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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Comments (6)

6 responses to “Microsoft Details Xbox Series X|S Backward Compatibility”

  1. ReijMan

    I guess I'll light a candle for my plastic guitars and drums and accompanying x360 "music games" disks.

  2. thretosix

    Digital Foundry did a bit on load times with external drives vs the internal storage. The "Velocity Architecture" basically has nothing to do with backwards compatibility. Features like the quick resume would be a different story but shouldn't change anything, I think it was mentioned that the game state would be stored on a partition of the internal storage. The benefits come from the upgrade in throughput you can get nearly the same performance on an external SSD through the USB ports depending on the game and drive you use. Even the Xbox One X ran on a 5400rpm drive, just that the custom CPU couldn't process enough to load the games fast enough as with the increase in memory and speed. The enhancements such as increased frame rates and resolution in scalable games come from the upgraded hardware with the CPU and GPU in bot the Series S and X. There's no reason not to install previous generation games on an external drive or need to purchase the 1TB expansion card or use up precious internal storage that will use the Velocity Architecture in upcoming games. I would think it would be a lot smarter to purchase a larger SSD with a USB bridge for these games. Wait for a larger capacity expansion card to come out in the future or wait for the cost to come down. The advantage to having the expansion card would be more for the Game Pass and having several new games installed. Though you can always park a game on the external as well if you aren't actively playing it to save space as well.

    • sammyg

      In reply to Thretosix:

      Digital Foundry is THE authority on these new consoles when it comes to hardware and game performance. That review was fantastic. They had another review showing Assasians Creed Unity (old game) and the performance on the Xbox One S, X and XSX. The XSX locked that game at 60fps no matter the scene in the game. The X1X never got to 60 (35-50) and the Xbox One S was at 24-30fps.


      Unless your game uses the new Velocity API to access the internal SSD at a lower level there was no different performance form most of the games they tested from the Internal, to any USB-SSD, all with in a second or less for loading times.


      Sadly the USB port is only 3.0/3.1 Gen1 with a 5gig limit on the XSX. If it had been 3.1 Gen2 with a 10gig limit you might see more performance out of a NVME to USB setup and might be fast enough to run Next Gen games and not need that Segate drive.


      On my X1X all of my games are on a a 2TB Samsung 860 EVO via a USB 3.1 to SATA cable. Faster than the internal spinning drive on the X1X and I will be able to just move it to the XSX when I get it.

  3. davehelps

    I wonder what "run natively" means?


    The Xbox had Pentium III, if I recall correctly.

    The Xbox 360 was a PowerPC-based chip from IBM, right?

    And the Xbox One is an x86-64 chip, running something like Hyper-V as its main OS, with a dashboard guest VM, plus a guest VM for whatever game you're playing, and (I assume) an emulator for the Xbox 360 hardware.

    I think.

    (Phew!)


    So for Xbox Series X|S to run all those "natively" sounds interesting. I'm assuming they haven't included a PowerPC chip. So what do we think?


    Maybe software emulation direct on the main OS, similar to Windows x86-64 on ARM, to run the Xbox 360 games?


    Or maybe they are saying "natively" but they mean "locally", i.e. it's still an emulator on a hypervisor, rather than streaming them from the cloud?

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