Xbox One X Enhanced Backwards Compatibility is Incredible, and Microsoft Isn't Getting Enough Credit

Microsoft's backwards compatibility service that lets us play Xbox 360 and Xbox games on Xbox One is one of the most impressive console features of all time.

Opinion by Tom Orry, .

The Xbox One has bumped, crashed, and ricketed along a rocky road to where it is today. It's a console that had essentially lost the battle for this generation before it hit stores, seemingly stumbling at every possible hurdle and placing new, even higher, hurdles where there needn't have been any. The PS4 rightfully wiped the floor with the Xbox One, releasing at a lower price, offering more power, angering fewer potential customers, and pretty soon delivering a much more impressive lineup of games. Microsoft still hasn't sorted the latter, but it has created one of the most impressive and consumer friendly services of all time with its backwards compatibility service.

If you own an Xbox One, One S or One X you can play about 500 old Xbox 360 and Xbox games. Not only that, but these games are mostly better than they were on their original console, both in terms of resolution and performance—something that's taken to the extreme on Xbox One X with games running in 4K. Thanks to a new wave of titles hitting the Xbox One backwards compatible service, if you bought Red Dead Redemption on Xbox 360, you can download it or put the disc into your Xbox One X and it'll run with incredibly sharp 4K visuals, at no extra cost to you. This is something that had previously been reserved for PC gaming, and should be celebrated.

Our friends at Digital Foundry went into detail on how backwards compatibility works on Xbox One, and it's a feat of software engineering that is as impressive as any modern video game. It should, hopefully, also mean that (providing Xbox Two shares similar X86 architecture to Xbox One) backwards compatibility for Xbox One, 360 and OG Xbox games is available from day one on the next console.

Microsoft isn't doing all this out of the good of its heart of course, no doubt wanting to create an Xbox ecosystem that players simply don't want to leave, partly because they don't feel the need to. Why would you jump ship to another console when you could buy the next console and retain all your old games, and play them looking better than ever before? It's a shame for Microsoft that it didn't get this right off the bat at the launch of the Xbox One, for it might have helped alleviate some of the issues that saw the huge Xbox 360 user base choose the PS4 instead.

Gears of War 3 looks incredible on the Xbox One X.

On rival platforms backwards compatibility simply doesn't exist. If you had a huge PS3 library, you can't play those games on the PS4. If you owned a Wii U, you can't play those games on the Switch. Well, to be accurate you can play a lot of those games on the newer systems if you purchase them again (and to be fair to Sony, numerous titles shipped with cross-play on PS3, Vita, and PS4). No matter how much of a positive spin put on the situation for PS4 and Switch, though, it pales compared to what Microsoft has achieved with the Xbox One. Sony doesn't even allow games bought digitally to be played via the PlayStation Now streaming, which seems like such a no-brainer it's hard to fathom why it hasn't been implemented.

There's no question that the Xbox still needs a lot of work to compete with PlayStation and Nintendo. Both these competitors invest vast amounts of money into top of the line exclusive titles and will continue to do so—there's no sign at the moment that Microsoft will get to this level any time soon. Microsoft definitely has the pair beat on the software and services front, though. Add backwards compatibility to Game Pass and EA Access, and you have a console family that is offering superb value services. If this is a sign of a company doing all it can to win back an audience that had turned sour towards the Xbox brand, the next few years leading up to the true next generation should be very interesting.

P.S. Please release PGR2 and PGR4 on Xbox One backwards compatibility. Oh, and my friend Dave wants Outlaw Golf! If you're giving Red Dead a spin, we've got all the Red Dead Redemption cheats you need.

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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #1 Fourfoldroot 7 months ago
    Maybe this isn't shouted about too much by the general public because its hard for the older guys like us to get excited about being able to play games we already own and put away a long while ago (higher res or not) , and hard for the youngsters to get excited about excellent but old games without the latest graphics and hype. It's great to puff out a limited new game lineup with some classics, but not exactly anything to be too delighted about.

