Since the dawn of the market, consoles have not been that friendly to their predecessors. In the beginning, it had more to do with technical limitations and incompatible advancements that made it nearly impossible to support games from older generations. These days, however, it’s more about business considerations, partly to push sales of new consoles. The newly-minted PlayStation CEO says he wants to put an end to that practice and offer some compatibility between the current PS4 and its successor. That is if the company and the rest of the industry let him.
Sony admitted to having been surprised when Microsoft revealed its backward compatibility feature for the Xbox One, something that many, including Sony, considered an engineering feat. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 broke away from their ancestry in terms of computer architecture, making it difficult to support games from those older generations. The next gen consoles, however, might still be in the same x86 architecture, giving little reason not to. Except for the usual business reasons.
New PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan didn’t really pinpoint what his “seamless transition” vision for the next PS entailed in practice. In fact, he gave two possible scenarios. One is the backward-compatibility most gamers will probably have in mind. The other, however, might be simpler for Sony to implement, what Ryan calls “cross-generation play”.
This simply means Sony’s own servers won’t care if players are on a PS4 or the upcoming console, commonly nicknamed the PS5. You can continue your friendships, Ryan says, no matter what console you’re on. That might not be difficult for Sony to pull off on a technical level but that might not be Ryan’s biggest obstacle.
For years, Sony has shirked away from any form of cross-play, be it with other gaming systems or even its own. With the gaming market changing considerably, however, the company may no longer be able to stick to its old practices and keep its doors shut tight.