Microsoft is 'thinking' about Xbox 360 emulator plans for Xbox One

Microsoft made it clear after the Xbox One was first announced in May 2013 that the console would not be backwards compatible with games made for the Xbox 360. Now there's word that the company is at least thinking about some kind of Xbox 360 game emulation for the Xbox One.

Kotaku Australia reports that during a session at last week's BUILD 2014 conference on the Xbox One, an audience members asked about a possible Xbox 360 emulator for the console. Microsoft Xbox team member Frank Savage is quoted as saying:

There are, but we’re not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately. It turns out to be hard to emulate the PowerPC stuff on the X86 stuff. So there’s nothing to announce, but I would love to see it myself.

In other words, don't hold your breath on any kind of emulator anytime soon. Even if such a project were launched, it's possible that Microsoft would simply re-release Xbox 360 games as downloadable titles for the Xbox One, rather than allow for old Xbox 360 game discs to be run on the Xbox One.

A few months ago, rumors hit the Internet of a "trick" that enabled Xbox 360 backwards compatibility for the Xbox One. That "trick" turned out to be a scam and the procedure only served to brick a working Xbox One.

Source: Kotaku Australia | Image via Microsoft

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when this emulator finally released, wont be long until it got reverse engineered and unofficially ported for PC & PS4

It will never happen the Xbox One simply does not have the processing power to emulate the 360, same goes for the PS4 and PS3

How can it be so hard for microsoft if even an individual can make it? This guy has done it (and still developing) http://xenia.jp/ and microsoft knows the entire API. Most of the system functions they can map one-to-one on a high level and they can use an recompiler for the other stuff. That is also how Dolphin works for the Nintendo wich runs fine on todays hardware.

Ramon Ennik said,
How can it be so hard for microsoft if even an individual can make it?
So if the XBox One hardware is not capable enough what do you want Microsoft to do? Magic? :rolleyes:

Well, if you see his video that the test game is running fine but slow in debug mode on less capable hardware, then the xbox one hardware should be fast enough.

Ramon Ennik said,
the xbox one hardware should be fast enough.
Doubt it, especially for FPSes where fps matters a lot.

Biggest thing keeping me from XB1. I'd say the worse sales figures are the easier they'll find getting this done

trip21 said,
Biggest thing keeping me from XB1. I'd say the worse sales figures are the easier they'll find getting this done

you do realise they sold 4million + since launce don't you? Its true ps4 sold more, but both are outselling their last gen versions. I would say both are happy right now, and its always seen as a marathon not a race.

Awesome news but I wonder how easy this is to do. Remember their attempts emulating Xbox OG games to the 360 was poor but knowing them, they probably only had two guys working on it. It looks like games for the 360 will still be coming out for a few more years so I would definitely be more inclined to buy an Xbox One over a PS4 if this feature was announced.

I was not expecting this from MS. How can they be pro-consumer. Looks like Ballmer was really responsible for the mis-guided direction MS was following before.

The HD-DVD will not be supported on current Xbox One. So all those discs using that failed format are useless. It would be a download only service.

Then there is a question of storage space.

sanke1 said,
The HD-DVD will not be supported on current Xbox One. So all those discs using that failed format are useless. It would be a download only service.

Then there is a question of storage space.

XB360 games are not HD-DVDs. The 360 drive is just a DVD drive.

sanke1 said,
The HD-DVD will not be supported on current Xbox One. So all those discs using that failed format are useless. It would be a download only service.

Then there is a question of storage space.

No games used that format, so its not an issue for game compatibility.

sanke1 said,
The HD-DVD will not be supported on current Xbox One. So all those discs using that failed format are useless. It would be a download only service.

Then there is a question of storage space.

Just to be clear, you are conflating an external HD-DVD drive for Movies ONLY that was sold for the XB360.

It has nothing to do with games or the internal DVD drive.

