The Xbox Series X Backward Compatibility Effort Is Pretty Interesting

The Xbox Series X Backward Compatibility Effort Is Pretty Interesting
Image: Microsoft
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Here’s something I like very much: interviews with console executives about upcoming next-gen machines that get very into hard numbers, internal procedures and an explanation of just how much work went into making sure the Xbox Series X/S backwards compatibility was up to scratch.

Like this one that Inverse did with Xbox Director of Program Management Jason Ronald, where he says stuff like “We’ve been working on the Xbox Series X and Series S since 2016. Before we even had silicon, we would take performance captures of existing games and run them on a simulator of the next-generation chip. That allowed us to identify potential issues in the silicon before it was even produced.”

See, I don’t care about an executive’s aspirations for a console, or even talk about its specs. But behind-the-scenes chat about a feature like this, with real numbers and interesting little facts, is some good shit. Another example: this army of testers.

We’ve gone through test passes for about the last year, which can take 16 to 24 hours for a single game. We had an army of testers, approximately 500 of them, who went through all of them based on a priority order. If they found issues, our backwards compatibility team would fix that, with no work by developers. The onus is on us to make sure that these games continue to work.

I like this stuff because it takes something we take for granted, something we see simply as a feature, and makes it real, something that had to be designed and tested and implemented by people doing work.

The full interview is good stuff, so definitely go check it out on Inverse.


  • I don’t know about Series X obviously, but I’ve never really had any problems with BC on the Xbox One (vanilla) and I’ve enjoyed the crap out of some good 360 titles.

    I know people say BC is not required or is something no one will use, but with newer consoles showing that the increase in graphic fidelity is diminishing, it isn’t like going from PS2 to PS3 anymore. Many X360 games still look pretty decent and if the game is a good game, why not play it in 2020 (or beyond?). And this is to say nothing of the excellence of BC for game preservation.

    • BC is the main reason my primary console ecosystem is Xbox. I have a PS4 (and soon to be PS5, and PS3, and PS2, and PS1, lol), but I know any games I buy will probably run on the latest Xbox, that they will run better, with better framerates, resolution, etc.

      It just gives me more faith to invest in the ecosystem.

    • Being perfectly honest, Demon’s Souls aside, I’m buying a PS5 at launch almost entirely to finally get to, or get back to, a couple of PS4 titles.

      I’d basically been borrowing a PS4 to play a game here or there, since I wasn’t buying myself another PS4 with the PS5 coming.

      Ghost of Tsushima is something I’m looking forward to immensely when my PS5 arrives.

      • It’s good to see Sony has gotten on the BC bandwagon, but it’s still a shadow of the MS philosophy of complete compatibility to the previous generation. Sony announced 10 games which weren’t going to work and then Ubisoft informs us of more. No doubt there will be a lot more added to that list and sure, 90% of games might work, but there will always be favourites which aren’t.

        Personally between the more gamer friendly focus, Game Pass and BC I have shifted this generation from primary PS4 (and always have been primary Sony) across to Xbox. I’ll definitely end up getting both consoles, but XB will be first and PS5 will be for their exclusives only.

        • To be clear I’m very much in the Microsoft camp.

          However, there has been zero reason shown for me to buy an Xbox as I game on PC first at basically any given opportunity, and Microsoft are now pushing basically all their stuff to PC at the same time.

          It’s kind of smart really on their part, especially since most consoles are sold at a loss initially anyway.

          So, PS5 is the only console choice of the two that makes sense for someone like me.

          • Absolutely understandable. My PC isn’t up to scratch and getting it anywhere near where I could play modern games would cost me more than a Series X anyway.

            MS have been good about not caring where people play, as long as you’re in the eco-system. This comes back to the more gamer centric ideology I think they’re adopting.

    • I nabbed a preorder based on BC, not any of their announced or launch games. There’s a lot of stuff that’s from Xbox and 360 that I’d like to play again without having the hassle of an emulator.

  • I used to be an SDET (developer in testing) at MSFT and I have quite a few friends in the Xbox group and they are some of the most talented and technical testers I’ve known.

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