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Sony patent drives speculation over backward compatibility for classic games


May 22, 2019

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Tech and gaming giant Sony has published a patent for a gaming software process which could allow older games to run on new devices. Sony has historically been resistant to supporting backward compatibility for its classic games, and the new patent has ignited speculation in the gaming community about the possibility that the company’s philosophy on legacy games is changing.


The Japanese patent (Publication No. 2019-503013), which was originally filed in January 2017, discloses a process which would allow legacy software (software initially created for use on an outdated device) to run on an unnamed new device. The process involves “tricking” the legacy software into operating as if it was on an older device by mimicking outdated processors.


At least one gaming-industry commentator has speculated that the device being referred to in the patent is Sony’s highly-anticipated PlayStation 5 console, and the patent would allow the PS5 to be backward-compatible with games designed for the four previous generations of Sony’s massively popular home gaming system. While the patent does not explicitly mention the PS5, it is not clear what other products the invention could be related to.


Regarding the potential for full backward compatibility within the product line, some gaming experts have pointed out that games for PlayStation 3 are difficult to integrate with later hardware systems due to that console’s unique architecture.


Backward compatibility refers to the capacity for a hardware or software system to successfully use data and interfaces from earlier versions of the system. It is sometimes jokingly contrasted with backward “combatability,” which describes systems intentionally or accidentally designed in such a way that they cannot share data easily, and as a result will clash or “combat” each other when used simultaneously.


The release of PlayStation 5 is expected sometime in 2020.

Authors: Jaclyn Tilak and Wes Dutcher-Walls


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