One of today’s huge announcements at Microsoft’s Xbox event at E3 is that the Xbox One will soon be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games through emulation. Much of what we know about the inner workings of such compatibility is shrouded in mystery post E3 but it shouldn’t be long before we can start playing our favorite 360 titles on Microsoft’s next-gen console.
There is no doubt that such a capability is a massive coup for Microsoft who is still selling plenty of Xbox 360 consoles and games. Those of us who own an Xbox One console will be extremely happy to dust off our 360 games and get gaming. Those of us who are still playing the last-gen 360 console have one more reason to upgrade our units and have the comfort of playing our old favourites.
This is not the first time Microsoft has used emulators within their consoles, ZDNet notes that the capability was included on the Xbox 360 to play the original Xbox games. Soon some of us will be able to play Xbox 360 games as part of the Xbox Preview initiative with the Xbox One Compatibility Beta program. Xbox officials have commented stating that although a limited number of people will be able to play their back catalogue the service will be able to everyone “later this holiday season.”
It is no secret that this console generation Xbox One has trailed behind Sony’s PS4 despite being very successful. Although PlayStation Now allows PS4 users to stream PS3 games to their consoles Microsoft’s approach appears far simpler for consumers. In her post, Mary Jo Foley posted the response she got when she asked about the emulation and how it works:
I asked Microsoft officials for more information about the emulator and was provided with this statement by a spokesperson:
"What we did was essentially built a virtual Xbox 360 console entirely in software. So when you launch a game via Xbox One Backward Compatibility, you'll see that the game first starts up a virtual Xbox 360 console, then launches the title. The work is ongoing as each title requires individual packaging and validation work to enable that virtual console capability, but we're committed to continually rolling out new titles each month."
I've asked for more specifics about the emulator, but so far, officials aren't providing information beyond that statement.
Microsoft has put a lot of effort into making their console seem like the perfect choice for anyone who wants to buy a next-gen console and emulation certainly poses a convincing argument for Xbox 360 owners to upgrade and be content knowing their games will be playable on their shiny, new Xbox One. Unlike the PS4, Xbox One owners need to keep their 360 game disc if they want to play.
According to the Xbox One FAQ’s, Xbox 360 games are indeed being played via an emulator and discs are only required as a “proof of purchase.” As the members of the Xbox One Compatibility Beta program start to dust off their old titles today we will start to see how exactly games are played, how long they take to download and what features need finished before consumers start using the service.