The E3 2015 conference brought a big surprise to gamers across all platforms: Microsoft announced that Xbox One will now support purchased and downloaded 360 titles through Xbox One Backward Compatibility. The new feature is already being tested by Xbox Preview members, and should be rolled out to everyone in the fall of this year.
Many gamers have been hoping for the backward compatibility feature to come back to console-playing for years. If you’ve invested money and time in a game, giving it up when it’s time for a new console is always tough. Everyone has a favorite title from their past that they dig out from time to time. As a result, lots of game players hold onto an older console instead of switching over to a brand new gaming experience.
By providing consumers with great exclusives, a variety of Xbox One bundles, and bringing 360 games to the Xbox One, Microsoft is hoping to boost sales of the console during the holidays and beyond. It seems they’ve been listening to the wishes of video gamers. And the announcement of Xbox One backwards compatibility is certainly very welcome.
After this E3, the gaming community is still reeling from some announced features, the potential of HoloLens and VR technology, and the incredible games coming to all platforms this year. And it seems Xbox has possibly taken the edge in the battle of the consoles in 2015 with backward compatibility. The news certainly took Sony by surprise. In a recent interview with Eurogamer, PlayStation’s Yoshida admitted he “didn’t think it was possible,” while Sony has admitted that the feature may never come to its console.
Has Xbox finally one-upped its rivals after 2013’s disastrous feature launch? Time will tell; there are still a lot of questions regarding the backward compatibility feature, and reactions so far are mixed. We’ll take a look at how Xbox 360 titles on the Xbox One will work, what they look like, and what you’ll be able to play.
What is Xbox One Backward Compatibility?
In the old days of gaming, such as on the PlayStation 2, it was common to be able to play older games on your new console. The newer machine would have the capability of reading both kinds of discs, so you could still use all your old titles when you upgraded. As consoles and the games have become more complicated, having this feature became tough. The Xbox 360 didn’t support older titles, nor did the PlayStation 3. Newer players may not miss what they never had, but everyone can understand the frustration of paying for content that you no longer get to play.
By adding backward compatibility to a current-generation console like the Xbox One, Microsoft is not breaking new ground, but the announcement is very welcome among the gaming community. Now that 360 titles are coming to the Xbox One, it’s sure to see many people finally making that switch to the new world of gaming consoles.
How does Xbox One Backward Compatibility work?
Bringing backward compatibility to the Xbox hasn’t been an easy journey for Microsoft, and it admitted to seeing real difficulties in some aspects. That said, the solution is elegant and easy to use; the 360 emulator in the Xbox One will actually replicate the operating system. In practice, this means that your discs and downloads will be read by the 360 engine, will open with the 360 boot-up sequence, and will identify you online as a 360 player.
Meanwhile, the Xbox One will be reading your game as a single entity, “The 360,” and open up console features such as streaming and screenshots. This comes together to give you an enhanced 360 experience while you enjoy the benefits current-generation consoles give to gamers.
Getting started is easy. Firstly, compatible titles that you’ve downloaded from the Xbox Store will show on your Xbox One as “ready to install” right away. Second, you can insert your disk to have the console download a copy, which will then be available from your 360 game hub. The option is currently only offered on a select few titles, but Microsoft aims to have “hundreds” of games available to play through the feature by 2016.
IGN.com video – Xbox One: Playing 360 Games with Backward Compatibility
Tip: One of the things you’ll want to take away from all this is that you’re going to need a lot of storage space if you have a large library of Xbox 360 games. So be prepared to find a really good external hard drive for your Xbox One.
When the time comes, you’ll be prepared and you won’t find yourself lacking hard drive space when backwards compatibility launches for Xbox One. Plus you’ll have ample storage for all the incredible games that will be releasing for Xbox One as well (Halo 5, Gears 4, Tomb Raider, Forza 6, Crackdown, Quantum Theory, etc.)
What titles are included at the moment?
Bringing backward play to the Xbox One has to be done on a case by case basis, with permissions and code tweaks needed each time. As a result, the initial range of 360 titles is limited, although there are some classic favorites in there. Most notably, Mass Effect is part of the preview launch, and reactions to the gameplay have been really good so far. A recent frame rate test by Digital Foundry shows Mass Effect in action on the 360, giving us a good look at the two systems side by side.
The Xbox One shows some improvement in the visuals, with brighter gameplay, sharper edges, and reduced blur. Frame for frame, though, there’s little difference between the two. Fears of buggy and interrupted gameplay seem unsubstantiated for the moment: If anything, the One will accentuate the 360 experience and breathe new life into games.
