Should PS5 Upgrades be Free?
Contributed by DJMMT
The first thing that needs to be said is that the PS5 upgrades discussion should only be about PS5 upgrades. Not all the other issues that seem to keep getting thrown in with the PS5 upgrades discussion and conflated into one amorphous blob of illogical angry gamer bullshit. Note by PS5 upgrades I’m talking specifically about the process of converting your already purchased PS4 games to their PS5 versions. For example, PS5 games cost $70. I don’t agree with it, but that’s what they cost. The discussion of PS5 upgrades has nothing to do with the discussion of whether or not it’s acceptable that Sony raised the price of games $10 higher than they were last gen. So when discussing PS5 upgrades, the increase in price from PS4 games to PS5 games shouldn’t be part of the discussion, save for in reference to price points when discussing the cost of upgrades.
I keep seeing a lot of odd, illogical, and bad faith arguments about this issue and frankly I’m irritated. For starters, we need to acknowledge that this issue has no established precedent. Console gaming isn’t PC gaming. Applying PC gaming practices and expectations is unrealistic, because it has never worked that way. So we’re only going to discuss console gaming history and precedents in this discussion. Based on that logic, there is no precedent for console upgrades between gens. I’m not talking about backwards compatibility. I definitely agree that backwards compatibility should exist and be free. Which it is. But backwards compatibility is not the same as upgrading a game to its next generation version. Those are two completely different things with different development costs and benefits. You are entitled to backwards compatibility. You are not entitled to free next gen upgrades.
We’ve never really had this situation before. There was no upgrade your PS1 games to the PS2 version. There was no upgrade your PS2 games the PS3 version. There was no upgrade your PS3 games to the PS4 version. If you wanted to experience the next gen version of a game, you had to rebuy the game. I don’t know where this sudden wave of entitlement came from, but for some reason this gen people have decided that they shouldn’t have to rebuy games to experience their next gen versions. There’s not really any justification for that opinion. It simply is. Again, we’re not talking about playing your PS4 games on your PS5. That’s basic backwards compatibility. We’re talking about buying a PS4 game at a PS4 price and then magically getting to play the PS5 version. For some reason, people don’t think that should cost anything. Now I’m fine with people not wanting to pay for things. To be clear, I don’t want to pay for anything. But I’ve yet to hear a valid justification for why PS5 upgrades shouldn’t cost anything. Certainly, there’s no precedent from past gens, so that argument doesn’t apply.
This is all new territory. As such, Sony, Microsoft, and even Nintendo are creating policy for the first time. Now I’ve heard many people say PS5 upgrades should be free because Microsoft is offering XSX upgrades for free. But that’s not a reason. It’s an opinion. We’re not talking about something Microsoft did last gen that we’d like to become an industry standard after seeing it in action on one platform for a decade. We’re talking about something happening for the first time right now with one platform doing it one way and another platform doing it another way. At one point Microsoft was charging people to play online multiplayer games and Sony wasn’t. No one said Sony should charge because Microsoft does. At that point, both companies were inventing new policies that had no precedent. Now it’s a standard sure, but in the days of the PS3 and the XBOX 360 it was all new. Just because Microsoft has decided to do one thing in this entirely new situation doesn’t mean Sony also has to.
PS5 upgrades are something. They’re not as simple as a hardware limitation. If that were the case, there would be no PS5 upgrades, because you’d just use the backwards compatibility function. The upgrades actually give you something in addition to what you get with the PS4 version of games. I’m not talking about content. I’m talking about features. Things like haptic performance, higher frame rates, and better optimization that doesn’t exist on the PS4 take extra development resources to work on the PS5. So it is justifiable for them to charge for them. Note I’m not saying they have to charge for them. I’m saying they are justified in doing so. Really there shouldn’t be PS5 upgrades in the same way that there wasn’t PS4 upgrades for PS3 games. But we have them, so we’re having this debate. But the truth is these upgrades do cost something to implement and thus do have value.
Personally, I think $10 is fair and logical. PS5 games cost $70. PS4 games cost $60. If you want the PS5 version of a game, you need to pay $70, assuming we’re talking about launch MSRP. So, the upgrade costing the difference between the two versions of the game sounds incredibly fair. People are complaining about something that has never been offered before this gen, because they really just don’t want to pay $70 for games. As I’ve already said, I don’t think PS5 games should be $70, but that’s a different discussion. They are $70 and as such, making people pay a total of $70 for PS5 games, regardless of which version they originally bought is pretty logical and fair. Why should PS5 purchases have to pay more than PS4 purchasers for the same product? Note here the product is a PS5 game, not just a game in general. People seem to want to ignore the fact that the PS5 experience is different from the PS4 experience while demanding the PS5 experience, because they know it’s a superior experience.
We often debate what should come at a cost and what should be free in games. From the developer/publisher side, they’d argue nothing should be free. There’s a cost to do anything and thus they would like to justify adding a cost to everything. I disagree with that logic, but it is a fair argument. I believe the situation is more nuanced than that. My opinion is that anything that should have been available with the game at purchase should come at no additional cost if it’s added later. Anything that didn’t have to be included in the game at purchase can come at a cost. Whether or not it was worth the cost is a different discussion. So for example, Ghost of Tsushima added a build function to the game post launch. That should have been available day one. It’s an obvious feature that I mentioned countless times while live streaming the game. It was an oversight that Sucker Punch Productions realized and added for free. Did it take time, money, and labor to implement? Yes. Should it have been included from day one? Also yes. That’s why I never would have paid for it. Haptic feedback in Ghost of Tsushima, on the other hand, should not have been included on day one. As it was originally a PS4 game, there was no option for haptic feedback. They had to go after the fact and add that into the game for the PS5 version. That should not and was not expected to be available in the PS4 version of the game. So them charging for it on the PS5 version is fair. Now whether or not you want it is your choice. It would be ridiculous if the game wouldn’t run on PS5 without you paying to implement the haptic feature. But having an added cost to get this optional feature should sound reasonable to any logical person.
From what I’ve seen, the issue with Sony charging for PS5 upgrades comes down to people not wanting to spend more money just because they don’t want to. Not because they genuinely believe Sony is unjustified in charging it. The problem with this logic is not wanting to pay for something isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t have to pay for something. I don’t want to pay for the next God of War game. I don’t want to pay for anything. But I will pay for the next God of War game, because I want to play it and Santa Monica Studio has every right to charge me something for it. It would be ridiculous if they released God of War: Ragnarök and people just started complaining that the game wasn’t free. Imagine if that happened. People just started declaring that new AAA titles should be given free of charge. Not as part of a paid subscription service but just completely free. No one could logically justify such a position. Because not wanting to pay for something isn’t enough of a reason for it to be free. And someone else giving something away for free doesn’t mean everyone else is duty bound to do the same thing. If that were the case, none of us would be paying extra to play online multiplayer games.