    I'm actually far more surprised that true innovations like VR, that provide something new and special, is getting such limited fanfare in the gaming press. Certainly less than this ability to play old games is getting.Edited April 2018 by Fourfoldroot
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  • Avatar for ReptilianSamurai #2 ReptilianSamurai 7 months ago
    This. Sony needs to get with the program. I still want to play my PS1, PS2 and PS3 games. In fact, lack of backwards compatibility put me off a PS4 purchase for years, until PSVR. Games should be treated more like film, not as something disposable and only good for a couple years, but something that should be supported and playable forever.
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  • Avatar for Frosty840 #3 Frosty840 7 months ago
    Isn't the percentage of backward compatibility gaming on the XBone on the order of a fraction of a percent?

    It's a nice feature, sure enough, but I don't have an XBone and I haven't touched my 360 in years. I have plenty of old games for the thing, but its time has passed...
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #4 SuperShinobi 7 months ago
    Of all Sony's consoles the Vita has by far the best back compat (aside from the rare PS3 launch model) and commercially it did the worst. Wii U had back compat with the Wii and a decent virtual console and it didn't do well either. Switch has no back compat or VC and it's doing amazing.

    I don't think back compat has much relevance for the mainstream consumer, but certainly for forum dwellers with a keen interest in gaming history it's a wonderful thing. And yes, I hope that Sony would step up their efforts in this regard. They had a good thing going with the PS2 games on PS4 program, but it seems to have waned after a good start.Edited April 2018 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #5 LBD_Nytetrayn 7 months ago
    I love this feature -- my 360 is busted and I didn't get an original Xbox, so being able to play some of my favorites again and try stuff I missed in addition to new releases is great.

    I just wish there were an easier way to transfer my old save data.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #6 Fourfoldroot 7 months ago

    Did you sell your ps1, 2 and 3 but keep the games?
    For the purposes of preservation I would like BC to be maintained, but only if it doesn't hinder uptake of potentially better hardware architecture in future.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #7 donkeyintheforest 7 months ago
    The most recent update brought in Panzer Dragoon Orta. With Ninja Gaiden (black) also already covered I might finally be able to get rid of my OG Xbox.

    If Sony or even Nintendo maintained backwards compatibility like this, I wouldn't hesitate to buy cross platform titles on them (barely hesitate with the switch's portability benefits already haha), but I find myself holding off and waiting for the PC version more and more often these days. With things like Steam accounts lasting for multiple computers, I find it a better value to get it on that platform rather than have to rebuy a ps2 game on ps4 (or even better: Good Old Games since you can download a copy with no DRM now and keep it indefinitely).
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  • Avatar for docexe #8 docexe 7 months ago
    As other commenters have pointed out, it’s not exactly an exciting or indispensable feature for most people, especially given how this industry and its fanbase are always looking forward to the next big thing rather than to the past.

    From the point of view of both preservation and digital ownership, this feature is actually relevant. I sometimes look at the vast library of digital games I have accrued on PS3 and bemoan the fact that I can’t carry it over to the PS4, so those games will vanish into the ether once Sony decides is finally time to unplug the servers. In that sense, I do hope that the PS5 will have some sort of backward compatibility with the PS4.Edited April 2018 by docexe
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  • Avatar for Stepout #9 Stepout 7 months ago
    The fact that the Xbox One is the only current gen home console that can play Symphony of the Night is so bizarre to me. Microsoft definitely gets a cool point for this, the industry as a whole gets a sad panda though.
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  • Avatar for docexe #10 docexe 7 months ago
    @Fourfoldroot I do remember VR being trumpeted by most of the gaming media as the Next Big Thing back when Oculus and the other VR headsets hadn’t reached the market yet. Then the headsets finally released, failed to set the charts on fire because the barriers to entry for the general public were still too high, and interest among the media just petered out.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #11 MetManMas 7 months ago
    @ReptilianSamurai BC ain't that simple. The Xbox family was made to support the fancy PC game engines from the start; Sony didn't catch on until the PS4. And speaking of, the PS4 and PS3 have vastly different architectures from one another.

