Microsoft Exec Talks Xbox Back Compat Limits

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Microsoft Exec Talks Xbox Back Compat Limits

While PlayStation has the big exclusives, the biggest selling points for Microsoft’s Xbox console are the Xbox Game Pass, backwards compatibility, and the company’s widely acclaimed live service for multiplayer titles.

Of those backwards compatibility is arguably the most important – Game Pass relies on it and it’s a big reason people stick with the same console – to make sure their libraries of old games are still functional.

Yet, even with a robust backwards compatibility program, only a few games from beyond the previous generation still work. According to Microsoft’s own website, only 38 out of 997 games from the original Xbox Console and 477 out of 2154 from the Xbox 360 are functional on the Xbox One or the recently released Xbox Series X.

On top of that only a few, specifically about three dozen or so and many of them first-party, have been ‘Enhanced’ to make use of the current hardware. The list hasn’t grown very much in the few months since the new console came out and recently Xbox Series X director of project management, Jason Ronald, talked about why.

Speaking with Lords of Gaming on the difficulty of adding backwards compatibility for older games. Ronald says he’d love to add more games to the program, but they’re now coming up against challenges that will slow down rather than speed up new inclusions:

“We want to bring more games to the program, but it gets harder and harder. First off, technically, can we make some of these games work? But more often than that now is, in some cases these developers or the publishers don’t even exist anymore. Or, there’s licensing agreements, or maybe a developer has plans for the franchise, so it’s definitely a challenge.

I’ll definitely say it’s getting harder, [but] we would like to bring more games to the program. I can’t commit to any specific games or [confirm whether] we’re going to be able to add more games in the future, but it’s definitely something that we’re working on, we’re trying to do what we can, but I will definitely say that we hear the feedback.”

Making games made prior to 2012 or so work can be difficult these days, even with robust PCs let alone consoles, due to software compatibility issues. Emulators can sometimes solve this but often come with their own issues in the process and are famously memory and CPU intensive.

One solution Microsoft has been employing has been building their systems that will be able to work across a range of titles, regardless of the developer, like Auto HDR and the recently released FPS Boost. The latter however requires developers to work alongside Microsoft to roll out the new updates. As such it is only functional for five titles at present (“Far Cry 4” and “Watch Dogs 2” being the biggest) but is expected to be expanded to a range of titles in the coming months.

The Digital Foundry guys have examined the five titles that got the FPS boost and seem quite impressed. Check out their analysis below:

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