With a new generation of consoles on the horizon, games are about to get an upgrade. But cross-gen play has been more of a discussion now than it has been in the past. In a new interview, Xbox head Phil Spencer addressed concerns surrounding Xbox compatibility headed into this generation of hardware.
Previous affirmations that Xbox Series X's first-party games will be cross-gen with the Xbox One for the first few years of the Series X's lifespan seem to have raised some questions about how big of a step-up the Series X will be. Sony's Jim Ryan has stressed the leap PlayStation is making moving from the PlayStation 4 to PS5, offering experiences that can only be had on a next-gen console. Xbox and PlayStation have clashed over this in the past; Ryan affirms that Sony believes in generations, while Xbox touts "choice, value and variety."
In a new interview with Gamesindustry.biz about whether Xbox One will hold back the Series X, Spencer says that "held back is a meme that gets created by people who are too caught up in device competition." He draws a comparison to the PC landscape, where different machines and hardware combinations all exist with different potential, saying the diversity of hardware has not held back the highest fidelity PC games.
"We should applaud load times and fidelity of scenes and frame rate and input latency, and all of these things that we've focused on with the next generation," said Spencer. "But that should not exclude people from being able to play. That's our point. How do we create an ecosystem where if you want to play an Xbox game, we're going to give you a way to play it?"
It's a response that lines up with Microsoft's other cross-gen initiatives, like Smart Delivery for certain games across generational lines. In the process, it draws in questions of what a next-gen upgrade looks like. As Spencer goes on to say, gaming is bigger than one device.
"Gaming is about entertainment and community and diversion and learning new stories and new perspectives, and I find it completely counter to what gaming is about to say that part of that is to lock people away from being able to experience those games," Spencer told GI.biz. "Or to force someone to buy my specific device on the day that I want them to go buy it, in order to partake in what gaming is about."
As our own Mike Williams noted at the start of the year, the next line of hardware is going to blur the usually rigid delineation between console generations. Backward compatibility, cross-save and free upgrades, and even cross-gen multiplayer in games like Rainbow Six Siege are blurring the lines of where one generation ends and the next one begins.