Console basics: can you transfer Xbox games to PS4?

Gaming today is a lot of the unthinkable of yesterday. From the ability for Xbox One players to play with PS5 players to transferring progress from one platform to another, things are a lot more open than they were just 10 years ago.

But if you’re someone looking to change platforms there are still some stubborn restrictions. And if you’ve got a catalog of games, whether physical or digital, you’re probably wondering – can I transfer games from one platform to another?

Unfortunately, whether you’re moving from Xbox One to PS4 or PS5 (or PlayStation to Xbox), you won’t be able to transfer your discs or digital licenses. Neither Sony or Microsoft allow consumers to play the competing version of a game on their platform.

That’s a big no

As great as it would be, full on cross compatibility between Xbox and PlayStation still isn’t here. For now, breaking down the barriers separating platforms means a continuation of cross-play, cross-save, and cross-progression. Whether you’re looking to play your Xbox discs on PS4 or PS5, play PlayStation games on Xbox, or transfer your digital library, you’ll have to keep waiting.

Sony and Microsoft have a vested interest in keeping their respective game discs and digital titles exclusive from one another. From a business perspective, letting players mix and match games from different platforms doesn’t make sense, and would only result in lost sales. Both platform holders are interested in driving players to their ecosystem and services – whether that be PlayStation Plus, digital sales, downloadable content, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, movie and TV sales, in-game currency, and so forth. What would be seen as a pro consumer move is only made more puzzling when you consider that the current market leader (Sony as of now) has even less incentive to budge.

destiny 2 cosmodrome gorge
While you can’t play Xbox One games on PS4 or PS5, many games like Destiny 2 have introduced cross-play and allowed players to transfer progress between platforms.

From a technical perspective, the PlayStation and Xbox are very different machines. The Xbox One is quite different from the PS4 and the Xbox Series X differs from the PS5. There are similarities in architecture (Zen 2 and RDNA 2), but also swaths of research and development that have gone into making each unique.

Read more: What is cross-play and why is it so important?

Even if it were technically feasible, it would require both parties to invest sizeable resources. And while strategy differs between the two, Sony and Microsoft are competitors at the end of the day. Sony in particular has had a track record of being quite stubborn in so far as allowing cross-play in games like Fortnite. Both companies aim to make their platform more alluring by releasing exclusive titles and acquiring developers.

Thankfully, if you’re looking to upgrade within an ecosystem, the transition is much more seamless. Xbox and PlayStation both offer their own solutions to next-gen upgrades and backwards compatibility.

Backwards compatibility and upgrade paths

If you’d like to transfer your Xbox One games to a different system your only option is the Xbox Series X|S. In some cases, you can even play original Xbox and Xbox 360 games on Microsoft’s next-gen systems. Backwards compatibility is an area where Xbox shines when compared to the PS5.

The only games you won’t be able to bring along from the Xbox One are those which require Kinect (the Xbox Series X|S do not support the peripheral). In contrast, the PS5 can’t play PS3 games (unless streaming from the cloud via PlayStation Now) and runs into some issues with backwards compatibility in general.

PS5 owners will need to pay up $10 to upgrade their existing copies of Uncharted 4.

Sony has also charged for certain next-gen upgrades like Uncharted 4 where Microsoft has provided free backwards compatibility enhancements like FPS boost, auto HDR, and increases in resolution. You’ll get a similar experience between platforms when upgrading third party games to next-gen. The one benefit that you’ll get by upgrading your Xbox games is that the Xbox Series X|S will automatically install the most relevant version via Smart Delivery.

What about save transfers?

Similar to backwards compatibility, save files can be transferred between Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. Microsoft also provides free cloud saves (Xbox Live isn’t required) to make the switch easy. This even applies to Xbox 360 saves.

Unfortunately, you’re also not able to transfer saves between Xbox and PlayStation. The only exception to this rule are certain live service games (Games as a Service). This will come in the form of cross-save and cross-progression. Cross-save allows the use of save states between all supported platforms while cross-progression focuses on progress concerning battle passes, unlocks, cosmetics, and other rewards commonly associated with modern multiplayer games.

Popular games with cross-save and cross-progression include:

  • Battlefield 2042
  • Fortnite
  • Destiny 2
  • Rocket League
  • Minecraft Dungeons

Battlefield 2042 breaks down barriers even further by implementing something coined cross-commerce. All in-game purchases are available to players regardless of platform (applicable to skins and battle passes).

In most cases, cross-save allows players to move freely between platforms, but there are exceptions. Outriders, a game available on consoles and PC, only allows for cross-save between the same ecosystem (PS4 to PS5 or Xbox One to Xbox Series X|S).

If you’re looking for an up to date list on cross-save and cross-progression games, this collection by Push Square has you covered.

Live service games to the rescue (GaaS)

When it comes to opening up the divide between Sony and Microsoft, live service games have been and will continue to be the ticket to progress. Initially, the readiness of cross-play and cross-save was rocky at best, but in just a few short years players have never had more options for convenience and choice.

Read more: Can PS5 players play with PS4?

Where do things go from here?

It’s unlikely we’ll see a scenario like playing Xbox One discs on PS4 or PS5 happen in the near future (or at all), but the next best thing could be a continuation of Battlefield 2042’s cross-commerce. Allowing players to play amongst friends and retain purchases regardless of platform is the only way forward as so many titles try to become the next big “forever game”.

It’s the exact type of thing that games like Overwatch are missing. As someone with tons of unlocks on PS4 who’s recently moved to Xbox, it would be nice to get back everything I’ve earned.

Seeing this extended to content purchases (such as the upcoming Witch Queen expansion in Destiny 2) would be a major win for players. Things may seem unlikely in 2022, but it wasn’t all too long ago when cross-play was unthinkable.

In summary

We’ll likely never have the ability to play discs between platforms or transfer games from Xbox to PlayStation, but there is plenty of progress still to be had. More and more games are not only launching with the ability to play with other platforms, but also transfer saves between Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

As this trend continues we’ll only see more games adopt the features, and with it, the ability to carry over in-game purchases to other platforms as EA is doing with Battlefield 2042.

Anything further out than the next few years of games is anyone’s guess. Subscription services are slowly shaking up the video game industry much like the effect Netflix had on movies and TV, and player habits are constantly in flux.

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