What’s the deal with PS4 backwards compatibility?

the-last-of-us

Playing PS3 games on a PS4 isn't as simple as popping in the disc and grabbing your controller. That doesn't mean your favourite PS3 games are gone for good, though.

Buying a new console is exciting. More than just the fancier graphics and the bucketload of extra features, there's this sense of infinite potential when you boot up a brand new system for the first time, a promise that you're about to experience things you could never even have imagined before.

Unfortunately, this potential often comes at a price, and new technology doesn't always care for what it leaves behind in order to move forward. In this current generation of consoles, we've seen this happen with the loss of backwards compatibility in favour of pursuing faster and more powerful hardware. Both the Xbox One and the PS4 launched without the ability to play games from the consoles that came before them, forcing gamers to hold onto their old systems if they wanted to keep playing the games they already owned.

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A lot of people were understandably upset about this, prompting Microsoft to spend nearly two years developing an emulator that would allow Xbox One owners to play Xbox 360 games on their new consoles. Hundreds of titles are already compatible with this service, and Microsoft continues to add more to the library on a regular basis.

The PlayStation 4, on the other hand, remains stubbornly backwards-incompatible. Jim Ryan, Sony's global sales chief, recently commented on this issue in an interview with TIME magazine. Ryan questioned why anybody would want to go back and play games from previous generations at all, claiming that "it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much."

To be fair, Ryan's attitude makes sense given that the PS4's predecessor, the PS3, was designed around Sony's notoriously-complex Cell processor. Custom-built for the PS3, the Cell processor is unlike any other CPU on the market, and game developers had to endure a steep learning curve in order to make games for it. Thankfully, Sony switched to the more common x86 CPU architecture for the PS4, but in doing so it made the task of emulating the PS3 on it significantly tougher than the challenge Microsoft faced emulating the Xbox 360. In practical terms, it's highly unlikely that we'll ever be able to simply pop a PS3 disc into a PS4 and have it work.

PlayStation Now: A different kind of backwards compatibility

To get around this problem, Sony has looked to the sky and found a solution in the cloud. Cloud computing, that is. Rather than trying to emulate the PS3 hardware natively on the PS4, Sony's PlayStation Now service streams PS3 games over the Internet from custom-built PS3 servers installed in data centres across the world. These servers are effectively super-powered PS3s, but instead of hooking up to a regular TV, they stream the gameplay over the Internet to the PS4s and PCs of PlayStation Now subscribers.

As neat as it sounds, there are two big catches with PlayStation Now. The first catch is that it needs to stream HD video at a speed fast enough to hide the delay between player input and the action on screen. As a result, the streaming service requires a stable Internet connection of 5Mbps or more. Any time your Internet goes below that, you're going to notice massive hiccups and interruptions in gameplay. Worse, if your connection drops at any point, you'll be booted from your game completely and you'll lose any progress since your last save.

The bigger problem for Aussies, though, is that PlayStation Now isn't even available here in Australia yet. There's no indication of when, or even if, we'll get it in the future, either. Back in 2014, Sony Computer Entertainment managing director Michael Ephraim told the Australian Financial Review that Australia's poor broadband speeds and the cost of setting up the expensive PS3 servers were holding the service back from Down Under. It seems that's still the case, considering we haven't heard a peep about an Australian version of PlayStation Now in the years since.

What options do Aussies have?

Thankfully, you're not completely out of luck if you're looking to play PS3 games on your PS4. Sony, along with many other video game publishers, is using the demand for backwards compatibility as an opportunity to remake and remaster select PS3 games for the PS4. While some of these re-releases are straight-up 1:1 re-creations running at a slightly higher resolution, others feature complete graphical overhauls and even add in some new content, too. Best of all, these remasters are typically released at a lower price than a typical new game.

Curious as to whether your favourite PS3 game has received the remastered treatment? You're in luck because we've compiled a list of all the PS3 remasters for the PS4 right here:

TitlePS3 Game(s) IncludedBuy it from
Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection
  • Assassin's Creed II
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations
Ozgameshop
Baja: Edge of Control HD
  • Baja: Edge of Control
Mighty Ape
Batman: Return to Arkham
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham City
Ozgameshop
BioShock: The Collection
  • BioShock
  • BioShock 2
  • BioShock Infinite
Ozgameshop
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
  • Borderlands 2
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Ozgameshop
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
  • Bulletstorm
Ozgameshop
CastleStorm: Definitive Edition
  • CastleStorm
PlayStation Store
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
  • Dark Souls II
Ozgameshop
DarksidersWarmastered Edition
  • Darksiders
Ozgameshop
Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition
  • Darksiders II
Ozgameshop
Dead Island Definitive Edition
  • Dead Island
  • Dead Island: Riptide
Play-Asia
Dead Rising
  • Dead Rising
Ozgameshop
Dead Rising 2
  • Dead Rising 2
Ozgameshop
Deadlight: Director's Cut
  • Deadlight
Ozgameshop
Deadpool
  • Deadpool
Ozgameshop
Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition
  • Devil May Cry 4
PlayStation Store
Diablo III: Ultimate Edition
  • Diablo III
Ozgameshop
Dishonored: Definitive Edition
  • Dishonored
Ozgameshop
DmC: Devil May Cry Definitive Edition
  • DmC: Devil May Cry
Ozgameshop
God of War III Remastered
  • God of War III
Play-Asia
GTA V
  • GTA V
Ozgameshop
Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us
Ozgameshop
LEGO Harry Potter Collection
  • LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4
  • LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7
Ozgameshop
Metro Redux
  • Metro 2033
  • Metro Last Light
Mighty Ape
Payday 2: Crimewave Edition
  • Payday 2
Ozgameshop
Prototype Biohazard Bundle
  • Prototype
  • Prototype 2
Play-Asia
Ratchet and Clank
  • Ratchet and Clank
Ozgameshop
Resident Evil 5
  • Resident Evil 5
Ozgameshop
Resident Evil 6
  • Resident Evil 6
Ozgameshop
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
  • Sleeping Dogs
Ozgameshop
Quantic Dream Collection
  • Beyond: Two Souls
  • Heavy Rain
Ozgameshop
Saints Row IV: Re-elected
  • Saints Row IV
  • Saints Row
Ozgameshop
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Special Edition
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Ozgameshop
The Last of Us Remastered
  • The Last of Us
Ozgameshop
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
  • Tomb Raider
Ozgameshop
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Ozgameshop
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
  • Valkyria Chronicles
Ozgameshop
Wipeout Omega Collection
  • Wipeout HD
  • Wipeout Fury
  • Wipeout 2048
Ozgameshop
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