Xbox One backward compatibility made us believe greatness awaits

Red Dead Redemption.jpg

I really do think the biggest news to come out of E3 was the Xbox One backward compatibility. We’d at least heard rumours and speculation, about the other big announcements. Yet, the backward compatibility for Xbox One to run (a select number of) already owned Xbox 360 games seemed to come out of nowhere. It was exciting and a great big thumbs up to Xbox players.

There are caveats of course. Everyone notes that this should’ve been there from the beginning. For whatever reason - getting the Xbox One out the same time at PS4, and the general mess that was the Xbox One launch - we didn’t have it. Now we do.

As everyone knows, this does not mean you can just put in any 360 game and have it run. Microsoft General Manager of Games Publishing, Shannon Loftis, explained to Engadet how it works.

“It wasn't easy. It took some pretty dedicated engineering effort and very talented engineers. What they did was they created a software-based 360 emulation within the Xbox One architecture. So, when you put your disc in the drive, we're actually loading up an emulator, and then we put up a little portion of the Xbox 360 dashboard and you use that dashboard to launch into your game. You still have access though to all the great Xbox One features: game streaming, game DVR, screenshots. It works for digital games as well and your saved games do transfer.”

When asked if every 360 game would work, it was indicated that it depends on factors like player feedback and liaising with publishers.

In terms of player feedback, the number one requested game - with over 50,000 votes as of this writing - is Red Dead Redemption. Considering it’s my favourite game, this is very exciting to me.

Eurogamer also recently confirmed that the backward compatibility will support DLC, too. That means we can get the full experiences of titles that had numerous DLC packages, not merely the vanilla game.

In all cases, it’s dependent on whether the publisher allows it. The most important part, however, isn’t just that it’s possible. It’s that Microsoft isn’t charging players for this, beyond owning the original 360 title.

Contrast this to Sony’s response:

"The announcement didn't change [anything for Sony]," he said, "I don't think we will change our approach. The PlayStation 4 doesn't have backward compatibility."

You can play PS3 games on PS4 in two ways: With remasters and with PlayStation Now. But PlayStation Now still requires you to pay separately, is in beta, is streaming - thus requiring fast internet - and is only available in USA, Canada and the UK. Remember, Microsoft isn’t charging you for the emulator and you don’t need a subscription.

Further, it seems most people that want backward compatibility on consoles want it to play games they already own. Microsoft have the right approach; Sony is charging, basically, twice.

Hopefully this will set up competition for future development that let’s the PS4 do something similar. You can see Eurogamer’s Ian Higton talk about and play with the Xbox One backward compatibility (which rolls out for everyone later this year)


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