With PlayStation 5 consoles still incredibly hard to find nearly a year after its release and most games being cross-generational titles, many publishers have been offering free upgrades for their games. This way, PS4 owners who can't get a PS5 yet don't feel discouraged about buying a cross-gen game, as they can then upgrade to the PlayStation 5 version once they manage to get their hands on Sony's next-generation console. Sony itself has been involved in this, offering a free upgrade path for many of its PS4 and PS5 cross-gen games, but it seems those days are over.
Recently, Sony announced that upgrading from the PS4 version of Horizon Forbidden West to the PS5 version would cost $10, and this resulted in some significant backlash from fans who have become accustomed to getting free upgrades. Sony then reversed its decision, confirming that PS4 gamers would indeed be able to upgrade to the PS5 version of Horizon Forbidden West for free, but that reversal came with an important caveat.
PlayStation president Jim Ryan has confirmed that all first-party cross-gen PlayStation games moving forward will require a $10 fee to upgrade from PS4 to PS5. Ryan specifically called out the new God of War game and Gran Turismo 7 as specific examples of titles that will not offer a free upgrade path for PS4 users who have yet to get their hands on a PS5. The door is still open for third-party publishers to offer free upgrades, if they so desire.
Some PlayStation fans may have seen the writing on the wall with this, even before the Horizon Forbidden West controversy. Ghost of Tsushima does not offer a free PS4 to PS5 upgrade either, requiring a $30 fee. However, that was at least the Director's Cut version of Ghost of Tsushima, offering some substantial new content like the Iki Island expansion, whereas there may not be much difference between the PS4 and PS5 versions of most games in terms of content.
While the PS4 and PS5 versions of most games Sony puts out will be almost identical content-wise, including the new God of War and Gran Turismo 7 games mentioned by Ryan, the PS5 versions will always have the advantage. The PS5 versions of the games will look better, perform better, and include DualSense controller support. Whether or not those features are worth the price of an upgrade will be up to players.
Even if PS4 gamers choose not to pay the fee to upgrade to the PS5 version of future PlayStation games, they can still play their PS4 titles on the new console. This is thanks to PS5 being backward compatible with PS4, though these BC versions of the game won't include the PS5-exclusive features.