Microsoft on Xbox One: Backwards compatibility is "really backwards"

Don Mattrick, Microsoft's head of interactive entertainment, has dismissed the importance of a console having backwards compatibility. Speaking in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mattrick said that just 5% of gamers play last generation's games on their new console, so developing a backwards compatibility system for a new console such as the Xbox One is a waste of time and resources.

He said that "if you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards", which suggests that all of Microsoft's focus will be on developing a range of current-gen games for the Xbox One. As the unit is powered by a brand new x86-64 processor from AMD, while the eight-year-old Xbox 360 uses PowerPC internals, there is an architectural incompatibility that would make it difficult to code in backwards compatibility.

The PlayStation 4 is in the same boat: like the Xbox One, the new-generation console from Sony uses x86 internals while ditching an older architecture (Cell), and backwards compatibility will not be offered. However, Sony is working on offering older games through some sort of game streaming service, while Microsoft has indicated that they won't be offering this sort of service, at least for now.

Source: WSJ

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft forms new Yammer North team in Redmond

Next Story

Microsoft Surface Pro goes on sale in the UK

54 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I think that backwards compatibility isn't a very good long-term goal for a console because I agree that there isn't much market for it.

THAT BEING SAID: If Sony were to release a PS4 that was compatible with PS3 games, then I would buy the PS4 simply because I don't have a PS3 and am interested in a lot of the exclusives for that system. It would be the clear winner and I would probably be an early adopter just to get plugged into a game library that I currently do not have access to. As it stands now, I'll probably be getting the XBox One.

everyone is making a big deal out of this. but has everyone forgot that the PS3 isn't backwards compatible? (except for the highest priced launch version). and i seem to remember that a lot of older systems aren't backwards compatible.

This really just makes clearer how gaming was a second thought with this console. They wanted to build a TV box, not a console...

M_Lyons10 said,
This really just makes clearer how gaming was a second thought with this console. They wanted to build a TV box, not a console...

Someone on the forums posted a picture of both the One and a Tivo and the resemblance was uncanny.

mocax said,
will xbox one and ps4 games be compatible with each other?
perhaps by just installing some drivers...
It's a bit more involved than that. Such as the libraries the games for each system use. i.e. Xbox One using Direct X vs. the PS4 using OpenGL.

Theoretically they could run each other's games, but there is still work involved, but not as drastic as Xbox 360 vs. PS3.

este said,
Are the original XBOX games backwards compatible though? or nothing at all older will work?
I think that time would be better spent on updating classic Xbox games to the latest tech. Some of those games back then were great, but with them being in SD and there being no support for the original Live anymore, there isn't much point providing backwards compatibility.

On there other hand, there are plenty of Xbox 360 arcade games I still want to be able to play.

techbeck said,
So I guess a lot of MS products are backwards then.

Indeed. It is shocking to see a company that built their success on that very thing ignoring it in so many of their products... It's arrogant.

More than a little dishonest... There were only a handful of games that were backwards compatible on the 360 so of course few people played them. I know that I tried a few and was greeted with a "lol no" message.

Derges said,
More than a little dishonest... There were only a handful of games that were backwards compatible on the 360 so of course few people played them. I know that I tried a few and was greeted with a "lol no" message.

No, it was reported to be about half of the library. I should know as I have around 100 of the original games and about 45 are playable on my 360

briangw said,

No, it was reported to be about half of the library. I should know as I have around 100 of the original games and about 45 are playable on my 360

Yeah, just about every game I wanted to play was backwards compatible (And early on that's mostly what I played)... In fact, they continued to release compatibility packs for quite some time into the console's life... Which was appreciated.

Guessing you guys are in the US where the support was better.
Europe got 156 games out of the entire catalog, notable games that didn't work included KOTR and PSO.

Regardless the point remains if they didn't support a significant number of old games how can they possibly comment that people didn't play them.

I honestly do not care about BC. If it helps keep the costs down by not having to integrate BC then I am all for it.

It's not like I will throw away my 360 as soon as I get my hands on thew Xbox One so for me personally it's not an issue. Some people just like to moan and complain for the sake of it.

We all survived lousy and eventually non-existent backwards compatibility this generation, we'll survive it next generation.

