Xbox One Turnaround: Backwards Compatibility the Key

Gaming News & Analysis

The Xbox One has been a very polarizing console.

Since the system’s much-anticipated unveiling in early 2013, the video game console by Microsoft has been criticized for seemingly everything. The video game press and the most vocal of gamers lambasted its system specs, branding, and message.

Since 2015, the messaging has changed.

It is no longer the brunt of jokes and harsh criticism. The system is outpacing its predecessor the Xbox 360 in sales.

Xbox Live monthly users are increasing every quarter. The console’s smaller revision, the Xbox One S, is praised as a great piece of tech.

So what is the cause for the consoles sudden upswing?

Xbox One

Xbox One

After the Xbox Ones’s pre-release debacle, a major shake-up occurred in Xbox management. Gone was Don Mattrick, the controversial executive who famously said, “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards.”

Backwards compatibility for a game console is the ability for the system to play older games released on previous consoles.

The Xbox 360 was backwards compatible with original Xbox games and the PlayStation 3 could play PlayStation 1 games. When the PS4 and Xbox One were unveiled to not have any backwards compatibility, a good number of fans were upset. Mattrick’s quote only helped add fuel to the negative press fire surrounding the Xbox One’s launch.

New Xbox boss, Phil Spencer, has been the anti-Mattrick.

Spencer has embraced Xbox’s past. He spearheaded the Xbox software engineering teams to make the Xbox One backwards compatible with select Xbox 360 games. Backwards compatibility is one major reason for the Xbox One’s recent success.

The Xbox 360 Years

Xbox 360

Xbox 360

The Xbox 360, released in 2005, dominated the video game market in the system’s later years. While the original Xbox sold a respectable 24 million units, the Xbox 360 did much better selling over 84 million consoles.

Xbox 360 revolutionized the video game business.

It brought party chat, achievements, entertainment apps, Xbox Live Arcade, and HD games. There is much more nostalgia associated with the 360 compared to the original Xbox.

With the success and innovation of the 360, many gamers were excited to see what the next Xbox would bring.

The PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 3 was a step backwards for Microsoft’s competitor, Sony. The PS3 was over engineered and overpriced.

Many expected Microsoft to beat the next PlayStation with their next Xbox.

Enter the PlayStation 4.

PlayStation 4 Console

PlayStation 4 Console

Sony nailed the message and marketing of the PS4. By focusing on gaming, system power, and nostalgia, they were able to secure most of the pre-release hype in 2013 while Microsoft botched their messaging.

Instead of focusing on games, Microsoft focused on movies and television.

Longtime Xbox gamers felt ignored and even disrespected by the Xbox One. The system was underpowered, overpriced, required the Kinect sensor and instead of opening game studios, Microsoft was opening Xbox television studios. A good number of the 84 million Xbox 360 gamers immediately jumped ship to the PlayStation.

E3 2015

Since both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 released in November of 2013, the PS4 was handily beating the Xbox One in any measurable statistic.

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2015, the Xbox One would start to experience a turnaround.

Head of Xbox Phil Spencer announced at the Xbox’s E3 press event that select Xbox 360 games would be playable on Xbox One. The crowd in attendance greeted the announcement with thunderous applause and cheers.

Backwards compatibility for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One was seen as something technically impossible. Once Spencer became the head of Xbox, he challenged the Xbox engineering team to make backwards compatibility happen. For over a year, the team worked to code a solution and they succeeded. This added a key feature to the Xbox One that the PlayStation 4 does not have.

Project Scorpio and Beyond

Since the announcement of backwards compatibility and the release of the Xbox One S, the system has seen a major turnaround.

While still lagging behind the PS4, the system continues to sell well and generate positive momentum. More and more former 360 owners are picking up a system to play their old and new games.

Xbox One X

Xbox One X

Every week more Xbox 360 games are added to the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility list. There are currently over 300 titles available, with major titles such as Red Dead Redemption, Fallout 3, and Call of Duty: Black Ops headlining the program.

The Xbox One’s turnaround has generated positive momentum for Microsoft’s next Xbox system codenamed “Project Scorpio”, released in the holiday season of 2017, as the Microsoft Xbox One X.

Those 84 million Xbox 360 owners know that their game purchases they have made for the last 12 years can now carry over to the next system.

While gamers know PlayStation for their classic games and franchises, Microsoft has an incredible opportunity to beat their competitor at nostalgia.

No other game system today aside from the Xbox One will let users play older systems titles without paying.

Project Scorpio (Xbox One X) should continue the 360’s backwards compatibility program and expand on it.

A system that plays original Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Scorpio games is the ultimate machine for gamers and Microsoft should continue to push that idea into the future.