Backwards compatibility, in an industry where advancement and new content is given so much emphasis, remains an underrated boon. It allows gamers to reuse and get more life out of their older games.
It justifies the purchase of an upgraded console since you immediately gain access to previously purchased before. In some cases, it allows you to experience your old, outdated games with better performance and visuals than ever before. Both the Xbox Series X and PS5 market the feature as a large part of their appeal.
However, backwards compatibility on the PlayStation 5 comes off an oddly upsetting trade-off. Would you purchase a premium console that allows you to run most major PS4 titles? Well, what if that very feature, instead of succeeding, ended up making your game and storage completely useless? That is, unfortunately, the case with countless users who own PS4 and PS5 copies of the same game.
Owning both the PS4 and PS5 versions of some games makes the next-gen version unplayable
The problem at hand needs a little context. The PS5 version of popular, new AAA offerings like Spiderman Miles Morales and Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War come with next-gen upgrades. The games run at 4K resolution, offer graphical improvements like raytracing, and can also reach higher framerates. However, several users since the PS5 launch noticed poorer textures, longer load times and missing graphical enhancements in their games.
It turns out that their PS5 consoles were not playing the current version of the game. In fact, they had been playing the PS4 versions, without next-gen upgrades, all along. Despite fact that said titles offered free next-gen versions (you buy Cold War for the PS4, and get the new version free, etc), the PS5 console couldn’t tell the difference. Instead of running the intended PS5 version, the console uses backwards compatibility to run the inferior PS4 versions.
The only reliable fix involves formatting the SSD completely, which erases all data
Frustrated gamers across the internet showed the errors associated with this major issue. The PS5 versions of concerned games, like Spiderman Miles Morales, do show up in the download menu. When given the option to download the next-gen version of the game, users end up facing endless queues. A so-called red exclamation mark appears, along with a ‘View Files’ notification, which leads to nowhere. The correct download never starts, and the PS4 version runs then instead.
Since then, fixes ranging from user license resets to reinstalling the game were proposed. Even Activision, the publisher of Cold War, needed to chime in to try to guide users. Sony is still alarmingly quiet about any software patches.
However, the only sure-fire way that most agree on is to reformat the storage. The PS5’s SSD, touted as a blazing fast storage unit, needs to be wiped clean. That means losing all of your saved games (users with slow internet connections must face agonizingly large downloads all over again). And all of this hassle is completely unacceptable. The brand-new $500 gaming console you purchased suddenly just becomes a tacky PS4 emulator.
Meanwhile, the Xbox Series X has no such glaring issues with backwards compatibility or cross-generation games
In an embarrassing turn of events for Sony, the rival console with similar features handles the same concept easily. Do you own a copy of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for the Xbox One? Just fire up your new Xbox Series S/X and your next-gen version is available right away. Microsoft branded this concept ‘Smart Delivery‘ (even though it exists on PlayStation as well), but their words were seemingly prophetic. Microsoft has Smart Delivery, and Sony desperately needs to fix its Stupid Delivery.
For any developments on this issue, stay tuned.