Why it matters: With the PlayStation 5's ability to play PlayStation 4 games, it has become confusing for players to know whether they are playing the PS4 or PS5 version of cross-generational games such as Spider-Man Miles Morales. The functionality is seamless enough that users are unaware when the console is operating in compatibility mode.
In the latest update for the PlayStation 5's system software, Sony has added a pop-up warning informing players when they are about to run a PlayStation 4 game when an upgraded PS5 version is available. The box appears with options to either play the PS4 title or switch to the next-gen update (screenshot below).
One would think it should be easy to know whether you downloaded a game for PS4 or the PS5, but cross-generational bundles and Ultimate Editions muddle the issue because they contain both versions. An example of this is Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
Eurogamer reports that many customers who bought the CoD Ultimate Edition discovered that they were playing the PlayStation 4 version of the game once they installed it. This happens when users select "download all" instead of specifically choosing the PS5 version. It seems to be a mild downside to publishers offering free PS5 upgrades when they buy the game for PlayStation 4.
The new warning should help the situation, but there are some issues with its implementation. For one, selecting the option to play the PS5 version usually results in the game having to be re-downloaded and installed. For those with slow internet speeds, this could be a real pain.
It also means that users now have two versions of the same game taking up precious hard drive space. Deleting the PS4 copy is not hard, but it does create another step in the process of playing a single title.
Microsoft's Smart Delivery system is one thing it got right for the Xbox Series X|S. Smart Delivery ensures that players on any Xbox platform get the best version their system can handle by checking which console requested the download.
It does not seem to be a complicated system to implement. Even the most basic of websites run a browser check before serving up content. So we will probably see something similar in a future update for the PS5. In the meantime, players will have to make do with the warning notice or be sure that the correct version of a game installs in the first place.