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The Truth About Xbox Series X Backward Compatibility



Xbox Series X Backward Compatibility.

Backward compatibility has become Xbox’s secret weapon (Image: Microsoft)

A reader examines why Microsoft is so committed to backward compatibility and what that could mean for the future of Xbox.

This next generation rivalry is proving unexpectedly interesting. That gene was boring. Xbox One was a complete disaster before it even started, and Sony hasn̵

7;t made any major mistakes. Great games, good generation, but not a lot of drama.

Now, with the Xbox Series X / S and PlayStation 5, not only do we have two (or three) consoles that are quite different, but they are also made by companies whose entire attitudes towards the gaming industry are also completely different. And that hasn’t happened in a long time (without Nintendo, who always do their own thing).

I’ll put my cards on the table before I start: I already pre-ordered a PlayStation 5. I’m keen to get an Xbox Series S, however, and while I’m not sure when the only thing stopping me is cash and the lack of gaming right now. That brings me to the point of my function.

I have long been intrigued by Microsoft’s obsession with backward compatibility because they put so much effort into using it as a successful stick to beat Sony. This is an incredibly trivial feature in my opinion that is rarely used. I can’t remember ever using backward compatibility on a console that I owned, and I don’t remember any of my friends ever mentioning the concept or that they thought it was important anyway.

The general impression I get from talking online is that this is a common feeling and that is precisely why Sony has often ignored it. Especially after introducing the PlayStation 3, they quickly became frustrated that people were only stuck with buying cheaper PlayStation 2 games. However, Microsoft clearly does not see this as a problem, not least because of Smart Delivery, and I’m curious why.

My initial theory was that they would just run into what Sony doesn’t and try to use it as a lever. Combined with the lack of exclusive first-party suppliers on the Xbox One, backward compatibility was really the only thing they had in their favor, so they ran with it – mostly because they could pretend the Xbox One had more games than them. (A trick they reuse on the Xbox Series X grid where almost everything is just old “tweaked” Xbox One games.)

At first I don’t think there’s more to it, but then Game Pass began and along with experiments with streaming that led to xCloud, Microsoft must have started thinking about the long-term future of Xbox branding and gaming as a whole. And that’s where they really started to differentiate themselves from Sony.

Even Sony’s biggest mistake has surpassed Microsoft’s biggest hit (PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360). So it’s not surprising that Sony isn’t rocking too much with the PlayStation 5. There are some interesting innovations in the SSD and controller, but by Herz, it’s just another big plastic box whose best games are all exclusive that you have to pay for checks notes £ 70 for.

Microsoft still offers this – or will offer it when they release a new game – but the real win for them is Game Pass. Something that has been widely praised for its obvious value for money, but when paired with xCloud offers a much clearer and more compelling view of the future than Sony has offered. And I say that, even if I assume that the PlayStation 5 will “win” the next generation.

The other reason Microsoft is so focused on backward compatibility is of course Game Pass. Microsoft isn’t making Blinx: The Time Sweeper and Tour de France 2009 backward compatible because they believe everyone wants to play them or that they deserve special cultural preservation, but because they want the largest possible list of games that they can claim the Netflix deserves To be playing.

And I don’t mean that as a kind of gotcha moment. It’s not a criticism. I think Microsoft’s attempts to beat Sony by changing the nature of the game are very smart and the only sensible direction they could have taken. Everything Microsoft is doing now, from buying Bethesda to adding HDR to Fuzion Frenzy, is about making Game Pass more desirable and ensuring they have an unassailable lead over Sony in terms of streaming and subscriptions.

I suspect it will work for her too. No matter how well they do this generation (I suspect it’ll be better than the Xbox One but not as good as the Xbox 360), they’ll be so ready for the revolution after that that Sony has no chance of countering it unless they start taking what Microsoft does seriously. Currently, due to their half-hearted backwards compatibility and lack of adequate subscription service, they don’t.

But that’s for the future. Right now I’m looking forward to playing Demon’s Souls on my PlayStation 5 and all the other games that will come in the years after that. Beyond that, however, I suspect that Microsoft’s adventures in terms of backward compatibility will have some very long-term benefits …

From reader Luger

The function of the reader does not have to represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can always submit your own 500-600 word reading feature which will be published in the next eligible weekend slot when used. As always, email [email protected] and follow us on Twitter.

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