Backward compatibility in games is something I’ve been a proponent of since the PlayStation 2 introduced the feature in 2000. You can load almost any PlayStation 1 game and play it normally.
But as times changed and technology became more refined, playing back catalogs of titles on Sony’s platforms increasingly felt like an afterthought.
That’s why the new PS Plus service fills me with hope, with just a hint of trepidation. The thought of being able to play Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider, Gex and more on a PS5 tempted me to finally consider grabbing the console.
But Sony is already making it harder for users like me with the new tiers it offers, and I wonder if Sony should be looking to simplify the new service already before it launches in June.
When I first saw the rumors of Project Spartacus, I was excited. Microsoft has a fantastic backwards compatibility program in place for Xbox, and while Nintendo got off to a shaky start with its Switch Online service, playing F-Zero X online alone is worth the price to me.
But Sony has always been oddly hesitant to offer its back catalog to new users. Back when the PlayStation 3 was released in 2007, you could insert a PS1 or PS2 disc and play as normal. But later models would regress this to only PS1 games, and while some other PS2 games would be available in the store, they would be very rare.
As it stands with PS4 and PS5, your only hope was to ask the developers for remasters to come, as there was no chance of seeing PS1 and PS2 game re-releases for the systems.
Many ’90s gamers, myself included, grew up on a PlayStation, and many in my age group have kids they try to introduce retro classics to between games of Fortnite on the Nintendo Switch.
Still, many haven’t been able to share some of their favorite games from their own childhoods due to Sony’s approach to its PS1 and PS2 titles. Its CEO, Jim Ryan, has continually dismissed games for being old, an opinion that has always seemed like a big misstep.
I’d be chatting with friends offline and on Twitter about how we’d like to play certain games like Wipeout 2097 on a PS5 again, hoping that Sony might someday reconsider.
But there finally seems to be a change of heart, perhaps in response to what Microsoft and Nintendo have done in this area of nostalgia.
Only one level for retro gaming
However, Sony is already at risk of confusing its users before the service goes live. There are three tiers, with the highest, called PlayStation Plus Premium, priced at $17.99 / £13.49, with Australian pricing yet to be confirmed. This is the only level that will allow you to play Sony games from the PS1 and PS2 eras.
Paying a monthly price, or a higher price if you choose to pay annually, to access Sony’s back catalog in a single tier tells me the company still has a ways to go before it recognizes the importance of retro gaming. .
There’s also the matter of classic games that previous PS3 owners, myself included, had bought back in the day. From Ape Escape to Ridge Racer, if they can’t be converted into free downloadable purchases by looking at our previous purchase history, Sony might have other work to do to justify its actions.
Finally, there is not yet a list of games that will be included in this plan. His blog post talked about 340 more games at this level, but while hopefully that includes rare classics like Evil Zone, Rosco McQueen, B-movie, and Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles, there’s a chance that it could be filled with many more forgettable games from the past.
Am I therefore satisfied with the ad? Almost. It’s a silent acknowledgment from Sony that this should have been on its consoles as early as the PlayStation 4. It’s great that there are nearly 400 classic games getting their chance in the spotlight again.
But I also feel a lot of apprehension.
Playing F-Zero with friends online through the Switch has me hoping we’ll get something similar for this service as well. But with just one level that lets you play these games, it sounds greedy from Sony’s perspective, and the way of playing from eras past has now changed. We want a mix of old games, but with today’s features, much like what Xbox and Nintendo Switch offer.
Sony has a lot to prove here. It needs to prove it’s committed to preserving a catalog that defined PlayStation to begin with. It has to prove that it listens to its user base, and it absolutely has to prove that it’s not a one-time service. Once the PlayStation 6 arrives, we should see this service continue to be offered regardless, not an afterthought.
But right now, as things stand, I’m glad that Something is happening at least, and I’m sure once the 400 game list is released, I’ll be checking stores for available PS5 stock whenever I can.