Microsoft arguably dropped one of E3’s biggest moments early in their conference – the Xbox One is going backwards compatible – natively. Soon, your shiny new Xbox One will support both Xbox 360 discs through emulation and games previously purchased on the Xbox 360 store.
But wait – before you start shoving 15 discs at once into your Xbox One out of excitement, is this really the best move for Microsoft? Is delving into backwards compatibility just a way for the company to hang onto their success during the Xbox 360 era? Why dip into the past when what they do in the future in so vital?
Or is it a smart move? Will the functionality convince more gamers to finally make the jump into the new era of Xbox?
Phil Spencer claimed that backwards compatibility is one of the most requested features for the Xbox One, and thus, Microsoft is doing it. Eyes quickly turned to Sony as many were left wondering if the company would be adding such functionality to the PlayStation 4. After all, their attempt to let players stream PS3 games to the PS4 hasn’t taken off the way they – or gamers – probably hoped it would. Head of PlayStation Europe, Jim Ryan responded after the conferences saying, “We have experience of backwards compatibility. The earliest PS3 model was backwards compatible with PS2, and it is a much requested feature… but actually it’s not so greatly used,” he said.
So will the effort Microsoft puts into making Xbox One backwards compatible really be heavily adopted? On one hand, it certainly may sway those who have been on the fence when it comes to upgrading to an Xbox One – there may finally be a spot on your entertainment center for the new box, which often is one of the strongest reasons gamers clam for backwards compatibility – ease of access and less machines taking up space on your entertainment center.
And here’s something else that finally differentiates the two consoles when you’re staring at the two on the shelf. “We won’t charge you to play the games you already own,” Spencer said during the conference – something that Sony cannot say with some pretty high rental and subscription fees for their streaming service.
But on the other hand, as more and more games come out for consoles, is Ryan right in saying that people simply don’t use the capability as much? Sure, it’s a nice option to have available, but no gamer ever lacks a backlog to get through – and finding the time to play multiple games from the past a second, third, or fourth time through isn’t always possible.
And we can’t forget the concern of the actual implementation of the service. When the update for backwards compatibility actually rolls out, it won’t magically function with every game released on Xbox 360. While the Xbox One has the capability to play and read the discs, publishers will need to give their permission for games to work. While this means first party games like Halo and Gears of War will clearly be playable from the beginning, as will 100 other games when launched this holiday, games that recently received HD remasters may not be playable depending upon the publisher’s decision.
So in the end, was the announcement just initial joy and shock for gamers, or will it really flourish into a game changing move for the Xbox One? Or maybe somewhere in between. Let me know below if you think backwards compatibility is truly going to move Microsoft forward, or if it’s just left going….backwards?