draw your own conclusions.
Not all of these games are bad. TT Isle of Man is well-reviewed, and Shadow Complex Remastered, while based on an old game, received strong reviews. So did Hitman: Go. All of them, however, seem like fairly niche titles.
There are a few things of note on Sony’s new backward compatibility page. First, the company does not state that the list of incompatible titles is complete, referring to it as “a list” rather than “the” list. Games might still be added as launch day approaches. Second, Sony is warning gamers to be cautious before assuming perfect backward compatibility. The company states:
Although many PS4 games are playable on PS5 consoles, some functionalities that were available on the PS4 console may not be available on PS5 consoles. In addition, some PS4 games may exhibit errors or unexpected behavior when played on PS5 consoles. Before purchasing add-ons to play with your PS4 games on PS5 consoles, please try to boot and play your PS4 games on your PS5 console to see if you are happy with the play experience.
Sony has not clarified what errors, missing features, or unexpected behaviors might occur, so it’s difficult to know how much emphasis to put on the warning. Until more is known, we suggest taking the company’s recommendation to test the base game experience before committing to any additional content purchases. Games that only run on PS4 will be marked in the PlayStation Store as “Playable On: PS4 Only.”
One tidbit of information we discovered today is that the PlayStation 5 has a Game Boost mode to improve the performance of older titles. The FAQ states that “select” games will run in this mode, which may make frame rates on last-generation titles higher or smoother compared to playing the same game on PlayStation 4.
I’d really like to see Sony speak more transparently on this issue, not because I think Microsoft is automatically offering a better deal, but because it’s impossible to compare them given how little we know about the specifics of Sony’s support.
It’s good to know that the first list of incompatible games is both short and a bit niche-y, but it’d be nice to know if there are more titles to be added or not. COVID-19 has dictated that backward compatibility is a major feature this generation, but we don’t know if Microsoft and Sony will support “boost” modes in the same games, or how the feature upgrades will differ.
We also don’t know how the emphasis on backward compatibility will impact purchasing decisions this year. Microsoft’s Xbox Series S/X is a great deal for anyone already invested in the Xbox ecosystem because you can once again play any game you’ve previously owned. Does it offer much value to a current PlayStation gamer (or vice-versa?) I’m less certain.
I’m sure some PlayStation gamers will buy an Xbox this generation and then pick up a few last-gen games for it (or vice-versa), but the entire point of offering backward-compatibility as a feature is to keep support for games you already own. I doubt many gamers are going to pick up an Xbox Series or a PlayStation 5 primarily to play older titles in the long term, and that may limit the ability of this feature to attract new buyers. Back-compat is more for the customers you’ve previously had, though obviously there’s a certain promise being dangled in front of new owners as well.
With the launch just weeks away, we’ve gotten most of the information we’re going to get from both Sony and Microsoft, but there are a few things I’d still like to know: How many games are going to get the Game Boost treatment, and are there any more titles expected to drop on the initial no-play list?
For now — assuming that these 10 titles are all that’s coming — Sony is in a pretty good place as far as backward compatibility for the PS4 generation is concerned. It’s disappointing that older consoles aren’t included, but that difference is a known point between fans of both platforms these days.