The upcoming Sony PS5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X will bring tons of new video game innovations to the table, but one of the major ways that Xbox has an early lead is in the console's approach to backward compatibility, a feature that gamers crave. We already knew that both consoles would be backward compatible, but new information and specs from Microsoft seemingly gives the Xbox Series X a major advantage over the PS5.
In a Monday post on Xbox Wire, Microsoft head Phil Spencer shared details about Xbox Series X's specs and how its backward compatibility will function. Thanks to new initiatives that place backward compatibility as a focus for the console, Microsoft has the PS5 beat on this front.
Microsoft's post boasts about the technical prowess that Xbox Series X will bring with a 12 teraflop GPU and SSD drive that should allow for larger games that will run better. Still, it is clear that Microsoft doesn't want to leave anyone behind, as the post dedicates a lot of time to backward compatibility.
"Our commitment to compatibility means existing Xbox One games, including backward-compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, look and play better than ever before," the post states. "Your favorite games, including titles in Xbox Game Pass, benefit from steadier framerates, faster load times and improved resolution and visual fidelity – all with no developer work required."
Backward compatibility is further enhanced by Xbox Game Pass, which will give players hundreds of Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games to play on launch day with only a monthly subscription fee. Microsoft has confirmed that Halo Infinite will be available via the Game Pass at launch too, so it seems like a must-buy for anyone who purchases an Xbox Series X.
Microsoft now cementing the fact that games and "Xbox One gaming accessories also come forward with you." That means you won't have to leave that Xbox Elite Series 2 controller you bought last year behind when the Xbox Series X comes out, because it and any other accessory will function with the Series X.
Microsoft is taking backward compatibility seriously with the Xbox Series X, so much so that the company even coining a new term and feature to go along with it: smart delivery.
"This technology empowers you to buy a game once and know that – whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X – you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you’re playing on," the post says. "We’re making the commitment to use smart delivery on all our exclusive Xbox Game Studios titles, including Halo Infinite, ensuring you only have to purchase a title once in order to play the best available version for whichever Xbox console they choose to play on."
What does that mean?
Microsoft is ensuring that no matter what platform you buy a game on, you can get the correct or enhanced version of the game for no additional cause. You buy a game once for the full price, and then you can play it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X.
When one considers that the beginning of this console generation was packed with remasters, this will be a helpful feature. It isn't even limited to Xbox Games Studios' titles either, as the post clarifies that "this technology is available for all developers and publishers, and they can choose to use it for titles that will be released on Xbox One first and come to the Xbox Series X later." So far, CD Projekt Red has confirmed that players will be able to use this feature to get the Xbox Series X version of Cyberpunk 2077. It remains to be seen, however, if this feature supports any kind of cross-save functionality.
The Inverse Analysis:
Thanks to features like smart delivery and gaming peripherals also having backward compatibility, Microsoft seems to have Sony beat when it comes to this feature, which could allow the Xbox Series X to gain the upper hand at the start of the next console generation. Sony has not done much more than confirming that the PS5 can play PS4 games, and the console is still shrouded in mystery with no concrete details released just yet. Sony also continues pulling out of events like PAX East 2020 and GDC 2020.
In the earliest days of a console's lifespan, a wide selection of games to play is important. Xbox Series X will deliver on that with Xbox Game Pass and smart delivery even if it may have a disappointingly small list of launch titles. The ball is now in Sony's court as the company needs to either show off an equally as impressive backward compatibility system or admit that this is one aspect of the console war that the PS5 might lose.
Xbox Series X and PS5 will release during holiday 2020.