Xbox Exec: ‘If You’re Backwards Compatible, You’re Really Backwards’

Xbox Exec: ‘If You’re Backwards Compatible, You’re Really Backwards’

The quote in the headline comes from Don Mattrick, talking to the Wall Street Journal about the Xbox One. But that’s not the only head-scratching statement to come from the man in charge of all things Xbox.

The newspaper article covers the different strategies behind Microsoft’s next-gen offering and the console coming from Sony, including what they’re choosing to prioritise and how they use the cloud:

Imagine a typical game: there are characters in the foreground that interact with the player, and a background landscape with trees, hills or an ocean. Mattrick said Microsoft’s new servers, which the company increased to 300,000 from 15,000 currently used by the Xbox 360, will be able to do some of the work creating images for that background landscape and then stream them back to the console and TV, while the Xbox One focuses on making the characters look as impressive as possible.

The basic concept in the quote above makes sense, as it’s essentially a distributed computing setup. But what’s disturbing about the scenario is how it hints at a possible divide in the end experience. It seems to indicate that your game will look and/or play the way it’s supposed to if your Xbox One is online, because it’ll be able to take advantage of that cloud-computing back end. It’s a nice advantage to provide to developers, sure. But, if your console won’t be online, then you probably won’t want to buy games that use that back-end.

Furthermore, what about consoles that are online but won’t have always the best bandwidth? Will the Xbox One have to work differently or harder if the connection falters? Will there be missing detail or inconsistent visuals? There’s probably going to be some sort of sliding scale protocol for the cloud processing but, if there’s any kind of noticeable difference in performance, Microsoft will have a big problem on their hands.


      • No t enough. Clearly they haven’t learned much. Remember when ea said they’re getting rid of online passes? Gee I wonder why?

        I’m implying ea and ms are working together and are really pushing for this thing. Ea won’t need any CD key stuff if tvbox has key stu$f. Seems like a reasonable typo, cause it is.

        • Yeah, as soon as I saw EA announce that and everyone was saying things like “at least they’re learning” or “too little too late” I was just sitting there going, you idiots, the only reason why they would do something like this is because xbox has done something which means they won’t have to anymore, and they are just trying to get some temporary brownie points.

  • So if i don’t have amazing internet speeds and unlimited bandwidth, my games will look like what exactly?
    Oh wait, nevermind, i’m not buying an XBone.

  • Sooo, the backgrounds in videogames will just be stock images uploaded from Microsofts server? Meaning there will be an even further disconnect from the world the players are trying to explore? (imagine Halo with New Jersey in the background)

    This really feels like they’re trying to minimise the developement time in videogames so that they can release more videogames at a faster pace. Basically treating every videogame franchise like Call of Duty with regular, sometimes yearly releases.

    Also, gonna look forward to the backgrounds “lagging” in videogames 😛

    • Sometimes I wonder if I’m reading the same article as some of you people…

      • That’s exactly what I thought. The heading seems totally different to what I read.

    • stock images? I reckon it would be worst.

      I reckon its the perfect setup for online ads and product placement.

      “Take this radio and sneak into the building Agent. Use the roof entry…right next to that billboard sign for McDonalds new chicken wing promotion”

  • What he really means is that their business model is backwards if they allowed backwards compatibility, as they wouldn’t be able to maximise profit by re-selling old content on the online store.

    • That is true, but Im not gonna buy it. Who cares about me as 1 person his business model still stands.

      the way cloud computing could be used in so many things is truly amazing, yet they use it for something really ridiculous to tap into a source of income. its a business I don’t blame them I’m just gonna stick to my pc. That is untill they screw that up as well.

    • This is my biggest annoyance – I have a lot of XBLA stuff and I can see they’ll start rolling out all those games on the new machine eventually and asking top dollar for them again.

  • I don’t really get backwards compatibility as being that big a deal. I mean sure, it’s a nice thing to have. But it’s hardly the be-all and end-all.

    NES, SNES, N64 and GCN didn’t have any backwards compatibility and nobody complained about it back then 😛

    • True, but you can still sell the cartridges when you’re done.

      My XBLA library works like a Steam library no resale and its tied to an account. Only difference is if I buy a new PC, my Steam games can come across with me, if I buy an XboxOne then all those downloadable games are defunct. Oh but wait I get to keep my achievements -big f–king whoop!

      • Ah, fair point. Was only thinking of retail games. It never occurs to me that digital stuff exists 😛

        Still, your XBLA stuff is only defunct if you get rid of your 360. You don’t *have* to get rid of it to get an XBone.

        • There’s also the problem that things like SNES were built to last (mine still works perfectly) but modern consoles are much more likely to just give up and die after a few years (RROD, YLOD, etc).

        • I certainly won’t be getting rid of it but nor am I compelled to get the new one either

    • Those consoles (N64, SNES, NES, GCN) don’t have the total market value as the Wii/PS3/360 generation. We’re talking about, on average $80 games purchased over a 5-7 year period, particularly by gamers who grew up with the former systems you mentioned into a world where they had disposable income and the games and consoles were built for them, the mature market. The generations prior were primarily marketed to kids who don’t make the end purchasing decision, so while they had a decent marketshare for video games, would not have had much of a comparable marketshare for entertainment.

      If you can’t decipher that (it was a bit of a verbal BLEGH), here’s my point. The current generation holds a greater marketshare of total entertainment then the earlier consoles, meaning a lot of more money has been invested on an individual basis.

