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With the PS5, Sony is avoiding one of the PS3’s biggest mistakes

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The Sony PS5 won’t turn its back on backwards compatibility, it seems, with PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny asserting that the crucial functionality won’t be on the chopping block even for later, cheaper versions of the PS5 console.

Speaking in a PS5 live stream on March 18, Cerny spoke at length about the technical capabilities of the next-gen PlayStation, focusing largely on its SSD (solid state drive) – a first for a PlayStation console – 3D audio, and ray tracing. (Cerny has become “quite bullish” on the benefits of ray tracing, he tells us.)

But we also learnt a bit more about plans for backwards compatibility, with “almost all” of what Cerny refers to as the 100 top PS4 games being compatible with the console from launch – and more possibly to follow during the console’s lifespan. 

We also heard that backwards compatibility will be in every PlayStation 5 console, and won't be removed as Sony finds ways to brings the cost of the console down over the course of its lifespan. 

"Once backwards compatibility is in the console, it's in," Cerny said. "It's not as if a cost-down will remove backwards compatibility like it did on PlayStation 3."

For those without long memories, the original PS3 had dedicated internal hardware to run PS2 discs, but this was only the case with the launch units. Later iterations like the cheaper PS3 Slim shipped without PS2 compatibility to bring down costs – essentially forcing gamers to choose between support for their back catalogue of PS2 games or the lower price tag of the sleeker Slim console. 

It's a relief to hear that won't be the case with the PS5, whatever Sony's plans for future console iterations in the coming years may be.

PS5 Slim: a likely future

This bodes well for newer editions of the console that arrive down the line. A PS5 Slim may be planned, though history suggests we will have to wait a while after launch. The PS3 Slim (2009) launched a whole three years after the original PS3 console, which hit the markets in 2006. We saw a similar time gap between the PS4 (2013) and PS4 Slim (2016) too. 

It's possible we'll see a PS5 Slim in 2023, then – which would give the mainline console some time to drop in price and build up a dedicated audience before Sony launched a more wallet-friendly version.

What will the new price tag be? It's hard to speculate, given we don't know the pricing for the regular ol' PS5 yet, but in the scenario where the first PS5 console is priced just shy of $500 / £500 / AU$750, we'd likely see a Slim version sit closer to $400 / £400 / $600.

For comparison, the PS4 Slim retailed at $300 / £260 / AU$440, down from the $400 / £400 / AU$550 retail price of the original PS4.

There have been rumors – unsubstantiated, we might add – of Sony launching two consoles in late 2020, with a basic PS5 and more advanced PS5 Pro model, but we think that's highly unlikely given announcements around the console so far.

Henry St Leger

Henry is TechRadar's News & Features Editor, covering the stories of the day with verve, moxie, and aplomb. He's spent the past three years reporting on TVs, projectors and smart speakers as well as gaming and VR – including a stint as the website's Home Cinema Editor – and has been interviewed live on both BBC World News and Channel News Asia, discussing the future of transport and 4K resolution televisions respectively. As a graduate of English Literature and persistent theatre enthusiast, he'll usually be found forcing Shakespeare puns into his technology articles, which he thinks is what the Bard would have wanted. Bylines include Edge, T3, and Little White Lies.