PlayStation 5 – can we expect cross-gen exclusives at launch?

"Playstation 5, enhance!"

Right now, there’s not a lot we know about the PlayStation 5. Aside from the fact it has an SSD, can boot big games up in a jiffy and has some ray tracing tech inside (here’s a rundown of specs), Sony has yet to really reveal its next gen system to the public.

As such, we don’t have a lead on exactly when the PS5 will launch or what games will be available on day one, but we can make some pretty decent guesses. With Microsoft’s Project Scarlett due for next year’s holiday season, and given Sony’s track record over the last few generations, a November release date seems plausible with Sony expected to finally show off the PS5 early next year.

One question that many have been asking is whether the next PlayStation will feature a selection of cross generational games at launch. Games that will appear on both the PlayStation 4 and its successor, within roughly the same time frame.

If we cast our minds back to November 2013, both the PS4 and Xbox One enjoyed a decent spread of cross-gen titles. These included games such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes, alongside a clutch of annual sporting releases.

No huge surprises there, with third party publishers catering to early adopters and those still content with their older gaming systems. However, when it comes first party exclusives, there are no AAA examples we can point to. Sony was more concerned with selling consoles, getting the system into households, and to do that they had a handful of true exclusives like Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall to lure people into upgrading. Will the same be true with the PlayStation 5?

Sony aren’t afraid of releasing major games on outgoing hardware. The Last of Us came out just five months before the PS4 and you can even look back to God of War 2 which came out four months after the PS3 launched. In 2020, we know of two major exclusives the publisher has up its sleeve: The Last of Us: Part II and Ghost of Tsushima, and both of these are only penned in for the PlayStation 4.

Sony could, just as before, keep these games as PlayStation 4 exclusives and then, if they wish, revisit them with remasters that update the game visuals and tech. It might make a lot of business sense to do so, especially when looking at the success of The Last of Us and its remaster. A month after its 2014 relaunch, the total sales for The Last of Us stood at 8 million, with roughly one million of those attributed to the PS4. By 2018 that total figure had climbed to 17 million and it was later confirmed by Sony that its remaster of Naughty Dog’s masterpiece had hit the 10 million milestone.

It’s entirely possible that’s what Sony is likely to do with the game’s sequel as well as Ghost of Tsushima, perhaps reaching back further to including Death Stranding. Create a delay, tart these games up for the PS5, chuck in bonus content, and get punters to part with another £40. It would be easy money for Sony.

But then times have changed since 2013, and both business and competitive pressures might push them in a very different direction, especially if they want to retain their stranglehold on the home console market.

We now have to factor in how the PlayStation 4 Pro launched with a range of games like inFamous: Last Light, Uncharted 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider being updated, not to mention the Xbox One X and Microsoft’s own playbook with backward compatibility in mind. Again, backward compatibility is already confirmed, meaning that you can just pop your old discs or download your old PS4 games and quite simply start playing, but the PS4 Pro and One X show a willingness to update recently released games to take advantage of the more powerful hardware.

We’re still likely to see two or three major exclusives propping up the PS5’s launch, but Sony could effectively multiply that number, releasing patches for past games and making them shine on its latest hardware. It could be as simple as offering enhanced performance and bumping the resolution up to a native 4K, but with first party developers in particular, they could already be preparing to bless PS4 exclusives with cutting-edge tech like ray tracing. Even third parties might be willing to do so, with quite a few games now integrating ray tracing into their PC releases, albeit using Nvidia’s RTX GPUs instead of AMD.

Again, there’s still so much we don’t know about Sony’s next gen strategy and how it will look to position the PS5 next to Project Scarlett, but despite their current dominance, I’m sure they’re wary of what Microsoft have planned to try and compete for the next generation. While a part of me is positive we’ll be seeing beefed up remasters of PlayStation 4 exclusives launching in 2021, I’m sure everyone hopes Sony will pursue that second option.

Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock at this point.

2 Comments

  1. I personally don’t think, with backward compatibility an option on day one for both next-gen consoles and with native 4K still the maximum realistic resolution, that we’ll see the same floods of remasters that we had with the last two generations. Even with ray tracing, the gains aren’t really there when there’s the same 4K target and when games typically have dynamic resolutions.

    Depending on what tools the manufacturers offer developers, I can definitely see them just updating games for Scarlett/PS5 and potentially “flipping the switch” on ray tracing tech. Beyond that, I can even see them having cross-gen boxes for retail games, not only encouraging people to upgrade, but also getting current gen owners to keep buying games safe in the knowledge those games will keep on working.

    Then again, maybe that’s a bit too idealistic and optimistic for 2019.

  2. I’ve been thinking the same – with the patents suggesting the backwards compatibility ‘engine’ will provide improved resolution/framerate etc of older games, aiming to take full advantage of the PS5 hardware would probably require significant work on the part of the developers and probably wouldn’t be a free update for existing owners of whichever game it was. And as you suggest, would the gains be worthwhile given where we’re at (except me, i’m still on 1080p :P ). Maybe some PSVR games would benefit from a PS5 remaster but again the PSVR hardware has it’s own limitations so there would probably be a cutoff point for improvement there too.

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