Microsoft has released details about how the backward compatibility of the Xbox Series X works, calling the new Xbox “the most compatible next-generation console.”
In an article on Xbox Wire, Jason Ronald, director of program management for Xbox Series X, revealed that the Xbox Series X will launch with thousands of games, across four generations of Xbox. Not only that, but these games will “play better than ever” thanks to Microsoft's new HDR reconstruction technique and the Xbox Series X fast resume function. In addition, the powerful specifications of the Xbox Series X will allow some Backwards compatible titles run at higher resolutions or double the frame rate.
“As players, we also know how important it is to preserve and respect our gaming heritage,” wrote Ronald in the post. “Your favorite games and franchises, your progress and achievements, as well as the friendships and communities you create through play should all evolve with you across generations. Not only that, your favorite accessories and gaming devices should also progress with you.”
Custom processor is key
According to Ronald, the same team that brought backward compatibility to the Xbox One does the same for the Xbox Series X.
The technical aspects have made this work for the Xbox Series X a little more difficult, but the custom processor of the new generation console has been specially designed to combat this problem and allows us to enjoy titles from all Xbox generations in a way transparent.
“Maintaining compatibility is a huge technical challenge as the fundamental architectures of systems and chips progress from generation to generation,” says Ronald. “Developers are strongly optimizing their games based on the unique capabilities and performance of a console to provide the best experience for their players. To make the Xbox Series X our most compatible console, it took both significant innovation in the custom processor design as well as the unique design of the Xbox operating system and hypervisor at the heart of our next generation platform. ”
Ronald also revealed that the Xbox team has logged more than 100,000 hours of game testing on Xbox Series X, with team members now using Xbox Series X as their primary console.
“By the time we kick off this holiday, the team will have spent well over 200,000 hours ensuring that your game library is ready for you to commit to immediately,” said Ronald.
Backward compatibility boost
Not only will we be able to enjoy thousands of backward-compatible games on the Xbox Series X since launch, but these games will apparently play better than ever.
The Xbox Series X will be able to run backward compatible games in native mode, each game taking full advantage of the new processor, GPU and SSD of the Xbox.
“This means that all titles work with the maximum performance for which they were originally designed, much higher performance than games on their original launch platform, which results in higher frame rates higher and more stable and rendered at their maximum resolution and visual quality, “explains Ronald. “The backward-compatible titles also see significant reductions in in-game load times compared to the massive jump in performance from our custom NVME SSD that powers the Xbox Velocity architecture.”
Not only will backward-compatible games work better, they'll also look better. The Xbox Series X will provide an HDR reconstruction technique that will automatically add HDR support to games – without affecting performance.
In addition, the Xbox Series X's quick resume feature will also be compatible with backward compatible games, allowing players to essentially switch to games instantly, resume where they left off or move from game to game transparently.
According to Ronald, these advances do not require any additional work on the part of the developers and will rather occur at the level of the platform. The team is also working on new techniques that will allow certain backward-compatible titles to operate at higher resolutions and even double the frame rate.
An Xbox story at your fingertips
It currently seems that the Xbox Series X is the most compatible next generation console. Not only will the new Xbox be backward compatible with generations of Xbox games, but we also know that it extends to Xbox One accessories.
However, we are largely unaware of Sony's plans for backward compatibility with the PS5. We know that the PS5 will be able to play “almost all” of the best PS4 games at launch, but the company has not revealed whether backward compatibility will extend beyond that.
Sony has not had a great history of backward compatibility to date. While early versions of PlayStation 3 could play PS2 titles, the console was finally able to play original PlayStation One titles purchased from the store. With the PlayStation 4 generation, Sony has made a big bet on PS Now to recover part of the game in terms of backward compatibility.
PlayStation Now allows players to stream selected games from PS2, PS3 and PS4. Originally a streaming only feature, PlayStation Now offers some PS4 games for download, but those with low internet speed don't need to apply and even those with good connections will find that the input lag can cause problems in more reaction-based games.
Meanwhile, Xbox One currently supports 575 Xbox 360 titles and 41 original Xbox titles. It doesn't cover the thousands of games in the Xbox back catalog, but it looks like Microsoft is looking to fix this with the Xbox Series X.
We expect to learn more about the backward compatibility of the Xbox Series X in the coming months, with the release date of the new Xbox getting closer and closer. I hope we get a glimpse of the old Xbox games we can dive into in one of Microsoft's monthly Xbox 20/20 streams.