Sony is nickel-and-diming PlayStation 5 owners on upgrades for games they already own

A screenshot from PlayStation 5 game 'God of War: Ragnarok,' featuring Kratos (right) and his son Atreus (left).
A screenshot from PlayStation 5 game ‘God of War: Ragnarok,’ featuring Kratos (right) and his son Atreus (left). Sony
  • Starting next year, Sony will charge $US10 ($AU14) to upgrade from PlayStation 4 games to their PS5 versions.
  • The new policy comes after Sony had to scuttle plans for an expensive upgrade to an upcoming game.
  • On Xbox, meanwhile, if you own a game on any Xbox, you get the latest version for free.
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If you’re one of the tens of millions of PlayStation 4 owners still trying to buy a PlayStation 5, you may unfortunately have to shell out extra cash for games you already own.

That’s because Sony is charging a $US10 ($AU14) upgrade fee on so-called cross-generational games like the upcoming “God of War” sequel and the next major “Gran Turismo” game, among others, the company announced last week.

When new game consoles launch nowadays, a variety of games on that new console are also available on the previous generation of consoles. The next major PlayStation 5 exclusive game, for instance, is also headed to the PlayStation 4: “Horizon Forbidden West” launches in early 2022, and millions of players will get it on the last generation console.

Though the PlayStation 5 is selling briskly, Sony simply can’t make enough to keep up with demand. As such, there are just over 10 million PlayStation 5 consoles in homes around the world, compared with over 116 million PlayStation 4 consoles in homes worldwide.

Unfortunately, when PlayStation 4 owners do finally find and purchase a PlayStation 5, those cross-generational games don’t automatically make the leap with them. Instead, Sony intends to charge $US10 ($AU14) apiece for that upgrade – and that’s only after fans criticized Sony for an even stranger policy.

“Thursday was to be a celebration of ‘Horizon Forbidden West’ and the amazing team at Guerrilla working to deliver it on February 18, 2022,” PlayStation leader Jim Ryan said in an update on a Sony blog post earlier this month. “However, it’s abundantly clear that the offerings we confirmed in our pre-order kickoff missed the mark.”

Horizon Forbidden West
An image from upcoming first-party exclusive game ‘Horizon Forbidden West,’ which is scheduled to launch in February 2022 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. Sony

Ryan was referring to a previously announced pre-order announcement for “Horizon Forbidden West” that revealed the only way to get both the PS4 and PS5 versions of the game was to order an $US80 ($AU109) “digital deluxe” edition – a $US20 ($AU27) increase over the base level $US60 ($AU82) price of a PS4 video game.

Sony had previously announced that any PlayStation 5 games in the “launch window” would only need to be purchased on one console to own both the PS4 and PS5 versions. “Horizon Forbidden West” has been delayed repeatedly, which pushed it out of the ambiguous “launch window” Sony set for the PlayStation 5 (which launched in November 2020).

When PlayStation fans cited this, Sony caved.

Moreover, Ryan laid out a clear upgrade path for the future – albeit one that’s still open to scrutiny.

“Moving forward, PlayStation first-party exclusive cross-gen titles (newly releasing on PS4 & PS5) – both digital and physical – will offer a $US10 ($AU14) USD digital upgrade option from PS4 to PS5,” Ryan said. “This will apply to the next ‘God of War’ and ‘Gran Turismo 7,’ and any other exclusive cross-gen PS4 & PS5 title published by Sony Interactive Entertainment.”

That means any big PlayStation 5 games that also launches on PlayStation 4 will require an extra $US10 ($AU14) purchase if you want to move from the PS4 to the PS5. You could play the PlayStation 4 version of the game on your PlayStation 5, but that’s kind of defeating the point of buying a new console.

This might not be a problem if people could actually find and buy a PlayStation 5, but more people than ever are going to be using their PS4 well into next year.

Sony’s policy stands in glaring contrast to its competitor, Microsoft, which has flattened ownership across all of its Xbox platforms: If you owned a game on a previous Xbox console, you own it on the current consoles. If there’s a newer version of that game for your newer console, that’s the version you get when you buy and download the game.

Moreover, when “Horizon Forbidden West” launches next year, the PS5 version will cost $US70 ($AU95) while the PS4 version will cost $US60 ($AU82). That same pricing difference applies to “God of War: Ragnarok” and “Gran Turismo 7,” the next two major PlayStation exclusives.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s first-party exclusive games are all published at launch to Game Pass – Xbox’s Netflix-like gaming service that starts at $US10 ($AU14) monthly. When “Halo Infinite” launches this December, you can drop $US60 ($AU82) on it or you can join Game Pass. That $US10 ($AU14) will get you access to both the new big “Halo” game and over 100 other games that can be played across a variety of platforms.

It’s a pretty huge philosophical difference between the two direct competitors, and it highlights how some of Sony’s foundational choices with the PS5 are nickel-and-diming owners.

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