Arguably the biggest announcement during Xbox's E3 conference was the news that Xbox 360 games will soon be playable on the Xbox One -- free of charge. For gamers who still haven't upgraded their last-gen consoles, this could be the killer app that gets them over the line. As expected, Microsoft's announcement drew rapturous applause from the audience, despite offering very little in the way of details. We asked Xbox's vice president of devices and studios, Yusuf Mehdi, to explain how the platform works.
This summer, Xbox One will introduce native backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. This will be offered for "select" Xbox 360 games and will be a free service for anyone who owns the original titles. What's more, the old games will boast support for Xbox One features such as screenshots, broadcasting and GameDVR. You'll also be able to play multiplayer online games against players on the original hardware.
Initially, there will be around 100 Xbox 360 games available, although Microsoft promises continued support from third-party publishers.
"The idea is, if you're a developer and you want to get your Xbox 360 games on [Xbox One], you tell us you want them to be backwards compatible and then we get that going and we will have the games up and running," Mehdi explained to us.
So how will the feature actually work? Can you just pop in a game disc or will some sort of unique download code be required? As it turns out, a bit of both.
"It's designed to be very simple: you stick the disc in, you download the game and then you're ready to play it."
Sounds pretty good to us. If you have a supported Xbox 360 game, all you need to do is insert it into your Xbox One and you're good to go.
Before the official launch, a beta will be made available which focuses on a small batch of titles which we've listed below:
- Banjo Kazooie: N n B
- BattleBlock Theater
- Defense Grid
- Geometry Wars Evolved
- Hexic HD
- Jetpac Refuelled
- Mass Effect
- Perfect Dark
- Perfect Dark Zero
- Small Arms
- Super Meat Boy
- Toy Soldiers
- Toy Soldiers: Cold War
- Viva Piñata
- Viva Piñata: TIP
Apart from Mass Effect and maybe Perfect Dark Zero, there's nothing terribly exciting in that list. It will be interesting to see how fully Microsoft commits to this service -- hopefully it will eventually include most games and not just 100 or so bestsellers. We'll be keeping an eye out for backwards compatibility in action at Xbox's E3 booth tomorrow.
Kotaku travelled to E3 in LA as a guest of Microsoft.