Celebrating One Year of Xbox One Backward Compatibility

Posted on November 11, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One with 6 Comments

Celebrating One Year of Xbox One Backward Compatibility

It’s a big day for Xbox fans, with the first year of Xbox One Backward Compatibility coming just ahead of the 15th anniversary of Xbox.

I’ll write about that more general milestone in the coming week, but I think it’s notable that each generation of Xbox console has in some way offered a link to the past despite the underlying platform differences. This provides a continuity for gamers who have invested in the Xbox platform over the years. And it lets great games from the past live on in a way that is elegant and seamless.

For Xbox One, backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games is achieved via emulation, in the same way that Xbox 360 consoles could play original Xbox games. But the Xbox One’s Hyper-V-based underpinnings help this console achieve better levels of performance and reliability.

Oddly, when Microsoft first announced this functionality at E3 2015, it said that Xbox 360 games would run “natively” on the Xbox One, which is of course impossible given the underlying architectural differences between the Xbox One (x86) and Xbox 360 (PowerPC). But it quickly came clean on how this would really work.

“Xbox One Backward Compatibility is an Xbox 360 emulator that runs on Xbox One and is used to play Xbox 360 games,” a Microsoft FAQ noted. “We call it backward compatibility because gamers can play select Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. However, referring to this functionality as an emulator is more accurate from a technology perspective.”

Over time, we came to better understand how Xbox One Backward Compatibility would work. The feature is free, and doesn’t require Xbox Live Gold. Developers determine which games are available, and it supports both disc-based and digital games. Best of all, all Games with Gold games are compatible, so Xbox One users (with Xbox Live Gold subscriptions) now get four free games every month.

When Xbox One Backward Compatibility first launched in late 2015, there were just over 100 Xbox 360 games in the list, including some heavy hitters like Assassin’s Creed II, Borderlands, Fable II, all four Gears of War games, Perfect Dark Zero, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas and Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and Zuma.

Today, one year from the launch, there are now over 280 Xbox 360 games available via Backward Compatibility. And this week alone, Microsoft added Skate 3, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3. Looking over the full list, I see some amazing games that have been added in the past year, including several Call of Duty titles (Call of Duty 2, 3, World at War and Black Ops), Limbo, Portal 2, and Red Dead Redemption.

That said, I’m curious whether Microsoft will ever be able to achieve the level of success it saw with backward compatibility on the Xbox 360. At its height, the Xbox 360 was compatible with over 460 original Xbox titles, fully 50 percent of all available original Xbox games. But with the Xbox 360 heading off into the sunset earlier this year, backward compatibility with that popular console generation is even more important today. And there are almost 1200 Xbox 360 games, so there’s a lot of room for growth here.

Remastered games designed for the latest console, like we’ve seen with the Halo, Gears of War, and now Call of Duty series help, too, of course. But no matter how you look at it, there’s never been a better time to be an Xbox gamer.

 

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5 Comments
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  1. 1 | Reply
    madthinus Alpha Member #94 - 3 weeks ago

    I love it when Paul is in Europe, means Thurrott.com is in my time zone:-) Enjoy the trip Paul!

  2. 0 | Reply
    AliMaggs Alpha Member #1317 - 3 weeks ago

    I wish that all games released on Backwards Compatibility were also available to buy digitally through the store. Most are, but Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, for example, are disc only. And, after moving last year, I've no idea where my old 360 discs ended up. I'd happily buy them again to have the convenience of not needing to dig out those discs.

    Regardless, the backwards compatibility list is pretty amazing, and I'm enjoying replaying some old games that I just didn't get around to finishing the first time around. 

     

  3. 0 | Reply
    jbuccola Alpha Member #1511 - 3 weeks ago

    We have XB360 with a couple dozen games; the only ones that get played are Goldeneye and Halo 4. Dunno why. Those two aren't on the list, naturally, so we wait in vain.

  4. 0 | Reply
    wolters Alpha Member #390 - 3 weeks ago

    I know is isnt on the horizon, but I'd love to see a few Kinect games ported over, line original Kinect Sports and KINECT PARTY. And wishful thinking, would like to see original XBOX games added. 

  5. 0 | Reply
    Narg Alpha Member #420 - 3 weeks ago

    I'm just glad the console makers got smart and won't do this incompatibility thing again, all future consoles will maintain the same basic setup to allow all games to go forward, or newer games to work just find on older consoles.