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Let's Talk About Xbox One Backwards Compatibility.

Updated on July 23, 2015

What this means for Xbox 360.

Quite simply this means your Xbox 360 library might be still relevant on your current generation hardware. Phil Spencer's announcement also stated that the official public release of the feature would be in Holiday 2015 making it available vaguely this fall. Xbox preview members (essentially people who get to beta test new Xbox One features before released to the public) already get to test the feature with a small number of titles including Mass Effect and Super Meat Boy. Short story: it works. It also allows the use of native Xbox One features such as game DVR and Screen Shots.

Backwards Compatibility Challenges

Bring Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One will not be without it's challenges. Bringing the feature to the current generation of Xbox apparently already required not just technological but also some political hurdles. It's likely this change wouldn't have come without Phil Spencer becoming the new Xboss. Essentially the Xbox one sees the backwards compatibility software as an app that's running the last gen software in much the such way that Blu Ray playback on the Xbox One is accomplished through an app. I can't pretend to know how this actually works beyond what I've described. That said It would appear that there are actually other roadblocks to see all your favorite titles work. It's my intention to discuss these challenges. I will reiterate that I am very much looking forward to this new feature when it leaves beta in it's full form.

Peripheral Problems.

One of the first problems that Microsoft and Phil Spencer stated was that games that require Xbox 360 peripherals to run wouldn't make the cut. This is due to the proprietary way in which the controllers work. This would put games such as the last gen versions of Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, and the last few Tony Hawk games on the nope list. Although Harmonix is actually working to get the previous versions of Rock Band hardware to work with Xbox One's upcoming version of Rock Band 4 it's unknown if this would extend to giving the "go ahead" on bringing the previous games to working status on Xbox one. Previous gen Kinect centric games also won't work.

Who has the license?

Another roadblock to bringing certain games to backwards compatibility status is in regards to licensed characters. It's already been demonstrated that when companies lose the licenses to certain characters this affects the digital sale of these games. When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle licenses left Konami the games they had published (TMNT 2:The Arcade Game & TMNT 4: Turtles in Time) were delisted from XBLA as well as other digital market places. They can only be downloaded by people who have previously owned them and even this could change. The same applied to the popular Marvel vs Capcom series of fighting games. Since Capcom no longer has a license to use the Marvel characters it's highly doubtful that Capcom can legally give any permission to make any version (digital or physical) of those games backwards compatible. This is a sad but true fact in regards to with way this system will work. In some cases the rights to the game itself make by held by an unknown entity.

The Remaster Issue.

Since this batch of video game consoles hit the market in 2013 the studios have addressed the dearth of titles and the continuing nostalgia for the last systems through the consistent release of remasters of games from the Xbox 360/PS3 era but optimized for the Xbox One/PS4 generation. As expected the introduction of backwards compatibility shakes this up a bit. Will studios that have poured money, ad space, and time into the "Definitive" edition of (Insert relatively popular game here) say okay to letting people play the last gen integration of the same game? Well since the studios and publishers have to give Microsoft the "OK" the answer in many cases could likely be NO. However, Microsoft is in the situation themselves due to the Ultimate Edition of Gears of War coming out in August but also stating that the plan on make all first party titles from the Xbox 360 backwards compatible. I supposed that they are banking on the Ultimate edition of GOW being desirable due to it's advanced graphics...and a ticket to the Gears of War 4 beta. I see some companies saying no if it cuts into their profits but yes if it can help promote an upcoming game (I'm looking at you Fallout). It's also a good show of face. Reputation counts for a lot in the mind of gamers.

How about just NO!

As silly as it may seem, some companies can have bad blood between that ends up with making decisions that don't make any good sense from a business stand point. In these situations some companies, developers, and publishers may decide against backwards compatibility in order to "stick it to" Microsoft. This may also be the case of the owner of the rights to a game is no longer or never was in the video game industry. The case of 38 Studios comes to mind. Having filed bankruptcy in 2012 the fate of their popular but financially unsuccessful title Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning put this game in the kind of limbo that backwards compatibility may have trouble piercing. I could be wrong but I think the rights of this title may belong to the state of Rhode Island.


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