Flashback

Sony patent shows how the PS5 could emulate four generations of games

Could this be Sony's answer to the Xbox Series X's robust backward compatibility?

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Sony’s backward compatibility plans for the PlayStation 5 may have just been revealed, and if true, they aren't anything like what PS gamers were probably expecting.

Based on a new Japanese patent filing that was posted on Twitter on July 4 by user Renka_schedule, the company appears to have initial plans to create a cloud-based game library with its enormous back catalog of PS1, PS2, and PS3 titles.

The patent concept appears to be a vastly improved version of the 2018 PlayStation Classic emulator that came preloaded with 20 PS1 games. That mini version of the PS1 was widely considered a commercial failure, but Sony seems to have learned from its past flop and has proposed its vision for an all-encompassing, cloud-hosted emulator that could be accessible through the PS5 — or it might not even be tied to any specific hardware.

Renka_schedule summarized the patent’s claims, which can be translated using Twitter’s built-in functionality:

“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.”

The complementary imagery depicts game data from the PS1, PS2, and PS3 being emulated and transferred into a library that would be accessible through some kind of Google Drive-esque interface.

Neither the documentation nor Renka_schedule's summary explains how exactly this would be achieved or how gamers would be able to access the library of games. But Sony has an existing system in place that could be used to support such a beefy back catalog of vintage PS games.

The diagram included with Renka_schedule's breakdown of the Sony patent.Renka_schedule

The Inverse Analysis — Sony’s subscription game streaming service, PlayStation Now, already lets gamers pick and choose from a library of more than 600 PS4, PS3, and PS2 titles for $19.99 a month.

The proposed patent could build up PS Now by expanding its library to include PS1 titles and more games from other generations. However, this still wouldn’t give gamers with stacks of old PS2 games the ability to run their disks on new hardware, so you can’t really consider it to be full backward compatibility. But it could be a good way to give veteran gamers a jolt of nostalgia and let younger players try out classic titles, which it will need if it wants to compete with Microsoft’s Xbox Series X.

Microsoft has been touting how its next-generation console will be able to run "thousands" of past-gen games, while Sony hasn’t done much other than confirming that the PS5 will be able to play PS4 games. But this could be a sign that Sony has a masterplan to keep pace with its biggest competitor.

Keep in mind that patents never confirm anything; this simple means Sony is looking into potentially expanding its PS Now library or even including some access to this proposed back catalog of games with the PS5.

The Sony PlayStation 5 will be released sometime in late 2020.

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