A patent filed by Sony suggests the company may be looking into backwards compatibility on newer consoles. The newly published patent, originally filed in November 2016, was titled “remastering by emulation.” It describes a method of spiffing up old games by remastering old textures on the fly.
Eurogamer reports that the full application explains how it could take files from “legacy software” and essentially replace them with higher-resolution assets, allowing the game to use the same framework while rendering better-looking textures or audio files. The result would essentially be the same as many remastered games we’ve seen with higher textures, but with significantly less work for developers.
“The original software is then played on the higher resolution display, with asset (such as texture) calls being intercepted, identified, and the data structure entered to retrieve the remastered asset having a matching identifier,” the application states. “The remastered asset is then inserted on the fly into the game presentation.”
It’s difficult to say just how this technology could manifest. Sony may be looking forward to the next generation of consoles like the PS5 and planning how it could allow backwards compatibility, or this could even be the tech currently applied to remasters.
Sony has shown disinterest in backwards compatibility as a feature. It introduced the PlayStation 3 with hardware-based backwards compatibility but then dropped it from later models. On PlayStation 4 it has never offered the feature, instead relying on services like PlayStation Now and standalone re-releases.
PlayStation Europe head Jim Ryan said last year that backwards compatibility is “one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much.” Its competitor, Microsoft, introduced software-based backwards compatibility in 2015, and has been developing a growing list of available titles ever since. At the time, Sony exec Shuhei Yoshida said the development wouldn’t change its approach.
“Backward compatibility is hard,” Yoshida said. “I won’t say we’ll never do it, but it’s not an easy thing to do. If it was easy we would have done that.”