A patent filed by Sony has emerged, which appears to provide a potential means of making PS4 games backwards-compatible on the forthcoming PlayStation 5.
The patent was filed in the US as long ago as November 2016, so it’s entirely possible that it may already have been used to make PS1 and PS2 remasters work on the PS4.
The patent application is pretty technical and convoluted, but its most basic summary is: “As understood herein, remastering some entertainment assets such as older computer games to be played on later model consoles can entail creating an entirely new software to accommodate improved capabilities of the later model console. This is time consuming and expensive. As further understood herein, the original (legacy) software code of an entertainment asset such as a computer game designed to be played on a relatively lower powered display can be preserved for use with model consoles with improved capability displays, while effecting remastering of the presentation through emulation principles.“
Essentially, it pertains to swapping in improved textures and higher-resolution models without rewriting the original game code, which sounds a lot like backwards compatibility. In the PS2 and early models of the PS3, Sony achieved backwards compatibility by essentially using single-chip versions of the PS1 and PS2. But that was an expensive way of tackling the problem of backwards compatibility and, since the PS4 moved to a PC-like architecture, Sony gambled on not making it backwards compatible.
Instead, it launched a remastering programme, but gamers are keen to see backwards compatibility return for the PlayStation 5. The prospect of using a quick and easy means of upscaling old games and getting them to work could effectively provide that, hence the excitement around the discovery of Sony’s patent.