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PS4 Backwards Compatibility: Can you play PS3 games on PS4?

Sam Loveridge by

PS4 pic
PS4 pic

Can I Play PS3 Games on My New PS4?

The PS4 is a great console and its getting a load more features as the months go on, but there are still a few crucial ones that we're waiting for.

One of those is backwards compatibility for PS3 (or older) titles. And it's one of the most common questions asked by fans and those looking to upgrade to the latest Playstation console.

Can I play my old PS3 games on PS4? Well, the short answer is no. You can't put a PS3 game in your PS4 and play it. The systems are fundamentally not compatible with each other.

But that might be about to change for PS2 games, thanks to a new emulator, which you can read about in the section at the bottom of this page – basically it means you could get another 1,000 plus games to play on your PS4 by 2016.

For PS3 games, there is a fairly expensive answer in PlayStation Now, which you can read about below.

What makes this a worse answer is that Microsoft has solved Xbox One backwards compatibility by creating an Xbox 360 emulator within its latest console. That means you can simply slide any supported Xbox 360 games into your Xbox One and they'll play straight away. Or you can download digital titles from the Xbox Live store. And this is all for free.

Sony isn't about to change its policy on PS4 backwards compatibility either, with Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida saying the following:

"I totally understand people asking for [backwards compatibility], and if it was easy, we’d have done that," he said. "But our focus is creating PS4 games and adding new services.”

This was echoed by PlayStation Europe boss, Jim Ryan who said backwards compatibility was a "nice" point of difference between the PS4 and Xbox One.

“Backwards compatibility is a clear point of differentiation, which is good for consumers," said Ryan. "To the extent that you are investing in software technology – which is what this is, it’s delivered through software not through hardware – we are trying to commit our resources and put our emphasis on delivering on the promises we made right at the start of this whole PS4 thing, to be the forward-looking, socially-connected console.”

See also: Xbox One backwards compatibility explained

PlayStation Now

However, there is a solution. It’s called PlayStation Now, and it will let you stream older PlayStation games to your PS4 (and eventually PS3 and other devices) over your home internet connection.

PlayStation Now was announced at CES 2014 and was released as an Open Beta service on July 31 in the US and Canada. Since then, the service has been launched in full with both rental price options and subscription tiers.

It hit PS4 first, and before making its way to PS3 on May 12 2015. Eventually PS Now will spread to PS Vita and PS TV. It’ll even come to 2014 Sony Bravia TVs too along with select Sony Blu-ray players and the latest Samsung Smart TVs. Exactly when has not been announced yet, though.

In the US and Canada, PS Now costs $19.99 (£13.20) for a one-month membership or you can go for a three-month membership for $44.99 (£29.77). Rental prices range from $1.99 to $19.99 depending on the title and the duration of your rental period, which can last for 4 hours, 7 days or 30 days.

PlayStation Now is available in the UK too as an open Beta. You can access it via the PlayStation Store and use it to stream a tonne of PS3 games.

However, it's a costly service in the UK, as there's currently no membership options available. Rentals are in two pricing tiers here in the UK. Games will either cost you £2.99 or £4.99 for a two-day rental (over a weekend perhaps) or £5.99 or £7.99 for a 30-day rental period.

See also: PS4 vs PS3

PlayStation Now

But we know what you're thinking, are all PS3 games available through PlayStation Now? Well, the answer is no. PlayStation Now is home to a growing collection of over 100 PS3 games.

These include:

  • Dead Space 3
  • God of War: Ascension
  • Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
  • Ultra Street Fighter IV

While these are all fairly high-profile releases, PlayStation Now is also features some smaller, slightly more unusual indie games too.

The UK PlayStation Now offering currently includes titles such as:

  • The Wolf Among Us
  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • NBA 2K14
  • Killzone 2
  • Saints Row The Third
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

PlayStation Now will eventually offer games from the PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS Vita catalogues, but currently there's only PS3 titles available.

See also: What is PlayStation Now? A guide to Sony's streaming service

PS4 vs PS3

Why can’t the PS4 play PS3 games?

The PS3 and PS4 use completely different system architectures, which means the PS4 would need to emulate the PS3’s system in order to make the games work. The figure often quoted is that a system needs ten times the power of the thing it’s emulating in order to do so at full speed.

Sony does claim that the PS4 meets this ‘ten times’ more powerful mark, but producing a workable emulator also requires a whole lot of work when working with a system of the PS3’s complexity. And that means a healthy cash investment, too.

Sony decided not to do this, and it’s sure to be one of the most common complaints about the new console. We can imagine many people simply assuming they’ll be able to play their old PS3 games on the thing.

SEE ALSO: Best PS4 Deals

What about PS1 and PS2 games?

Sony stealthily introduced a PS2 emulator to the PS4 through the new Star Wars bundle. The title packages together four classic franchise titles: Super Star Wars, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Star Wars: Racer Revenge and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter.

But rather than a physical disc, the titles are supplied via a single PSN code, with three of the titles hailing from the PS2 era.

Digital Foundry quickly realised that these games were running on an emulator through a number of indicators such as the upscaled PS2 logo, a system for emulating the memory cards and controlling remapping (something third party developers wouldn't be able to do).

When it was exposed, Sony released a statement that reads as follows:

"We are working on utilising PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation," Sony told Wired. "We have nothing further to comment at this point in time."

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