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.
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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