Feature Article

Sony Needs To Fix PlayStation 5 Games Defaulting To PS4 Versions

One of the more annoying user interface quirks with the PS5 is how it keeps trying to trick me into playing PS4 games.

The backwards compatibility capabilities of the PlayStation 5 is pretty impressive. Fire up the console, sign in to your PlayStation Network account, and navigate to the Library screen, and you can see, download, and play nearly every single PS4 game you own in a digital format. It's kind of amazing being able to access an entire generation worth of games on a brand new machine without any difficulty. But while backwards compatibility at a moment's notice is nice, the user interface gets more confusing when you're trying to download a game that's available with both a PS4 and a PS5 version--and it's actually pretty annoying.

If you've got a game like Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales that's available on both consoles, you can choose which version you want to download. For some reason, though, the PS5 consistently defaults to downloading PS4 versions of cross-generation games when they appear in your library. It's something that seems likely to get a patch, because there's a very good chance that if you're not careful, you might end up playing the last-gen version of some of the biggest next-gen games on the console right now.

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Highlight a cross-gen game in the Library tab and you'll almost always see the PS4 version, and not the PS5 version, at first glance--although this fact is not made clear at all. You have to hit the button with the three dots that appears when you select a game in order to pull up a menu where you can choose between and download each version. But it's not at all obvious that this is where you need to go to look for that information, and you can't tell which version you have selected until you open that menu. A lot of times, if you just hit "Download" on a game, you'll learn only later that you installed the wrong version--and then you have to delete it and start the correct download all over again.

The interface has issues even after you download games, though. On the PS5's home screen, you'll see the last few games and apps you interacted with spread across the screen. Repeatedly during pre-release testing, we had PS5 games that we'd already played switch over to PS4 versions on the home screen. That means that, the next time you go to select a game that has switched over, you're prompted to start a download of the PS4 version rather than just start playing the PS5 version. It seems like this issue might be tied to the games getting automatic updates, but again, if you're moving quickly through the UI, you can start a download accidentally that you then have to deal with deleting. If you have both versions of a game installed, it's very easy to start the wrong one and not realize it.

It's possible to switch between versions of a cross-gen game with the Options button from the home screen menu, but frankly, it's a weird pain to expect to launch a game and accidentally start a download. It's also just a strange quirk that the PS5 seems to favor last-gen versions of games over the current ones. And it's possible to see how accidentally downloading the wrong versions of games could be troublesome to people who have data caps on their internet service or are hurting for space on the PS5's internal solid-state hard drive, where PS5 games must be installed in order to run.

So PSA: Double-check your PS5 games before you start that download and make sure you're getting the right version. It's completely possible to download and fire up the wrong version of a game on Sony's new console and miss out on all the benefits of its increased power. And hopefully sometime in the future, this will be something PS5 owners won't have to double-check every time they go to download or play a game.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a former senior writer at GameSpot and worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade, covering video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.

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