        • The way I see it is that yes, my 360 can obviously still be used to play the old games even after I buy an Xbone. But, say in 5 years when the Xbone is in full swing and the 360 is out of production, my 360 dies on me. Now I can’t buy another one from JB or EB or whatever, and it’s waaaaayyy out of warranty, so without hunting for a second hand one (and who trusts second hand current gen systems :S ) my 360 library is unplayable. But if the Xbone supported it then it can play those games, and is still warranty replaceable/repurchase-able.

          • This assumes people play a lot of 5-10 year old games. People who moan about backwards compatibility fail to realise how impractical it is to implement on a completely new system. You want to play a 10 yr old pc game and chances are you will need to get a re-released or patched version to even get it to run on a modern system. Perhaps they will release classic games online for it if people want them enuf but realistically, catering to people playing old games is not a step forward for anyone.

          • Oh yes, it certainly is hard and very niche. But I just don’t like the idea that we have to say goodbye to classic games on current machines. It’d be like saying digital distribution won’t support “Gone with the Wind”, sorry you should just hope your DVD player never gives out on you ever. I am of course talking about the future when disc media isn’t readily available anymore and we all download stuff, not present day!

          • The problem is that running a completely different architecture is far different to changing the format of a video, audio or text. You have to virtually recreate exactly how the former hardware worked in every instance so that the game thinks that the old hardware is there and behaving in the same way. This could be damn near impossible to do with the hardware they have moved to or just so costly and time consuming to implement that it would increase the cost to consumers (which is not likely to be worth it for 90% or more of them).

    • the snes had official gameboy/gameboy color compatibility from nintendo and had 3rd party adapters to play nes games.

      and it was one of the selling points that the genesis had official backwards compatibility with master system . hence 3rd party adapters filling the snes gap . its always a good thing

      • Unfortunately things are a hell of a lot more complicated than the old 8 and 16bit systems these days.

  • First all the bullshit about DRM, useless TV features and now mocking consumers?

    Please tell me this isn’t some parallel universe where EA is releasing a console…

    • Remember that they’re strong partners with EA and Activision.

      As they said… “We share the same vision”


      • Is that the kind of vision you have to beat a man half to death to force glasses on him to see?

        Edit: . o O (I really hope people get the movie reference and don’t think I’m advocating violence as a form of persuasive argument.)

  • I predict video game piracy is going to be bigger than ever with this console.

    If this statement is true, and people can get games to play as they would online – offline as a torrent (look at Sim City), well I’m sure people can handle no Xbox Live and no online services to play these games.

    • Expect cheap-trick moments to be coded into every game where some bit of trivial data is fetched during progress, like checking the time and date from or similar, which – if failed – bricks your machine at worst, halts the game at best. Like the kind of anti-piracy tricks some devs are already slipping into games that render certain game-critical abilities useless or make the game unplayable after an hour or so.

      • I’m sure someone will figure out how to get around that though. I don’t pirate myself or know the slightest about coding so I’m talking out my back end here, but given people always seem to find a way around these things, it may be possible.

        We’ll see when it comes out anyway. I’m just hoping it doesn’t come to that, and have a person reading forums like these to see how much the majority are laughing at them.

  • If you guys want backwards compatibility, just get a PC for Christ’s sake, get with the times people.

  • Good god its like Sony all over again in the leadup to releasing the PS3, they were so arrogant that people were going to flock to their new console based on their previous consoles success that their ego gets the better of them

  • How about this:

    Kill the Kinect, kill the DRM, kill all the stupid services that have absolutely nothing to do with playing a goddamn game, and spend all the left over money on making it backwards compatible.

    Oh I forgot, they don’t like doing things that make the customer feel comfortable and happy with their purchase.

    • Kinect: remove this and they can no longer breach your privacy properly (watching who’s in-front of the system -watching the content, or who’s watching the tv, ect)
      DRM: But then the pirates win right… right? (Time and time again, piracy has been shown to have minimal impact on sales, but publishers are still convinced that every download is a lost sale)
      Services: But these services are increadibly important to track what your doing and transmit it back to MS on a weekly basis.
      Backwards Compatibility: How can they make you buy that game again if they let you play the copy you already own, it’s like stealing from the developers.

      Okay, I went a bit heavy handed and conspiricy theorist there, but the alway present, MUST be used kinect worries me, especially mixed with the must have an internet connection idea…

      • You know what’s funny about the DRM? What happens when the servers inevitably shut down in a few years/in a decade? We just don’t get to play our games anymore? That’s stealing from us. That is stealing our games. That is piracy.

  • Oh yeah, sure, we need to be always online because of the wonderful background computations that the cloud will do for you! So, a wonderful new generation of gaming then, just like Sim City promised?

  • I like how the article actually has nothing to do with the article title.

    I clicked on this story expecting to read more about that statement, instead I get stuff about their cloud backend.

  • It seems Microsoft believe the world is a place where everybody: has oodles of money, have high speed internet connection that never fails, and who want a relationship with their televsion

    And they believe that people will play games, watch movies, trailers of the sequel to that movie, listen to music, and talk on Skype.. ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

    Seriously.. this is what happens when people in corporate positions have their nose towards the shareholders, and their arses towards the consumer.

    • That or they could just be adding potentially useful features that people may like but you don’t have to use if you don’t want. My PC can do a lot of things I don’t need it to and still does all the stuff I do, should a get into a huff because of that? I’m pretty sure I don’t need most of the apps my phone can use, should I stop using it?
      I’m fairly certain it still plays games, including all the next gen games the ps4 will that aren’t exclusives so stop crying about something that isn’t an issue…

  • the future of true gaming will be open platform like android/pc/steam . this is the end of real enthusiast gaming on the large platforms . they will only be good for 2nd rate lowest common denominator mega budget trash and equally lowest common denominator mindless skill-less casual gaming .

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!