Sony Finally Settles on a Cross-Gen Upgrade Strategy
No more guesswork for PlayStation fans, better late than never
One would have thought that companies with Sony’s experience and market position would be able to avoid unnecessarily uncomfortable situations, but… no: since the very first cross-generation titles between PlayStation4 and PlayStation5, the company’s strategy regarding how the relevant upgrades are handled has been rather convoluted. From the confusing options given to consumers with Marvel’s Spider-man Remastered back in September 2020 to the needlessly complicated ones for Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut a few weeks ago, how game upgrades between PS4 and PS5 were offered or charged for new titles was so all over the place that seemingly there was no clear upgrade strategy to speak of.
Problem is, this was a situation that contradicted Sony’s own public remarks about this strategy, expressed by CEO Jim Ryan no less: that PS4 owners would have a clear upgrade path to PS5 versions of Sony’s own games and that upgrades for early PS4/PS5 titles — including the upcoming Horizon: Forbidden West — would actually be offered for free. Well, preorders for the new Horizon title were announced three days ago and… not only was not a free upgrade path from the PS4 versions of the game to the PS5 ones (clearly mentioned in the official PlayStation blog back in September 2020) but, if one wanted to get the PS4 version on February but play the PS5 one in the future, he/she would have to get the more expensive Deluxe, Collectors or Regalla edition of the title. The plain old “normal” PS4 edition or even the PS4 Special edition of the game would not be upgradable at all.
That obviously did not go down well with PlayStation fans or industry media. Despite the fact that Horizon: Forbidden West’s development was obviously protracted and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sony had made a commitment in the past that it should have honored regardless of circumstances. That it eventually did: Jim Ryan made an announcement a few hours ago confirming that “players who purchase Horizon Forbidden West on PlayStation4 will be able to upgrade to the PlayStation5 version for free”. It was an obvious decision to make. The cost of a PR disaster of this kind is much higher than the profit Sony would make by forcing consumers to buy the more expensive versions of its own game.
What’s more important going forward, though, is that the company’s management evidently realized how embarrassing and just plain wrong the absence of a clear cross-gen upgrade strategy is in 2021. At long last, this is fixed too: Ryan announced that, from now on, “PlayStation first-party exclusive cross-gen titles, newly releasing on PS4 & PS5, both digital and physical, will offer a $10 digital upgrade option from PS4 to PS5”. “This will apply”, he noted, “to the next God of War, Gran Turismo 7 and any other exclusive cross-gen PS4 & PS5 title published by Sony Interactive Entertainment”.
Although Sony’s decision and official new stance does not compare favorably to the one Microsoft has taken regarding cross-gen upgrades (all Xbox titles are by default upgradeable to the Xbox Series S|X versions for free), it is welcome nonetheless: now PlayStation owners know that there is indeed a clear upgrade path for all Sony games going forward (it would be unrealistic to think that it would be free forever). Since Microsoft’s new Xbox titles are offered at no cost to begin with via the Game Pass subscription service, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison to make anyway.
Whether the $10 cost of the upgrade reflects the work needed for all PS4-to-PS5 upgrades on a technical level is up for debate — and it surely varies from game to game — but it is not an absurd amount of money to consider by any means. Sony may eventually offer versions of its games offering an upgrade option for even less money. Weirder things have happened!