    This is why most of the PS4's last-gen remasters are games that were also on Steam and/or 360. And while I'm sure they could've stuck a PS3 inside the PS4 it surely would've made the console's price tag skyrocket.

    But, that said, I do agree with you. There is no good reason that consoles should be disposable anymore, especially not in this digital age. And even if Sony can't properly do PS3 without streaming or extensive remasters, it's already been shown that the PS4 can do PS2, and they never should've abandoned the PSone Classics line.

    The traditional console cycle is why I dread the words "PS5" and "Xbox Another One."
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #12 MetManMas 7 months ago
    @docexe Oh yes. Backwards compatibility is not going to get me to buy an Xbox One (and to be real I'd prefer proper Morrowind and KotOR remasters for modern consoles to bring them more in line with their PC brethren), but I'm still grateful that it's there in some capacity.

    And I get why Sony cut off the branches with the PS4, but I'm disappointed that PlayStation Now is the only way to play most of those PS3 exclusives on PS4. I'd kill for remasters of the Ratchet & Clank Future titles and Tokyo Jungle. Metal Gear Solid 4 and Demon's Souls don't even have PS Now versions.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #13 VotesForCows 7 months ago
    Never owned an X-Box of any gen, but this is undoubtedly a brilliant feature. If Sony or Nintendo (my consoles of choice) had this, people would be crapping themselves with glee!
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #14 MetManMas 7 months ago
    @VotesForCows Oh yes. It may not be practical, but I would be much more interested in backwards compatibility with PS3 and (since they're not making another handheld) Vita on the PS4 than I am in old Xbox games on the Xbox One. And that has a lot to do with the PS3 and Vita having a lot more in the way of exclusives, games that it'd be a shame to have stuck on old platforms forever.

    I mean, it's nice that Microsoft's doing backwards compatibility (Glad to hear Panzer Dragoon Orta's on the list), but so many of their OG Xbox and 360 games are old ports of PC games that would be better served with new remasters to work out the kinks in their original releases, not the existing compromised ports with a Ludicrous Res option taped on.
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  • Avatar for MARl0 #15 MARl0 7 months ago
    Too bad neither of the games I actually want to play using it are available (Burnout Revenge and Tales of Vesperia). I've given up on it honestly.
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  • Avatar for Dpullam #16 Dpullam 7 months ago
    For me, it is just a nice feeling knowing some games I might have had tucked away in my house can still be played today on a modern console. Even if I don't ever actually play them, I still think it is nice to have the feature just in case. And there are actually a solid amount of games from the original Xbox I never got to play.
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  • Avatar for Iambiz #17 Iambiz 7 months ago
    Does anyone know if Microsoft managed to implement cloud saves for original xbox games played on xbone?
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  • Avatar for docexe #18 docexe 7 months ago
    @MetManMas Indeed! I understand the technical reasons why they couldn’t offer backward compatibility between the PS3 and PS4, but that doesn’t exactly alleviate the sting.
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  • Avatar for ReptilianSamurai #19 ReptilianSamurai 6 months ago
    @Fourfoldroot my PS1 died, but other than that I still have the systems. Not all are hooked up, but I was glad to be able to play PS1 games on PS2 and 3. But would be nice to have access to the whole library with the nice wireless controllers and improved hd. I guess I should look into finding a back compatible PS3...
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  • Avatar for ReptilianSamurai #20 ReptilianSamurai 6 months ago
    @MetManMas yeah, especially as consoles become digital platforms, I'm worried what will happen to all these games that are digital only when the stores close. It's already happening for Wii. I wasn't ready for PS4, I still have plenty to play on my PS3, and honestly... It's HD and online and had wireless controllers and plays Blu-ray ... I didn't see what more could be gained by an upgrade that threw away my entire library, graphics already reached a point of incredible realism on PS3.
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