The full list of supported titles in the June 2015 launch:
- A Kingdom for Keflings
- A World for Keflings
- Viva Piñata and Viva Piñata TIP
- Super Meat Boy
- Defense Grid
- Geometry Wars Evolved
- Alien Hominid
- Small Arms
- Toy Soldiers, Toy Soldiers: Cold War
- Perfect Dark
- Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie
- Battleblock Theater
- Mass Effect
Why aren’t Kinect titles included?
Many fans of the Kinect motion system will be disappointed to not see their favorite titles among the above list, but the logistics of crossing the 360 Kinect and translating between sensors is a near impossible task. Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, discussed with Gamespot how the feature was discussed, but ultimately was not feasible.
However, motion gaming fans will love the new innovations coming to Xbox One, such as the potential for greater partnership with Valve for the Oculus Rift. Meanwhile, Kinect for Xbox One has some great new titles, and there is currently talk of Kinect-Cortana interaction functionality that will add a new level to the One experience.
How will 360 achievements work on the One?
Moving your game to the 360 won’t cause you to lose your previously earned achievements—and it won’t give you the chance to earn them twice, either!
You’ll be able to access the traditional Xbox guide through your Xbox One, view your earned achievements, and see what you’ve got left to pick up. Essentially, it will be just like playing on your 360 console, but with those added Xbox One features that enhance the experience.
If you’ve missed a few achievements in your older games, why not give them a new playthrough on your Xbox One console? Not only will you get to relive some of your old adventures, but you can use the One’s in-game features to screenshot those magic moments and even live stream your gameplay to show off those skills. It’s still the 360, just not as you know it!
What about multi-disc games and DLCs?
Some of the world’s favorite games have been split across multiple discs or feature many different parts. Downloadable content is a standard feature in today’s games, and players will be keen to retain the extras along with the game itself.
As it stands, there are no available games for Xbox One Backward Compatibility that use multi-disk functionality; this will be a little more complicated. Although the emulator should be able to manage reading separate discs and downloading their information, changes to the program will be needed to handle the shift. If we do start to see titles that feature multiple parts, these are likely to come with later games.
Will Arcade titles and Xbox games be included?
Although the 360 never saw backward compatibility itself, many 360 players downloaded their favorite original Xbox titles through the 360 Arcade. There has been no word yet on whether these Xbox titles will become part of the 360 collection, but it is likely that these will be absent. Similarly, with games being added on an individual basis as it becomes possible, you’re unlikely to see your favorite indie games from the old 360 store coming to One.
Microsoft is inviting fans to vote for titles they want to see in the feature sooner rather than later. If there’s a high demand for a particular title, it is possible that a deal will be worked out. The decisions on titles are based on whether a crossover is possible, whether the game can be licensed for use, and whether there is a demand to bring it over and support it. Potentially, we could see a huge range from the 360 library available on Xbox One consoles, and this may include those Arcade titles and older games too.
What does this mean for the future of Xbox One?
As it stands, Sony is outselling Xbox by almost two to one. PlayStation has seen some huge boosts over recent years, and this can in part be attributed to Microsoft’s underwhelming launch of the Xbox One. With talk of blocking play for used games, a need for constant online connection and a whole host of charges, many decided they’d either move to a PlayStation 4 or stick with the 360. As a result, Xbox has never seen as much of a market share as Sony has, despite there still being a strong Xbox fan base.
During 2015’s E3 announcements, Xbox managed to take the gaming world by storm by showcasing the Xbox One backward compatibility feature. Nobody saw it coming, and game announcements had stolen the show. Bringing backplay to the One is a huge bonus for loyal Xbox players who love their games and aren’t ready to give them up, and it is sure to push many into upgrading. Microsoft has paid attention to gamers who say that they resent paying again for a game they already own, and has made the effort to give back to its fans.
When will Xbox One Backward Compatibility be available?
As previously stated, some Xbox One users are already getting to try out the new feature through their Preview Member status. This beta test will give game studios taken off guard by the announcement a chance to work with Microsoft on getting their own games included. Given the element of surprise, we can assume that not many people were in the know before E3. By the time access to the feature is launched universally, the list of available titles should have grown.
We can expect this user-wide launch to happen in the later half of this year: the official word from Microsoft is fall 2015. That’s more than enough time to have worn out our copies of new Xbox One games and be ready for the new wave before the holidays. Revisiting those favorite 360 titles might be just the right way to fill the gap.
90's girl with a love of retro games and old school consoles - currently in the market for a working Commodore 64...
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