Side Note:
At the time HD-DVD and BluRay were significantly slower than DVD Drives (they still are), and Microsoft wasn't going to reduce game performance on the XB360 just to gamble on a new media format for movie content.

Microsoft is trying so hard differentiate the Xbox One from the PS4. They must be really reeling from the PS4's dominance.

VictorWho said,
Microsoft is trying so hard differentiate the Xbox One from the PS4. They must be really reeling from the PS4's dominance.

All down hill from here.

M_Lyons10 said,

Dominance? They haven't even launched in all markets yet...

I appreciate the fan boy mentality, but lets try to be rational about it. The sky is hardly falling...

Yeah just wait until they release in Equatorial Guinea and Diego Garcia, THEN the sales will skyrocket!

VictorWho said,
Microsoft is trying so hard differentiate the Xbox One from the PS4. They must be really reeling from the PS4's dominance.

What dominance?

Lord Method Man said,

Yeah just wait until they release in Equatorial Guinea and Diego Garcia, THEN the sales will skyrocket!


Yeah, its clear that the regions that MS has yet to release in will make little difference.

elenarie said,

Really, VGChartz? The same website that reports that Diablo 3 sold less than 4 million when Blizzard already announced 13+ million copies sold?


Are you really trying to argue that the Xbox One is outselling the PS4? Seriously?

Tha Bloo Monkee said,

Are you really trying to argue that the Xbox One is outselling the PS4? Seriously?

Outselling is not dominating.

VGChartz is a questimate joke site. Good luck with those numbers. The only hard numbers are the ones on the quarterly reports and even there Sony likes to lie and combine their numbers to hide facts.

It adds quite a bit of input latency. MS should have just added an Xbox 360 chip in the design from the beginning to make BC happen and to offload other tasks when in Xbox One mode.

The best part is if they get it work in the XboxOne, then it shouldn't be two hard to port the code to windows 8. Its a pipe dream... but it would be nice.

Ad Man Gamer said,
The best part is if they get it work in the XboxOne, then it shouldn't be two hard to port the code to windows 8. Its a pipe dream... but it would be nice.

Not necessarily.

Chances are it would run on top of the XB1 HyperV and have nothing to do with Windows 8.

Even simpler then, if it's standalone then it would surely run on Windows 8 (or 7 or Vista). However I doubt MS would allow it, as it would be much easier to play pirated 360 games on a PC with a software crack. Besides that, the experience might vary depending on hardware, and it would be much more difficult to support than a single target platform.

scorpian007 said,
But custom built and has far more chance of optimisation compared to a general PC.

Doesn't much matter how much you optimise it. Crap is still crap. It's like polishing a turd, doesn't matter how much its still a turd :p

Blackhearted said,

Even more so when the x86 stuff you chose is quite weak.

Its still an 8-core AMD cpu, just like in the ps4.

I know the fun is to just grind the X1 into the ground, but if you seriously look at the hardware, its close enough to make it possible. The system is several times more powerful than the 360. It will take a lot of work to craft an emulator that can take for advantage of the hardware, especially all 6 cores available. The gpu is midrange compared to the pc now, but its still several times more powerful than the gpu in the 360. So again, it seems to have just enough if they can create a proper emulator.

Of course, they could go in another direction and build an emulator that runs on their servers and then stream 360 games like Sony is working on.

SharpGreen said,

Doesn't much matter how much you optimise it. Crap is still crap. It's like polishing a turd, doesn't matter how much its still a turd :p

There's hardly enough difference between the consoles to label either a "turd"... Lol

SharpGreen said,

Doesn't much matter how much you optimise it. Crap is still crap. It's like polishing a turd, doesn't matter how much its still a turd :p

I don't see how it's a turd? Look at Ryse, by far the best looking game I've seen on ANY platform and that's a 1st gen game. Dev's haven't had a chance to optimise their games or engines for the new platforms yet. Phil Spencer even said that with DX12 we'll see magnitudes of difference in terms of graphical capabilities, i.e. PDZ to Halo 4.

trooper11 said,

Its still an 8-core AMD cpu, just like in the ps4.

