Xbox Series X will have backwards compatibility for ‘thousands’ of games

29 May 2020

The Xbox Series X. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft said thousands of older titles will be compatible with its new Xbox Series X and should perform better than they did on the consoles they were designed for.

On Thursday (28 May), Microsoft announced that the next-generation Xbox Series X console will provide backwards compatibility for “thousands” of games at launch.

In a blogpost, Microsoft’s director for programme management on Series X, Jason Ronald, explained that older games that were released on the Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One should play “better than ever before” on the new console.

Ronald said that the company wants to “preserve and respect” well-loved games and franchises, as well as user progression and achievements. As a result, the Series X will support older gaming accessories and peripherals.

Forbes wrote that all of the enhancements listed in the blogpost are courtesy of the Xbox Series X’s AMD-built, PC-like technology.

Offering backwards compatibility

Ronald said that Microsoft’s compatibility journey began with Xbox 360 backwards compatibility coming to Xbox One.

“I clearly remember that first magical experience of jumping into one of my favourite Xbox 360 games, Final Fantasy XIII, and instantly resuming where I had left off years before as if no time had passed at all.”

He added that maintaining compatibility presents a “massive technical challenge” as fundamental system and chip architectures advance across generations.

“To make the Xbox Series X our most compatible console ever required both significant innovation in the design of the custom processor as well as the unique design of the Xbox operating system and hypervisor at the heart of our next-generation platform,” Ronald said.

The company has now completed 100,000 hours of play testing to ensure that thousands of games will be playable on the Xbox Series X, including both blockbuster hits and cult classics. Ronald said that by the time the Xbox Series X launches this winter, the team will have spent “well over 200,000 hours” ensuring that players will be able to use their existing game libraries.

Better performance

Xbox said that backwards-compatible games should play better than ever before. The games will run natively on the Xbox Series X hardware, with the full power of the CPU, GPU and SSD.

“This means that all titles run at the peak performance that they were originally designed for, many times even higher performance than the games saw on their original launch platform, resulting in higher and more steady frame rates and rendering at their maximum resolution and visual quality,” Ronald said.

He added that the Xbox Series X will include “whole new classes of innovations” including the ability to double the frame rate of some titles from 30 frames per second to 60, or from 60 frames per second to 120.

The company said that it is also taking feedback from the gaming community on titles they would like to see added to the compatibility programme, but warned that resurrecting titles presents a complex mix of technical and licensing challenges.

Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5 console, which is also set for release this winter, will have some backwards capability. In March, the company said nearly all of the top PlayStation 4 titles will be playable on the new console.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic