Backward compatibility is one of Microsoft’s most important pillars for next-generation consoles: the company says the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will be launched with the ability to play “thousands of Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games. “However, there is a huge gap between the capabilities of the two models – ‘the most powerful Xbox ever’ and ‘the smallest Xbox ever’ – which means that they handle backward compatibility differently.
Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Series S last week and announced that it would hit the market on November 1
The next generation consoles are analogous to the two current models of the Xbox One, the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X. Microsoft recently announced that backward compatibility will work accordingly on the upcoming consoles.
How does backward compatibility work on the Xbox Series S?
Since the Xbox One X debuted in late 2017, Microsoft has provided Xbox One X enhancements to nearly 70 Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. These titles look better and play better on an Xbox One X than they do on an Xbox One S (or an Xbox One with a launch model). Improvements include better anti-aliasing, improved texture details, and nine times the resolution (4K versus 720p).
The Xbox Series S doesn’t support these improvements, however, Microsoft recently confirmed. Instead, the company said in a statement to VGC on Friday, “The Xbox Series S will run the Xbox One S version of backward-compatible games while applying improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times and auto-HDR.”
It may seem disappointing that even Microsoft’s weaker next-gen console can’t deliver the same backward compatibility improvements as the company’s more powerful current-generation model. But the math looks good – on paper, the Xbox Series S has less raw power than the Xbox One X, with graphics performance of 4 teraflops compared to 6 teraflops. It also has less system memory: 10 GB for the Xbox Series S (of which a maximum of 8 GB is available for developers) versus 12 GB for the Xbox One X (of which 9 GB is available for developers).
With that said, it’s not a bad consolation price that the Xbox Series S still has some improvements in how older games run. When asked for more details, a Microsoft representative told Polygon that the above benefits are “enhancements not possible on Xbox One X.” The spokesman also noted that the Xbox Series S will still be able to run some Xbox One games at “double frame rate” – such as: Gears 5, which supports multiplayer action at 120 fps on both Xbox models of the next generation – thanks to “far more than twice the effective CPU and GPU performance of Xbox One S.”
How does backward compatibility work on Xbox Series X?
Microsoft announced in May that backward-compatible games would leverage the “full power of the Xbox Series X” for a variety of performance and image quality improvements. In addition to double the frame rate that the Series S supports (again for certain games), the Series X “can automatically add HDR support for games,” said Jason Ronald, director of programs for Xbox. And of course, Series X users are guaranteed to get games that are “rendered at the maximum resolution and visual quality.”
Both The S and X series offer shorter load times thanks to their fast SSDs – 512 GB for the S series and 1 TB for the X series. Both support a new feature called Quick Resume, which allows users to switch between multiple active games and wager the game quickly picks up where it left off.
Pre-orders for the Xbox Series S and Series X will go online on September 22nd.