Sony reveals PS5 details, highlighting some backwards compatibility

19 Mar 2020

The PlayStation 4 console and controller. Image: © Daniel Krasoń/

During Sony’s ‘Road to PS5’ presentation, the company touched on the topics of backwards compatibility, faster loading times and improved audio quality.

On Wednesday (18 March), Sony shared the first in-depth look at some of the technology we can expect to see in the PlayStation 5 (PS5), which is set for release later this year.

During Sony’s Road to PS5 presentation, lead system architect Mark Cerny said that nearly all of the top PlayStation 4 (PS4) titles will be playable on the new console when it launches in the second half of the year.

Sony did not confirm whether or not there will be backwards compatibility with any of the company’s older console systems. Meanwhile, Microsoft has promised that its new Xbox Series X will have full backwards compatibility, including titles released on the original Xbox console.

A gradual roll-out

In a blogpost, Sony executive Hideaki Nishino wrote: “We recently took a look at the top 100 PS4 titles as ranked by play time, and we’re expecting 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 backwards compatibility over time.”

Each of these games will have to be individually tested to see if the PS5’s chip will improve performance before Sony decides whether or not to offer them on the next console.

Video game news site Kotaku remarked: “It seems like the extent to which the PlayStation 5 is going to be backward compatible with PlayStation 4’s 4,000-game library will be proportional to Sony’s desire to make it so.”

During his presentation, Cerny said that achieving the level of backwards compatibility we will see in the PS5 took “years of efforts by AMD”. He also reassured consumers who may be concerned after the PlayStation 3 launched with backwards compatibility in 2006, before having the feature stripped from later versions of the console to lower the cost of the machines.

“Once backwards compatibility is in the console, it’s in,” Cerny said. “It’s not as if a cost-down will remove backwards compatibility like it did on PlayStation 3.”

Better audio and loading times

Cerny also highlighted the new ultra-high-speed SSD and integrated custom I/O system that the company plans to bake into the console, removing barriers to play such as loading screens.

With this addition, developers will be able to stream assets into games at a very fast rate to make playing experiences seamless, “with near-instantaneous fast travel through large game worlds”, according to the company. This means that developers can create larger, richer worlds, without many of the traditional limitations that have held them back.

The company also introduced new capabilities with the PS5’s custom GPU, which will allow for higher resolution in games, as well as ray tracing.

Nishino explained: “Ray tracing simulates the way light moves in real life and how it bounces off various surfaces. Games that take advantage of this feature will render objects much more accurately, and with heightened realism. Water, glass, light refraction, a character’s hair and so on, will look even more realistic.”

Sony also devoted a significant portion of the presentation to discussing the changes that players will experience thanks to new 3D audio technology.

Nishino said: “Visuals are of course imperative to the gaming experience, but we believe audio plays a crucial role as well. We wanted to deliver a compelling audio experience for all users, not just those who own high-end speaker systems.

“So we designed and built a custom engine for 3D audio that is equipped with the power and efficiency for ideal audio rendering. With 3D audio on the PS5, the sounds you hear while playing will offer a greater sense of presence and locality. You’ll be able to hear raindrops hitting different surfaces all around you, and you can hear and precisely locate where an enemy is lurking behind you.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic