Sony stopped offering backwards compatibility as a feature of its games consoles back in 2009 when the PS3 Slim launched. However, it may finally make a comeback thanks to the cloud.
As IGN reports, details of a Sony patent have been discovered and posted by Twitter account @Renka_schedule. The text and diagrams suggest that original PlayStation, PS2, and PS3 games can all be emulated, not on actual hardware, but in a data center. As the translated text explains, “A large number of game titles across PS1/PS2/PS3 and various generations of game consoles can be stored and used via the cloud gaming library … These games can be run on a virtual machine that mimics the operating system associated with each game console.”
It seems Sony is, or at least has considered a PlayStation Now-like solution to the backwards compatibility problem, with PSNow already offering some PS2 games. Rather than getting emulation software running on a PS4, or more likely a PS5, it can instead setup a virtual machine in the cloud to emulate a PS1, PS2, or PS3, get a game running there, and stream it to a console.
It’s a clever solution to the problem, and it would allow for physical games to be inserted into a console, the game detected, and the relevant stream initiated from Sony’s servers all within a few seconds. It could even be made to look like the game was running directly from disc, only without the disc needing to spin for more than a few seconds to figure out what game it contained.
Whether this turns into an actual feature or not remains to be seen, but if Sony could launch the PS5 with backwards compatibility across all generations of PlayStation hardware (via the cloud), it would take away one of the attack lines Microsoft has. There’s also no reason the same system couldn’t work for PS4 games.