On Monday, an Ubisoft FAQ page went live to walk the company’s fans through games coming out on a bunch of consoles this holiday season. In doing so, the FAQ seems to have finally confirmed something Sony hadn’t yet announced about its PlayStation 5 console: its backward-compatibility limitations.
When digging through Ubisoft’s latest American FAQ page series, most of the language hinges on what appears to be a seamless transition for purchased software from Xbox One to Xbox Series X or from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5. (This will apply to previously announced cross-generational software like Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.) One new page, however, emerged from the company’s Australian help site with a clarification about PS4 and PS5 multiplayer connectivity, and it added a surprising detail:
PlayStation 4 players will be able to join multiplayer games with PlayStation 5 players. Backwards compatibility will be available for supported PlayStation 4 titles, but will not be possible for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, or PlayStation games.
[Update: Shortly before this article’s publication, the quoted text was removed from the Ubisoft page in question, though it remained live for hours while PlayStation fans began sharing it far and wide.]
A less-welcome generational leap
Sony Interactive Entertainment representatives did not immediately confirm whether Ubisoft’s claim is legitimate. Up until this point, we were only aware of PS5 backward compatibility with PS4 software, as Sony Senior VP Hideaki Nishino told fans in March that he “believe[d] that the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5.” This followed a March presentation about the PS5’s architecture which included this interesting image:
At the time, we at Ars wondered aloud whether that noticeable amount of empty space meant we might expect other PlayStation console generations to get slotted into the PS5 family or whether we’d see messaging about older generations being supported on Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud-streaming service. Paying PS Now subscribers can currently stream a Sony-curated selection of PS2 and PS3 games to compatible devices like PS4 consoles and Windows PCs. While we’d love to see Sony offer a bare-minimum plan to recognize and stream PS1/2/3 games from the cloud when their discs are recognized on a PS5, if not natively run them, today’s news doesn’t make that sound likely.
PlayStation 4 was the company’s first console to not ship with native backward-compatibility support for disc-based games, along with incompatibility with download-only software that debuted on PlayStation 3. That meant you had to hold onto your old console to access those discless games. This followed the PS3 receiving a major revision early in its lifetime to remove support for PS2 discs (due to this feature running on PS2 “Emotion Engine” architecture built into early PS3s, which was dumped to cut costs).
Comparatively, Microsoft has aggressively courted fans of older games with a backward-compatibility sales pitch on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X. That means gamers in the Xbox ecosystem can expect native access to previous purchases (whether in disc form or as a digital purchase) across multiple console generations and resolution and performance upgrades on a game-by-game basis. We’re still waiting to hear whether PS4 games that struggled with performance issues might receive PS5-specific upgrades, though the PS4 Pro’s optional “boost mode” already made clear that certain games (cough, cough, Bloodborne) would need special patches to take advantage of newer hardware.