How The Xbox One Can Pull Off Backwards Compatibility

Backwards Compatibility on the Xbox One is an exciting prospect. Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer gives some insight on the process.

With the news that Microsoft will be bringing backwards compatibility for the Xbox One to all by the end of the year being one of the biggest stories of this year's E3, and arguably one of Microsoft's first real victories over Sony in some time, talk of exactly how it would be achieved began to surface rather quickly.

Particularly in light of the fact that Sony either can't or won't bring the same service to their PS4 platform and commented on the news as believing that the process must be "difficult". Phil Spencer of Microsoft spoke up to shed a little bit of light on the matter.

Speaking in a Podcast with Giant Bomb, the head of Xbox stated that he wanted to encourage people to make the move to Xbox One and that considering so many people invested so much money into the Xbox 360, the providing of a backwards compatibility service was fair.

Man with a plan, Phil Spencer

Spencer said that the process was hard as they had to make very different architectures work together. He explained the solution that Microsoft found.

The approach that we've taken is to actually emulate the full Xbox 360 hardware layer. So the operating system for the 360 is actually running when you run the game. I was around when we did the original Xbox backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 where we had a shim for every game and it just didn't scale very well. This is actually the same emulator running for all of the games. Different games do different things, as we're rolling them out we'll say 'oh maybe we have to tweak the emulator.' But in the end, the emulator is emulating the 360, so it's for everybody.

As a result, Xbox Live believes you are using a 360 and you actually appear to be doing so to your friends online. However, because the Xbox One is fooled into thinking you are playing an Xbox One game, features such as screenshots and streaming are still available on the older games.

It certainly looks like a lot of work has gone into pleasing the consumers. Microsoft seems to be on a strong path to reclaim a portion of the market that they lost two years ago. 

Is backwards compatibility enough to make you upgrade to an Xbox One?


Video and Tabletop game obsessed. Blogs, reviews and writes about video games when not actually playing them. A dinosaur... not as organised as title may claim.

Published Jun. 23rd 2015
  • CallSignDriver
    Featured Correspondent
    "Is backwards compatibility enough to make you upgrade to an Xbox One?"
    Honestly, maybe. But, it would have been way more likely if this had happened closer to the console's launch. Now I already have a PlayStation 4 and little reason to own a second console.
    Still, it would be nice to have, considering my XBox 360 is nearly dead.
  • OrganisedDinosaur
    I guess in that situation the thing to do is when your 360 dies, get an Xbox One. That way you can play the 360 games and by that stage there will be a good library of exclusives.
    Last gen, I didn't get the PS3 until the last couple of years of its life. By then there were so many great exclusives that I just picked up the lot.
    I would always recommend to any gamer to have as many platforms as they can as the exclusive titles are sadly often the best, but sometimes that just isn't practical :(

    I agree that this move would have been far better had it come a couple of years ago. Still I do predict an increase in sales for Xbox. They have very much made a fantastic play for getting back in this race!

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