I know the fun is to just grind the X1 into the ground, but if you seriously look at the hardware, its close enough to make it possible. The system is several times more powerful than the 360. It will take a lot of work to craft an emulator that can take for advantage of the hardware, especially all 6 cores available. The gpu is midrange compared to the pc now, but its still several times more powerful than the gpu in the 360. So again, it seems to have just enough if they can create a proper emulator.

Of course, they could go in another direction and build an emulator that runs on their servers and then stream 360 games like Sony is working on.

I don't agree that it's "close enough" to be able to do it. Emulation of entirely different CPU's is not exactly cheap and easy(especially if you want stability and accuracy). And while the xbox one is more powerful than the 360, most of that power lies in the GPU. The CPU's of both consoles are not even close to the leap over last gen as the GPU's are and that will be the main sticking point when it comes to any possible emulation.

Also, how many cores you have isn't as important as the performance of those individual cores. And as you may know, AMD is nowhere near being an x86 performance leader right now.

As for the GPU, that may be somewhat easier to get things running decently with simple brute force. Depending on how differently the GCN based chip in the xbone does things compared to the 360's GPU.

Blackhearted said,

Even more so when the x86 stuff you chose is quite weak.

AMD isn't the strongest CPU, so you are right that it poses a challenge to just get a VM running and expect the existing XB1 to handle XB360 code.

As others have noted, emulation and realtime translation are expensive, and it not only would have to deal with the CPU but also the GPU, controllers and all the other architectural differences. This would be expensive/hard on even the newest i7.

Original XB code would be a lot easier, and could run nearly natively on the XB1 hypervisor.

To maintain XB360 performance levels they will have to do binary translation rather than just emulation. As an example, think more along the lines of a solution like FX!32. (Which could be done in realtime or even pre-(re)compiled on Azure.)

Blackhearted said,
Even more so when the x86 stuff you chose is quite weak.
High level emulation could be used for API calls which would mean PPC emulation would only have to be used for low level code, this could give them the speed they need to make 360 emulation possible. Dynamic recompilation of low level code could further enhance emulation speed.

Blackhearted said,

I don't agree that it's "close enough" to be able to do it. Emulation of entirely different CPU's is not exactly cheap and easy(especially if you want stability and accuracy). And while the xbox one is more powerful than the 360, most of that power lies in the GPU. The CPU's of both consoles are not even close to the leap over last gen as the GPU's are and that will be the main sticking point when it comes to any possible emulation.

Also, how many cores you have isn't as important as the performance of those individual cores. And as you may know, AMD is nowhere near being an x86 performance leader right now.

As for the GPU, that may be somewhat easier to get things running decently with simple brute force. Depending on how differently the GCN based chip in the xbone does things compared to the 360's GPU.


When your the manufacturer of the console, you don't have to reverse engineer and 'emulate' the console when you know how it works. You can simply brute force and create software libraries which plug into the box and implement the PPC functionality in a different layer. Ala OG Xbox on 360, notice how only certain games work? Same thing was done there.

Very different to full emulation, like MS said though, still very tricky.

trooper11 said,

Its still an 8-core AMD cpu, just like in the ps4.

I know the fun is to just grind the X1 into the ground, but if you seriously look at the hardware, its close enough to make it possible. The system is several times more powerful than the 360. It will take a lot of work to craft an emulator that can take for advantage of the hardware, especially all 6 cores available. The gpu is midrange compared to the pc now, but its still several times more powerful than the gpu in the 360. So again, it seems to have just enough if they can create a proper emulator.

Of course, they could go in another direction and build an emulator that runs on their servers and then stream 360 games like Sony is working on.


That is complete and total crap, the hardware inside the XBone or PS4 is no where near powerful enough to emulator the 360 hardware, NO WHERE NEAR. Unless you've got research studies stating otherwise (you don't because it just simply isn't possible) then we can conclude it won't be happening client side.

