Microsoft Details Xbox Series X|S Backward Compatibility

Posted on October 13, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X with 5 Comments

We already knew that Xbox Series X and Series S users will be able to play thousands of previous-generation games at launch. And that all of them will be better in some way than they were on earlier consoles. But today, Microsoft provided some additional details about this huge benefit of the Xbox ecosystem.

“We know how important it is to preserve and respect your gaming legacy,” Microsoft’s Peggy Lo writes in a new post to the Xbox Wire blog. “We believe your favorite games and franchises, your progression and achievements, your Xbox One gaming accessories and the friendships and communities you create through gaming should all move with you across generations. We also fundamentally believe that not only should you be able to play all of your games from the past without needing to purchase them again, but they should also look, feel and play better on the next generation of Xbox consoles.”

That last bit is the key. Original generation Xbox and Xbox 360 games that are part of the Xbox Backward Compatibility program look and/or play better on Xbox One today. And going forward, Backward Compatible titles from all three previous Xbox console generations will likewise be better on Xbox Series X|S.

According to Lo, Backward Compatible titles run “natively” on the new consoles and run at “the peak performance that they were originally designed for, with significantly higher performance than their original launch platform, resulting in higher and more steady framerates and rendering at their maximum resolution and visual quality.” And thanks to the Xbox Velocity Architecture—basically, very fast SSDs—they also experience significant reductions in load times.

That’s all expected. More interesting, perhaps, Xbox Series X|S will support a new feature called Auto HDR that brings the high dynamic range and visual quality of modern games to legacy standard dynamic range (SDR) titles that shipped before HDR was available.

“Auto HDR enhances the visual quality of an SDR game without changing the original artistic intent of the game,” Lo explains of the feature. “Auto HDR is implemented by the system so developers don’t have to do any work to take advantage of this feature. Also, since Auto HDR is enabled by the console’s hardware, there is absolutely no performance cost to the CPU, GPU or memory and there is no additional latency added ensuring you receive the ultimate gaming experience.”

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