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The Witcher 3's Next-Gen Update: How to Upgrade PS4 Games to PS5 Versions

Geralt of Rivia's Wild Hunt makes the generational leap.

Geralt, sitting on his horse, gazes out over a lush green landscape in The Witcher 3.
The Witcher 3's next-gen upgrade is available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.
CD Projekt Red

This story is part of 12 Days of Tips, helping you make the most of your tech, home and health during the holiday season.

You can play most PlayStation 4 games on the PlayStation 5 thanks to the Sony console's excellent backward compatibility feature. But a few publishers allow you to upgrade PS4 games to the PS5 versions for free. This lets you play with 4K dynamic resolution at 60 frames per second and delivers shorter loading times, making for a smoother gaming experience with less waiting around.

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The most recent major title to get the upgrade treatment is the classic 2015 role-playing game The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, which added ray tracing and 60 frames per second performance modes (it's also available for the Xbox Series X|S and PC versions). This came after developer CD Projekt Red announced a remake of the first game, and before TV prequel spinoff Blood Origin is due to hit Netflix on Dec. 25. 

The developer's other major game, Cyberpunk 2077, got its next-gen update earlier this year after stirring up controversy when it was released in 2020, due to major performance issues

Getting to next-gen

The PS5 has been going in and out of stock at retailers since it launched in 2020. The digital-only model costs $400, and the one with a disc drive is $500.

Your game upgrades won't happen automatically or through a typical game update, so it's easy to accidentally keep playing the PS4 version of a game on your new PS5. You have to go to the game page on the PlayStation Network and choose to upgrade to the PS5 version. That'll download the extra data needed for the next-gen features.

Read more: PS5 restocks: When to expect the console to appear

ps5-playstation-5-sony-hoyle-promo-11

If you have a PS5, make sure you're playing the best possible version of your games. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

You can also upgrade to PS5 versions if you have a physical PS4 game, as long as you bought the PS5 with a disc drive. You'll always need to use the PS4 disc to play the PS5 version; upgrading doesn't get you a free digital copy of the game. You'll still download the PS5 update from the PSN, but you won't need a PS5-specific disc -- your PS4 one will become an authenticator.

If you opted for the digital-only PS5 and have a disc, you're out of luck. There are a few more limitations and caveats:

  • Some PS5 versions of current PS4 games aren't out yet.
  • Next-gen versions will be bigger files, so they'll take up more precious memory on the console's SSD.
  • You'll end up with a fresh list of trophies (each version's list is separate).
  • A few games' saves won't transfer, and some require you to upload your save manually from the PS4 version before you can access it on PS5.
  • Some game upgrades are available only in cross-gen bundles or special editions.

First-party policy change

Sony initially said 2022 exclusive Horizon Forbidden West wouldn't let you upgrade from the PS4 to the PS5 version for free unless you bought the more expensive Digital Deluxe, Collector's or Regalla Edition. It later reversed course, saying anyone who bought the PS4 version would be entitled to a free PS5 upgrade.

However, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan also confirmed that upgrading future first-party games will come at a price.

"Moving forward, PlayStation first-party exclusive cross-gen titles (newly releasing on PS4 & PS5)-both digital and physical*-will offer a $10 digital upgrade option from PS4 to PS5," he wrote a blog post. "This will apply to the next God of War and Gran Turismo 7, and any other exclusive cross-gen PS4 & PS5 title published by Sony Interactive Entertainment."

miles-morales-kick

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is one of the games you can upgrade.

PS5 Performance Mode; screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

Free upgrades you can get now

Some upgrades will require you to pay or buy a specific (more expensive) version of the game: