PS5 may only have 100 backward compatible games at launch (update)

PS5 logo
PS5 logo (Image credit: Sony)

What you need to know

  • Xbox Series X is more powerful than the PlayStation 5.
  • Microsoft's console has a 1.875 teraflops advantage over Sony's machine.
  • It also appears to support "thousands" of backward compatible games compared to Sony's 100 or so.
  • Sony's Mark Cerny wasn't clear during his presentation how many games would be backward compatible.

Updated March 20, 2020: Sony said that it plans to support the majority of PlayStation 4 games in an updated post, but the timeline is still a little unclear.

Today, Sony released its specifications for the PlayStation 5 (PS5). While the system is considerably weaker than the Xbox Series X, it does have a faster solid-state drive and also offers backward compatibility. However, it looks like it's not what everyone expected. There were rumors floating around that the PS5 would be backward compatible with every game back to the original PlayStation. That's not the case, at least according to Sony.

According to Microsoft, the Xbox Series X will be able to play "thousands" of Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games. Plus, they get a boost to resolution, frame rate, and even colors because they have high dynamic range (HDR) colors. Unfortunately, it looks like the PS5 will only play around 100 PlayStation 4 games at launch. It's unclear if this is truly the case because Sony's Mark Cerny said something else during his "The Road to PS5" presentation.

Lastly, we're excited to confirm that the backward compatibility features are working well. We recently took a look at the top 100 PS4 titles as ranked by playtime, and we're expecting almost all of them to be playable at launch on PS5. With more than 4,000 games published on PS4, we will continue the testing process and expand backward compatibility coverage over time.

It seems like the team is adopting an approach similar to what Microsoft did with the Xbox One. However, since then Microsoft has moved on and is now promising thousands of games on Xbox Series X. It's unclear if Sony will ever catch up.

Xbox Series X/S

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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

