A couple of weeks back, Microsoft revealed that a number of classic original Xbox games would become backwards compatible on Xbox One this month. This includes the original Star Wars Battlefront II, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, as well as a handful of Xbox 360 games enhanced with 4K visuals on Xbox One X, such as Red Dead Redemption.
Sadly, you won’t be able to play the original Battlefront II on your PS4. Or Red Dead Redemption in 4K. That’s because the PlayStation 4 is not backwards compatible with past PlayStation systems, and it’s the biggest problem with this otherwise very successful console. (This is a very sad page from the official PlayStation website.)
The PS4 isn’t capable of natively playing PSOne, PS2, or PS3 games. If you slide in your copy of Metal Gear Solid, it’s not going to recognize it. This is a problem, a huge one. PlayStation has one of the largest and most recognizable libraries of video games, and not being able to relive or experience so many classic games on current-gen hardware is a big disappointment.
Sony has amended their backwards compatibility-problem in a handful of not-very successful ways, but below are a few strategies we think could make the PlayStation 4 a stronger and more diverse system that embraces its awesome past.
Integrate PS Now into PS Plus
PlayStation Now is a subscription service allowing you to stream PS3 games onto PS4 and PC. With over 600 games, a majority of beloved PS3 titles are already available for you to immediately stream. But here’s the thing: a one month subscription costs $20. That ain’t cheap.
To get more gamers interested in this service, the price of PS Now needs to go down, or better yet, it needs to be a part of PS Plus. In addition to the free games you get each month, why not also one free rental from PS Now? And as extra incentive, push that you can use your save data from your PS3 by moving it into the cloud storage all PS Plus members have access to.
It might be too late for Sony to introduce PS4 hardware actually capable of playing PS3 games, but leveraging PS Now could be the easiest and fastest backwards compatibility fix.
Ramp Up PS2 on PS4
It’s easy to forget, but you can play PS2 games on PS4! (Just not ones you already own on discs.)
In late 2015, Sony started an initiative to get emulated PS2 titles on PS4. These PS2 games have been upscaled to 1080p HD, include trophies, and had a promising start. It wasn’t long before the Grand Theft Auto trilogy and Bully were added…and support quickly crumbled after that. The last major update was the Jak and Daxter series last December, but we haven’t seen much else since.
The PS2 library is insane, and we don’t know how much time or money is needed to emulate these games on PS4, but there really needs to be more. How about the Sly Cooper games? Hot Shots Golf? Katamari Damacy? Ratchet and Clank? The list keeps going. Hopefully, the Jak games are a sign of whats to come, and not an omen of doom.
Introduce the PSOne Library
There’s really no reason why PSOne games aren’t playable on PS4. Every other PlayStation console can play them, and obviously the PS4 hardware can handle it. So whats the hang up? Well, you can make a lot more reselling PSOne games by adding trophies or HD polish (Final Fantasy VII and IX for example), but really, we should just be able to play the classics.
As the PS4 starts to wind down, it’s the perfect time to introduce a platform/streaming service for PSOne games. Players could simply access a substantial digital library of PSOne titles through the PS Store, pay a fee to check out a game, or buy it outright, and get playing classics like The Legend of Dragoon or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2.
Is this an ideal solution? No, in fact, you could just include this service in PS Now, but if Sony is looking to make an extra buck off of nostalgia (and they are), then this isn’t the worst solution.
Remasters are Not a Bad Thing
The PS4 and Xbox One generation started off with a repetitive thud, thanks to a boat load PS3 and 360 ports of games that came out around the same time. It was annoying since we were all craving shiny new games, but now, remasters have become something more substantial. Games like the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy or Shadow of the Colossus are lovingly crafted remakes that retain the same gameplay of the originals. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 ReMix presents the numbered titles in gorgeous 4K and silky 60 fps.
Remasters don’t have to just be HD polish anymore; they can breathe new life into already beloved games. I would absolutely love to play Infamous and Infamous 2 again in 4K, or go back to Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction with a trophy list. Remasters aren’t the same as plopping your old game into a new system, but they can enhance an already awesome experience.
We understand that the PS4 hardware may really just not be capable of playing past PlayStation games, but if it is possible, we really hope Sony can find a way to let players experience their entire history of medium-defining games, and make some changes as soon as possible.