Few statements have marred PlayStation’s public image than a quote from a 2017, in which PlayStation head Jim Ryan described a PS2 game as “ancient.” At the time, the comment give fans the impression that PlayStation’s lack of interest in supporting cross-gen play came from the top. Ryan addressed the remark for the first time in a recent interview with Some Guy from Axios.
OK, the original quote, just so we’re all on the same page. From a 2017 interview with Time magazine, here it is in full (emphasis Kotaku’s):
When we’ve dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much… That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?
That has — fairly or not, depending on who you ask — served as a kindling for the argument that PlayStation doesn’t offer enough support for its back catalogue. The company’s own moves haven’t helped mitigate. See, for instance, earlier this year, when Sony announced plans to shut down the digital storefronts for the PS3, PS Vita, and PSP. (After blowback, Sony reversed the decision.) Or the total inability to play PS3 games on a PS4. And then there’s the frustration that comes with being a PlayStation player and trying to play older PlayStation games on the newest PlayStation console.
Does the PS5 let you play older PlayStation games?
On PlayStation 5, you can play PS4 games, but there was some confusion about whether or not that would work when the new console launched, or how. (By the time the PS5 was released, it mostly worked out, but 10 PS4 games were S.O.L.) You currently can’t play PS2 or PS3 games on PS5 the traditional way — popping discs into the disc drive — but, if you subscribe to Sony’s $US10 ($13)-a-month PS Now service, you can stream some PS2 or PS3 titles. PS1 games? Ha! Good one.
Now, contrast that with how backward compatibility works on the PS5’s chief competition, the Xbox Series X and S. For the most part, you can just…play old games. There are exceptions, of course, but tons of games from the Xbox One and Xbox 360 work on the latest console. Even some original Xbox games will run. (Here’s the full list of compatible games.)
“It goes with the territory, but I get a little bit frustrated at still being hit over the head with this one,” Ryan told Axios. “The point I was trying to make — obviously not very well — was just how great the PS4 version looked and how far the series had evolved. I certainly wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to our heritage.”
Beyond the notorious quote, Ryan addressed a wide range of topics with Axios, including the lack of PlayStation 5 consoles, and Sony’s decision, heard ‘round the gaming world, to pull the busted Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation store. But the famously press-shy Ryan wasn’t entirely forthcoming with Axios. When asked about future plans regarding backward compatibility support for PS1 games on the PS5? Crickets.