Yet you can still run a Win 95 application in Windows 8? Did he just call Microsofts flagship product backwards?

A lot of people are harping on Microsoft for not allowing backwards compatibility and are exhaulting Sony for the streaming older games on the sp4. However, will the streaming be free or will it be locked behind a pay wall (read: psn plus), and if its locked behind a pay wall will you have to buy a digital copy of the game you already paid for? If you don't have to buy a digital copy of said game won't it still be like paying Sony to play your old games because of the paywall?

Just something to think about which I haven't seen anyone post or read from any of these bloggers.

Major Plonquer said,
Anyone who has old Xbox games also already had an old Xbox to play them on. Duh!

My original, launch day, Xbox died a long long time ago… the crappy Thompson DVD Drive died in fact.
Luckily, you can now buy a Xbox for 25$ in pawn shops with two controllers

Major Plonquer said,
Anyone who has old Xbox games also already had an old Xbox to play them on. Duh!

And if you want to sell your old 360 to fund your new XBone ?

so will the likes of old games like mw2 or mw3 or even the xbox live arcade titles not work on this xone ? what about games you downloaded through the console bundles like skyrim or batman arkham will these not play on it ?

This guy shows how out of touch video game bosses are these days.

"You don't need backwards compatibility. Btw for those who don't want older games we'll be more than happy to resell them to you through some online store "

thealexweb said,
This guy shows how out of touch video game bosses are these days.

"You don't need backwards compatibility. Btw for those who don't want older games we'll be more than happy to resell them to you through some online store "

Except he didn't actually say that.

thealexweb said,
This guy shows how out of touch video game bosses are these days.

"You don't need backwards compatibility. Btw for those who don't want older games we'll be more than happy to resell them to you through some online store "

Maybe u'll be able to transfer your game license to a friend. I'm sure they're not going to allow you to install the game on someone else's box and then you go home and both of you play the game. That's not even how it goes right now. If you bring ur game to a friends house and install it he still needs to disc to play it after you leave. So I'm sure they will allow you to trade your games with friends or transfer license or your friend can buy their own copy online from them or from someone else who's selling their license online.
This just sounds like a really good idea to me
Because I would be able to keep track of who the hell I lent my games to (or transfer license to)
If I want a game to buy I don't need to go get a disc I can just go buy a license from someone who's selling in a controlled environment. No more rip offs or bad discs.

testman said,
Except he didn't actually say that.

Reading between the lines its obvious this will happen. Its happened with the PS3, WiiU, etc

Oh well. Nothing stopping someone from using both consoles on their TV.
That's almost like expecting the XBOX ONE to play Nintendo or Playstation games on it too.
Personally I think the more devices sitting in your TV stand, the cooler it looks.

LUTZIFER said,
Oh well. Nothing stopping someone from using both consoles on their TV.
That's almost like expecting the XBOX ONE to play Nintendo or Playstation games on it too.
Personally I think the more devices sitting in your TV stand, the cooler it looks.

I HATE that... LOL I was looking forward to the Bluray support so I could get rid of that and now I still have 3 boxes... Ugh!

Everyone was talking about that Xbox Fusion domain registration. We now know it's not the name of the hardware so like I thought it could be the name of some unknown service that might be game streaming or something. They didn't really talk about the software side other than the fact you can multitask and that it's got newer IE and Skype installed.

GP007 said,
Everyone was talking about that Xbox Fusion domain registration. We now know it's not the name of the hardware so like I thought it could be the name of some unknown service that might be game streaming or something. They didn't really talk about the software side other than the fact you can multitask and that it's got newer IE and Skype installed.

Interesting thought. It would be very nice if this turned out to be some 360 VM like suggested above.

ShareShiz said,
Why not just store all the old games in the cloud? Surely you can use some virtual machine.

You can, you just need an Xbox Live Platinum account for that.

ShareShiz said,
Why not just store all the old games in the cloud? Surely you can use some virtual machine.

This. The Windows 8 kernel OS is run in some sort of VM apparently. Give us a 360 VM... VM's can already simulate hardware...

Rudy said,
The second most played game on my Wii U is a Wii game

I think that says more about the WiiU library than the fact it has backwards compatibility.

