Playing Tomb Raider II on my PS5 could finally be happening – for a high price
Backward compatibility in games has been something I've been a proponent of since the PlayStation 2 introduced the feature in 2000. You could load up almost any PlayStation 1 game, and play it as normal.
But as times changed and technology became more refined, playing back-catalogs of titles on Sony's platforms increasingly felt more of an afterthought.
This is why the new PS Plus service fills me with hope, with just a hint of trepidation. The idea of being able to play Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider, Gex, and more on a PS5 has tempted me to finally consider grabbing the console.
But Sony is already making it difficult for users like me with the new tiers that it's offering, and it makes me wonder if Sony should already look to simplify the new service before its launch in June.
When I first saw the rumors of Project Spartacus, I was excited. Microsoft has had a fantastic backward-compatibility program for Xbox, and while Nintendo got off to a shaky start with its Switch Online service, playing F-Zero X online is worth its price alone for me.
But Sony has always been bizarrely hesitant to offer its back catalog to new users. Back when the PlayStation 3 was released in 2007, you could pop in a PS1 or PS2 disk, and play as normal. But later models would regress this to just PS1 games, and while some other PS2 games would be available in the store, they would be very few and far between.
As it stood with PS4 and PS5, your only hope was to ask developers for remasters to arrive, as there was no chance of seeing re-releases of PS1 and PS2 games for the systems.
Many gamers in the 90s, myself included, grew up on a PlayStation, and many in my age group have kids who they're trying to introduce to retro classics in between Fortnite matches on the Nintendo Switch.
Yet, many have been unable to share some of their favorite games from their own childhood because of Sony's approach to its PS1 and PS2-era titles. Its CEO, Jim Ryan, continually dismissed the games because they're old, an opinion that has felt like a big misstep the whole time.
I would chat to friends, both offline and on Twitter, about how we'd love to play certain games like Wipeout 2097 again on a PS5, hoping Sony might one day reconsider its stance.
But there finally looks to be a change of heart, perhaps in response to what Microsoft and Nintendo have done in this area of nostalgia.
Just one tier for retro gaming
However, Sony is in danger of already confusing its users before the service has gone live. There's 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 tier that will let you play Sony's games from the PS1 and PS2 eras.
To pay a monthly price, or a higher one if you choose to pay yearly, for access to Sony's back catalog in just one tier, says to me that the company still has a way to go before it recognizes how important retro gaming is.
There's also the question of the classic games that previous PS3 owners, myself included, had bought back in the day. From Ape Escape to Ridge Racer, if they're not able to be converted into free downloadable purchases from looking at our previous purchase history, Sony could have another job on its hands to justify its actions.
Finally, there's been no list as yet as to what games will be included in this plan. Its blog post spoke of 340 additional games to this tier, but while I hope this includes rare classics like Evil Zone, Rosco McQueen, B-movie, and Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles, there's a chance it could be filled up with much more forgettable games from the past.
So am I happy with the announcement? Almost. It's a silent acknowledgment from Sony that this should have been on its consoles as far back as the PlayStation 4. It's great that there are almost 400 classic games getting their chance in the spotlight again.
But I'm also feeling much trepidation from it.
Playing F-Zero with friends online through the Switch has me hoping that we'll get something similar for this service as well. But with only one tier that allows you to play these games, it looks greedy from Sony's point of view, and the method of playing games from past eras has changed now. We want a mix of the old games, but with today's features, much like what Xbox and Nintendo Switch offer.
Sony has a lot to prove here. It has to prove that it's committed to preserving a catalog that defined the PlayStation to start with. It has to prove that it's listening to its userbase, and it definitely has to prove that this isn't a one-time service. Once the PlayStation 6 arrives, we should see this service continue to be offered regardless, and not as an afterthought.
But right now, as it stands, I'm happy that something is being done at least, and I'm sure once the list of 400 games comes out, I'll be checking stores for available PS5 stock whenever I can.
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