Jan 27, 2022 - Technology

Sony shows how next blockbuster will look on older PlayStations

Video game image of a red-haired woman aiming a bow and arrow

Horizon Forbidden West running on the PlayStation 5. Screenshot: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Sony showed new footage of its next big game, Horizon Forbidden West, running on a PlayStation 4 Pro Thursday — its first demonstration of the action-adventure on something weaker than a PlayStation 5.

Why it matters: Marketers tend to show games running in the best possible conditions, often avoiding showing how they'll perform on inferior systems. That's changing, at least a little.

Driving the news: The footage, shared as GIFs three weeks before Forbidden West’s release day, gives millions of players a more realistic glimpse at what the game will look like for them.

  • Forbidden West will ship for PS4 and PS5 platforms on Feb. 18, but there are far more owners of the former (116 million+ PS4 systems sold) than the latter (13+ million).
  • It was shown running on PS5 last May.
  • The game appears to be a jaw-dropper on the newer console. Today’s PS4 Pro graphics aren’t too shabby, either.

Between the lines: Players and media have become more critical of those who don’t demo how their games will truly perform.

  • In late 2020, game maker CD Projekt RED infuriated players who only discovered how poorly Cyberpunk 2077 performed on PS4-era consoles after it was released.
  • The studio had repeatedly showcased the game running on much more powerful PCs and has since said that was a mistake. Backlash led to demands for refunds and a multi-month delisting of the game from PlayStation's online store.
  • More powerful tech can be used to make games look sharper and run smoother. If a game isn’t optimized for older hardware, its frame rate can stutter and objects drawn into the virtual world may only appear at the last second, among other issues.

What’s next: The old-gen gameplay reveal is a trend in the making.

  • This month, development studio Techland took a break from showing next month's Dying Light 2 on high-end hardware to show it running on some older consoles: the original PS4 and the Xbox One X.

Yes, but: Publishers will still invite questions about how the games run on the old hardware, unless they demo them on the weakest machines of that gen, the original PS4 and Xbox One.

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