Rudy said,
The second most played game on my Wii U is a Wii game

That sounds sad.....I'm not sure how you could see that as a plus. Anyways, it also sounds like you wasted money buying the wii u, might as well you kept the wii since all you play are older games.

Backward compatibility was only used very little by me specifically (see community, I didn't generalize like most of you) because Microsoft refused to have a large list of interesting games be carried over. I for one would play KOTOR 1&2, as well as MANY others had the option been there.

I agree, it's a massive waste of time and resources to add a feature most people don't need. Just use your old console, if this is too hard for you then make a first-world problem meme and walk away.

I totally agree with you./s Why put TV in the console, just grab the TV controller and change the source, or why add Netflix, Tweeter, IE, Music, Movies, etc... just use your computer for that, or why add the extra cost to add the codec to play blue-ray movies or why not make an add on like in Win 8 or watch it in your dedicated blue-ray player, or why add the cost of the kinect if you can do all the menu and interface manipulations with the controller. "if this is too hard for you then make a first-world problem meme and walk away". I also think that microsoft is doing with kinect what it did with IE in the old days kinect is not essential for the console to function but they are making it look like it is.

Superboy said,
I totally agree with you./s Why put TV in the console, just grab the TV controller and change the source, or why add Netflix, Tweeter, IE, Music, Movies, etc... just use your computer for that, or why add the extra cost to add the codec to play blue-ray movies or why not make an add on like in Win 8 or watch it in your dedicated blue-ray player, or why add the cost of the kinect if you can do all the menu and interface manipulations with the controller. "if this is too hard for you then make a first-world problem meme and walk away". I also think that microsoft is doing with kinect what it did with IE in the old days kinect is not essential for the console to function but they are making it look like it is.

The difference with that is that a lot of people use those features like Netflix, tv, kinect. I for one use kinect s lot I'm always telling my Xbox to do things "start disc, search, start Netflix. I use it as a mic when playing online. Kinect is not essential for the console to function but it definitely adds a lot to it.

Anyways I would've rather they had backwards compatibility but I'm not going to die if it doesn't and I wouldn't want to pay a fee to stream my older games or buy them online all over again, I don't care if they even offer them at reduced cost.
I won't enjoy the new console any less. I'll be selling my current Xbox anyway when this one comes out.

Wasn't the backwards compatability one of the least used features of most of todays generation consoles?

I cant recall apart form testing ever playing an Xbox game on my 360 Maybe Halo? that was about it...

brent3000 said,
Wasn't the backwards compatability one of the least used features of most of todays generation consoles?

I cant recall apart form testing ever playing an Xbox game on my 360 Maybe Halo? that was about it...

Agreed. People only really use the feature early on. But it's important during that period.

as the original XBOX also in x86 architecture, would some original games might somewhat backward compatible with xbox one that also using x86 architecture ?

Torolol said,
as the original XBOX also in x86 architecture, would some original games might somewhat backward compatible with xbox one that also using x86 architecture ?

Absolutely (it is possible, I mean). Don't think they will be doing it though. I don't have a firm opinion on the matter on whether the next Xbox should be backwards compatible or not. It is a significant investment of resources to achieve this.

However, to make bold, over-generalised comments like 'backwards compatibility is backwards' is not a wise move. Let's not forget that Xbox 360 is compatible with around 400 games from the original Xbox.

Edited by pmdci, May 23 2013, 8:18am :

pmdci said,

Absolutely (it is possible, I mean). Don't think they will be doing it though. I don't have a firm opinion on the matter on whether the next Xbox should be backwards compatible or not. It is a significant investment of resources to achieve this.

However, to make bold, over-generalised comments like 'backwards compatibility is backwards' is not a wise move. Let's not forget that Xbox 360 is compatible with around 400 games from the original Xbox.

That would certainly be interesting, but I would be surprised...

To be honest though, I don't feel backward compatibility is important for the life of the console as the library fills out, but I DO feel it's important for the initial models... At the beginning often there's little worth playing. Backwards compatibility not only rewards your customers, by allowing them to get rid of old consoles (Trade them in towards the new one?) but also gives them a massive inventory of games that they can play while the library fleshes out. And in a time when online play is so important and people play these games for years online, it is even more of a big deal.