The Xbox One Plays Some Xbox Games Now

Microsoft released a list of 13 original Xbox games that can run on the Xbox One through a disc or download today.

Here’s the list:

  • BLACK
  • BloodRayne 2
  • Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
  • Dead to Rights
  • Fuzion Frenzy
  • Grabbed by the Ghoulies
  • King of Fighters Neowave
  • Ninja Gaiden Black
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Psychonauts
  • Red Faction II
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates!
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Xbox backwards compatibility was originally announced only with Crimson Skies at E3 2017. These games won’t have any multiplayer as Microsoft took down the Xbox Live peer-to-peer matching service for the original Xbox years ago.

I’ve hammered on the PlayStation 4‘s lack of backwards comparability enough, but it’s still embarrassing that Sony is charging for PS2 games to be downloaded to the PS4, as well as streaming PS3 games to the PS4 when Microsoft actually has this backwards compatibility program. The only downside to Microsoft’s program is that it requires the original publisher to approve their game being included.

Microsoft also has more in their announcement, like a short list of 360 games that will run even better on the Xbox One X when that console comes out on the 7th. I guess they have to have some reason for people to buy that upgraded console when there really aren’t that many exclusive games coming out for it.

Xbox One Backwards Compatibility

The four most interesting announcements at the Xbox E3 press conference were the Hololens demo with Minecraft, Microsoft’s new Early Access-esque program for the Xbox One called Game Preview, and Xbox 360 backwards compatibility. The fourth most interesting announcement was a lack of any Call of Duty exclusivity. That torch was passed to the Playstation this year, on a Treyarch-running-Call-of-Duty year, it’s clear that Activision knows who can butter their bread with money.

Backwards compatibility came across as an insurmountable goal that didn’t make sense anymore. Who buys a new generation of consoles to play old games? As a marketing goal it didn’t make enough sense to support the engineering effort when interest in games that are from the Xbox 360 isn’t as high as newer games and with no new 360 releases Microsoft wouldn’t generally see a dime from licensing costs. The only direct financial upside for Microsft could be from a very temporary boost in console sales and in purchases of Xbox 360 games online for download through their store.

One more knock against backwards compatibility was the high technical effort. The Xbox 360 was a powerful enough machine with a different enough processor (PowerPC on the 360, x86_64 on the One) that it would be too demanding. Even Sony didn’t attempt it as their switch in console architecture was similar and they had acquired Gaikai and OnLive’s patents so they could offload the task to server-rooms full of Playstation 3’s streaming their video signal to the Playstation 4 at a high price ($180/year for access to 350 PS3 games.)

Almost two years after the launch of the Xbox One, against all of the technical and business hurdles, Microsoft announced backwards compatibility available immediately in an invite-only beta program with a short list of games and more to be added towards the end of 2015 when the feature launches properly for everyone with an Xbox One.

How does it work, and is it any good in this early stage? Eurogamer’s John Linneman has answers.

 

Unlike the spotty backwards compatibility available on Xbox 360, which required a custom wrapper for each individual game, Microsoft has taken a more extensive approach through the use of a virtual machine that runs on the Xbox One as a game in and of itself. This virtual environment includes the Xbox 360 OS features, though they remain unavailable to the user, enabling the software to behave as if it is running on original hardware. The Xbox One then views this “Xbox 360” app as its own game allowing features such as screenshots and video sharing. The emulator supports both digital downloads and original DVDs, though discs simply act as a key, the core data downloading over the internet via Xbox Live.

Even considering its current flaws, the state of the virtual machine’s capabilities is remarkable: those precious few moments when performance actually exceeds the Xbox 360 gives us just a bit of hope that in the long run, we may actually end up with an improved experience in some games.

If I were going to purchase a console today, the backwards compatibility available on the Xbox One might be a deciding factor if it weren’t for one more thing. There was a lot of turnover towards the end of the last console generation with publishers and developers going out of business and spawning many smaller indie developers. With Microsoft putting the burden on developers to approve their games for backwards compatibility, how many are still around to do that and if they are wouldn’t they rather do a re-release to get more money instead of giving it to used-game retailers who will sell old games for pennies? We’ll find out later this year. Even Microsoft announced a Gears of War 1 remake at the same press conference.