34 Comments
  • If this is true, this is suicide. To not even have all the thousands of PS4 titles just natively play on PS5 is rediculous. Seriously rediculous. What the hell has Sony been doing?
  • PlayStation thinks they are untouchable because of their cells not having good backwards compatibility ewe underwhelmed powered console compared to the series x me really hurt PlayStation
  • What language was that in before you ran it through Google translate? Based on your username, I'm guessing Japanese?
  • Sony explained why. They had two options for backwards compatibility:
    - They could do the Microsoft-approach and make the games run through software and include the difference in logic from the previous console into the new console's custom chipset.
    - Or they could do the PS3 approach and include the chip from the previous console on the new console. Sony went with the first approach for two reasons:
    1 - Having the previous chipset - as they did on the PS3 - is extremely expensive
    2 - With the 1st approach, backwards compatibility will not be removed by any cost-cutting measures, which is what happened with the PS3. When they launched the newer version of the PS3 that removed the backwards compatibility, they removed the PS2 chipset from the console to lower production costs. And then, for parity, they issued an update to existing PS3's that disabled the PS2 chipset they had. That move was extremely unpopular. As they're going the Microsoft-approach, they're also doing what Microsoft did: they're making sure all backwards compatible titles run well on the PS5.
    He said they have already tested with developers the top 100 games on PS4 to ensure those are ready but they're also testing more. They will launch with whatever amount of games get tested until Christmas. That'll be up to the developers. Just like on Xbox. They're aiming for quality of performance over quantity. And I'm sure PS fanboys (the only ones who really shout over backwards compatibility) will take that.
    Specially as the graphics Cerny showed left a really big empty space below "PS4" meaning it's extremely likely that Sony is also working on making sure other PS games will also be playable on PS5 down the line (PS3, PS2 and maybe even PS1).
  • Well explain how MS have every Xbox One title running natively on Xbox Series X at launch with no Xbox One chipsets inside it? And the console will run thr games at higher framerate and resolution. Xbox isn't emulating Xbox One ganes.
  • Because the Series X isn't a new system, it's an upgraded Xbox One. That would be my guess.
  • So the xbox one was an upgraded 360 and the 360 was an upgraded og?
  • Not quite. From what I recal, the OG Xbox was based on Nvidia tech, but No idea shafted MS in some way, so they split away to AMD. It was more difficult to get the OG stuff working, both practically and legally.
  • I just discussed this with a friend and he claimed he didn't care and was still going to Playstation because "100 is better than the 0 I'll have if I switch to Xbox." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Actually, not if he purchases the Series X and Gamepass. Then he will just have to buy the console and have access to every Xbox Exclusive and more. Inuding OG Xbox and 360 games to. Plus as MS just announced all DLC is now included in gamepass. Hahaha. Lol.
  • The point is, he is locked into an ecosystem this is what some of us have been saying. Sure GP is an option, but it's something that costs money. The PS titles are 'free' because they are already owned.
  • Well when they actually get round to it. It could be 5 years before they get even a thousand working. I was joking though with my comment.
  • Please tell me you put some sense into him that all xbox one games will be backwards compatible at launch
  • I think his friends point is that he owns PS4 games currently, he doesn't own Xbox One games, so backwards compatible on Xbox means buying more games (and this, spending more money, BC on Playstation doesn't.
  • Completely irrelevant for his friend.
  • So it looks like the emulation layer or whatever they were working on to provide total backwards compatibility failed and they have to do like MS has been and create VMs for each game. This really sucks for those that were looking forward to all generations right away. Hopefully the 100 quickly becomes 1000 and greater once they get going with building them out.
  • Did anyone actually believe the PS5 would be backwards compatible with all past gens? That said, not being able to at least handle all PS4 games is a huge embarassment.
  • I did say that they'd have it, and need it. Gotta be honest 100 does sound low.
  • What I don't understand is if Xbox Series X is playing every Xbox One gane at launch, why couldn't PS5 do that to???
  • Mark C alluded to difficulties in the power difference, with the vastly increased performance causing conflicts. I'm paraphrasing, but something along those lines. The others specs, for me, seem MS wins one, Sony wins another. I think that DF are gonna have many years of great comparison videos. I actually like the way Mark C explains their thought processes, and suspect that the two devices will be mega close in real world applications. That said, the BC of the Xbox is far more mature, and they are years ahead. MS have been keen to point out, for years, that your games go with you.
  • I don't see any justification for not at least natively supporting ALL PS4 games natively, no conditions. Yes PS1, 2, 3 I can understand because then consoles were highly custom hardware, with hardly any internal hardware overlap between generations. But since x86 cores became the standard, there should be no issues at all with PS4 backwards compatibility. None whatsoever.
  • Not only did Sony lie to the consumer when they said All PS4 games will run on PS5 natively, there isn't a single spec PS5 wins on except SSD storage speed. Not 1. CPU clock speed - Xbox
    GPU - Xbox
    Memory bandwidth - Xbox
    Virtual Ram Direct CPUAccess - Xbox
    Dedicated Ray Traced cores - Xbox. SSD Storage speed - PS5.
  • I/o throughput, and price. They will smash them on price, surely. Microsoft could take a loss, but not sure they will. Expandable storage will be interesting, especially the price. MS has the potential to move on that price, as they have a single manufacturer and can make promises on the number sold. Sony won't be able to have the same power with the SSD vendors, as Sony will have limited control over where consumers purchase. I'm not knowledgeable on the tech to call it, but there are two different systems, and each targets different spec angles. Gonna be interesting. That SSD in the Sony is small, but super fast.
  • None of that explains how MS can make all Xbox One titles playable at launch on even more powerful hardware than what PS5 is. At this point Series X running Xbox One titles natively to me shows MS really know what they are doing more than Sony building hardware.
  • No, I get you. The explanation was his, not mine. MS were behind last time, and went all in on BC earlier, in a software fashion. Their BC maturity helps. They made it a feature previously and talked up big the fact that they justified digital purchases by saying they were investments akin to physical discs. They had the vision, Sony did not. In terms of why Sony can't get PS4 games to run native, I don't know. With the power and resources available, I'd assumed it would be a given., And wouldn't have even been a question. They still have more to show, perhaps they have back compat for PS3 and 2, working too.
  • Backwards compatibility is great, but it's new games that actually matter. If we have a repeat of the current generation the new Xbox won't be worth buying.
  • I dunno, being able to trade in your Xbox One and lose out on absolutely nothing is a huge boon. PlayStation owners won't have their privilege - if they trade in their PS4, they can't play their games for it anymore.
  • We play many Xbox one games. Defence Grid is great, and I thrown hours into it. My GF even plays some of my old 360 titles. BC is essential in a digital buying world.
  • I think you have it the other way round. Not supporting 100% PS4 BC causes Sony to lose their key advantage. Why should I get a PS5 then if all I can expect are games coming in the 'future', exactly as with the Series X? I could as well start from scratch on any of the two consoles, and I'd just go for the more powerful one for the multiplats. By having full PS4 BC, then it's just a natural progression without much thought, since it is more of an organic upgrade without any resetting from scratch. I am completely baffled about this.
  • I'd say this is similar to the Apple and Android debacle of years ago. Previously, people seemed to flip flop more often, trying to find what suits them... Now, your pretty vested and unlikely to give up what you have, even if you aren't in love with it... Consoles are becoming this way, with how vested they want you to be, I foresee MS not winning over as many as they'd like only because the PS users are in too deep. MS should focus on the new up-and-coming gamers of tomorrow if they want to win this, long-term
  • Yeah, they snared many on this gen. They'll keep most of them.
  • You are spot on. The race now is for the new up-and-coming gamers. Old gamers are quite literally stuck in their ecosystems. But I'd argue that carrying over the entire XB1 and a good chunk of the 360 catalog on day one to the Series X can be quite tempting for the casual gamer to switch consoles, particularly if they only have a small investment in either of the previous generation consoles.
  • 1st...limited backwards compatibility only helps sony and the retailer. They "should" just make it a beta feature that requires signup (like being an xbox insider) and let people test 2nd: MS did their reveal SOOOOOO much better revealing their specs. Maek Cerny may know the PS hardware better than everyone, but my god, watching him is so boring. He's trying to describe tech to people that may not just understand it like someone that's into tech. MS allowing top tech youtubers (and some "popular" techish ones) reveal their tech to the people just worked so much better. That and the bluescreened background and digital audience should have been significantly better.
  • It wasn't actually a reveal. It was the GDC speech, that he was unable to deliver in person. It wasn't designed for consumers. The mistake they made was to not add images of the device. That alone could have elevated the talk to something good.