JonnyLH said,

When your the manufacturer of the console, you don't have to reverse engineer and 'emulate' the console when you know how it works. You can simply brute force and create software libraries which plug into the box and implement the PPC functionality in a different layer. Ala OG Xbox on 360, notice how only certain games work? Same thing was done there.

Very different to full emulation, like MS said though, still very tricky.


It still emulated an x86 system, you cannot just put x86 code through a completely different architecture with different system layout and different instructions, anyone saying otherwise seriously needs to research before they post.

n_K said,

It still emulated an x86 system, you cannot just put x86 code through a completely different architecture with different system layout and different instructions, anyone saying otherwise seriously needs to research before they post.

Do your research, it's not complete emulation therefore, not as much power is needed. If it was complete emulation, it simply wouldn't be possible on a system which would be trying to emulate 2 3.2Ghz CPU streams on 6 1.6Ghz X86 cores.

When you know how the system works, you don't have to reverse engineer your box.

JonnyLH said,

Do your research, it's not complete emulation therefore, not as much power is needed. If it was complete emulation, it simply wouldn't be possible on a system which would be trying to emulate 2 3.2Ghz CPU streams on 6 1.6Ghz X86 cores.

When you know how the system works, you don't have to reverse engineer your box.


No, you're a bit wrong there, the xbox CPU was a 700MHz celeron.
In comparison to intel CPUs, IBM's POWER line of CPUs trump all of intel in supercomputer lists.

It doesn't matter how the system works, the instruction set is not compatible, it's the same reason why no matter how hard I try, I cannot run native x86 code on an ARM windows tablet. I can use something like qemu which EMULATES the CPU core and registers of the desired CPU.

The x86 spec is pretty open, you can go and download a copy from intel and see all the instructions and what they do, then go and see if you can find one for powerpc and see if it has the same instructions for those opcodes (hint: it doesn't), or even the same registers (hint: it doesn't).

n_K said,

No, you're a bit wrong there, the xbox CPU was a 700MHz celeron.

The original XBOX had a 733Mhz Celeron. The 360 has a 3.2Ghz tri-core PPC chip.

SharpGreen said,

The original XBOX had a 733Mhz Celeron. The 360 has a 3.2Ghz tri-core PPC chip.

Exactly. There is no chance it will emulate it.

n_K said,

No, you're a bit wrong there, the xbox CPU was a 700MHz celeron.
In comparison to intel CPUs, IBM's POWER line of CPUs trump all of intel in supercomputer lists.

It doesn't matter how the system works, the instruction set is not compatible, it's the same reason why no matter how hard I try, I cannot run native x86 code on an ARM windows tablet. I can use something like qemu which EMULATES the CPU core and registers of the desired CPU.

The x86 spec is pretty open, you can go and download a copy from intel and see all the instructions and what they do, then go and see if you can find one for powerpc and see if it has the same instructions for those opcodes (hint: it doesn't), or even the same registers (hint: it doesn't).


Remind me, whats the purpose of a mid-tier API again?

techbeck said,
Less thinking...more doing. ;)

Hope they figure it out.


As much as I'd love to see this, the time for BC is at launch... By the time they got this launched (or Sony brings their solution to market), it's just too late...

I'd hate to burst people's bubbles on this one, but please don't expect anything like full compatibility for the Xbox 360's library as that is impossible with the Xbox One's hardware spécifications (unless MS releases an SKU with and Xbox 360 chip integrated).
It'll be a list like Original Xbox compatibility on the Xbox 360, IF it ever gets off the ground (I personally only expect a list of XBLA games that don't tax the Xbox 360 hardware) as making PPC instructions run on x86 is already performance degrading and then there is the fact of multithreaded cores on Xbox 360-> single threaded ones (yes AMD on Xbox One) and also the inferior clock speeds compared to the Xbox 360's cores. It's going to be hell to get around that and make things work.