True backwards compatibility never came to the PS4. Instead, Sony opted to go for a streaming service called PlayStation Now, where select older games could be streamed instead of locally played. This could change according to a recent rumor. The rumor states that PlayStation Now downloads are coming to the PS4 in September, but only for PS4 games. Sony has not responded or commented on the situation.
According to an unnamed source, Kotaku UK reports that this alleged feature will work like current PlayStation Plus titles where your access to the games is contingent on your subscription status. As long as you’re subscribed, you can play those games locally offline on your PS4.
The rumor also states that this feature is initially only for PS4 titles. Although the focus on the service is backwards compatibility, Sony has been adding PS4 games to that list as of March 2017. Until Dawn, Knack, Killzone: Shadowfall, and more have all joined PlayStation Now. Ape Escape 2, Dark Cloud 2, Hot Shots Tennis, and more were among the first PS2 titles Sony put on the service last month.
This service is quite odd and it’s unclear whether or not PlayStation Now downloads with be what the service needs. Sony’s unorthodox approach to backwards compatibility is quite peculiar, especially given the competition and quirks within the service. Microsoft adds titles from both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 quite often and those games both use your old discs and can be played locally. It’s much more convenient for those trying to dip into the games of yesteryear.
While downloads would help eliminate any latency or network kerfuffles, limiting it to PS4 games would make it more like Microsoft’s Game Pass than a true solution to backwards compatibility. And that could be what Sony intends to pivot to, granted if this rumor comes true. But they’ll have to beef up the modern PS4 offerings or branch it out to its own service. Regardless, it is possible that this is just the first step of slowly adding some sort of local backwards compatibility for PS2 and PS3 games.