Microsoft's Xbox Series X will offer players a staggering degree of backward compatibility with their existing library of games. When the new console launches this holiday season, players will have immediate access to a roster of "thousands" of past-generation titles, along with technical enhancements to ensure those older classics and forgotten gems look better than ever.
In a post on Xbox Wire, Partner Director of Program Management Jason Ronald detailed the team's journey to make Series X the company's "most powerful and compatible console ever." That means being easily able to find, access, and play games you already own on Series X, without buying a new copy or losing your progress. Ronald's post also suggests that past-gen Xbox peripherals will be compatible with Series X:
"Your progression and achievements, and the friendships and communities you create through gaming should all move with you across generations. Not only that, your favorite gaming accessories and peripherals should also move forward with you as well."
The post did not detail a specific list of past-gen titles that will be available for Series X come launch day, nor did it detail any new subscription model or pricing for older games. However, Ronald offered the eye-catching detail that "thousands of games are already playable on Xbox Series X today," presumably on the Xbox team's in-house Series X consoles.
"Many of us in Team Xbox play on the Xbox Series X daily as our primary console and switching between generations is seamless," he elaborated. "By the time we launch this holiday, the team will have spent well over 200,000 hours ensuring your game library is ready for you to jump in immediately."
Series X aims to make playing retro games an even more satisfying experience with visual enhancements and reduced load times. This is all done on the console hardware, thanks to the Series X's HDR reconstruction technique.
"It allows us to enable HDR with zero impact to the game’s performance," Roland explains, "we can also apply it to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles developed almost 20 years ago, well before the existence of HDR."
Microsoft's next-gen console won't rely on emulators to run older games, either:
"Backwards compatible games run natively on the Xbox Series X hardware, running with the full power of the CPU, GPU and the SSD. No boost mode, no down clocking, the full power of the Xbox Series X for each and every backward compatible game. 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 framerates and rendering at their maximum resolution and visual quality. Backwards compatible titles also see significant reductions in in-game load times from the massive leap in performance from our custom NVME SSD which powers the Xbox Velocity Architecture."
The Inverse Analysis — Score another point for Microsoft in the brewing next-gen console war. The console-maker has made a number of innovative, consumer-friendly moves in the lead-up to the Series X launch, including Smart Delivery, which means Xbox loyalists don't have to buy the same game twice. Sony and Nintendo have made players re-buy classic games for years – or kept fan-fave titles in mothballs — and it's a practice we won't be sorry to see become a distant memory.
The Series X's robust backward compatibility roster makes the new hardware more appealing to retro game lovers and folks with adaptive control setups from day one. Even though many buyers will likely pick up a new Series X game or two along with the hardware, it's awfully nice to know you don't automatically have to spend another $60 right out the gate.