Please support Game Informer. Print magazine subscriptions are less than $2 per issue


Backward Compatibility Is A Long-Term Vision For Xbox

by Brian Shea on Mar 01, 2016 at 02:08 AM

The announcement that a large number of Xbox 360 games would be made available to play on Xbox One through backward compatibility was, for many, one of the more exciting pieces of news to come out of E3 2015. Many Xbox One owners were thrilled to have a selection of their old games from Xbox 360 work on their new system without having to re-buy them or pay a fee to carry them over.

As head of Xbox Phil Spencer took the stage to address the media at the recent Xbox Spring Showcase 2016, he spoke at great length about the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and how Microsoft and Xbox are utilizing Universal Windows Applications (UWAs) to provide a better experience to Xbox players. One thing that Spencer directly addressed was the frustration of having to reboot your library of games with each new console you purchase. "Basically, every time a new generation shift happens in console gaming, it’s had a tendency to invalidate every game you’ve ever purchased and require a whole new purchase motion, which isn’t great for gamers. It’s great for innovation at that step function, but it’s not that we invalidate the games that we have," he said in his address.

Spencer claims that the UWP will help with solving this problem. "You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation and allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have the Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform," he said in the presentation. "We can effectively feel a little bit more like what we see in PC where I can still go back and run my old Doom games and Quake games so many years ago, but I can still see the best 4K games come out and my library is always with me. Hardware innovation continues, while the software innovation is able to take advantage, and I don’t have to jump a generation and lose everything that I played on before."

When I spoke with Spencer after his address, he doubled down on Xbox's commitment to backward and forward compatibility. I asked him if the Universal Windows Platform makes it easier for future consoles to be backward and forward compatible and he responded with, "Yes. Absolutely." 

"I think it’s as much forward compatibility on what’s to come as it is backward compatibility on what’s been built," he says. "When I’m building something today, I know that it will be playable 10 years from now because I’m building on a platform that a company like Microsoft is out there supporting. The other thing I’ll say is that many of our partners build their games across multiple platforms, so if we give them an app framework that can span all the way from potentially a phone all the way up through a PC, that can be good. I think there are multiple things to look at as the advantages. So when we talk about multiple compatibility, forward and backward compatibility is the way to think about it."

Microsoft is also continuing its commitment toward making backward compatibility a more integral part of its current system, as outlined by its upcoming system update