In the behind-closed doors demo of the Xbox One platform updates, Microsoft showed off plenty of the improvements coming to its platform later this year. Alongside the interface updates and game streaming, the company also detailed Xbox One backward compatibility.
The big news around backward compatibility (or “back compat” as the Microsoft rep kept saying) is about what Xbox 360 games will run on the new console.
There is actually a software emulator running on the Xbox One that simulates Xbox 360 architecture and remaps certain buttons and functions to have everything work properly with the Xbox One controller. The full dashboard is actually running in the background as well, as the company wanted to have the true Xbox 360 experience when performing actions such as hitting the Xbox button to bring up the guide.
With the entire software backend in tow, it stands to reason that any original Xbox game that ran on Xbox 360 via backwards compatibility should also work on the Xbox One through this.
From the 360 to Xbox One generation, there is a bit of work to be done on the backend as the game and updated install packages need to be hosted on the Xbox Live servers and authentication tools need to be created for each game. But the technical process behind it all is sound: if Microsoft really wanted to, they could have Xbox games run on Xbox One as early as right now.
When asked about the feature, we weren’t given an answer; the official line was something along the lines of “there’s nothing planned at this time”, but that it is technically feasible. The actual merits of making original Xbox games playable on Xbox One are few, if there are any at all.
Of course, it’s always nice to know it could happen. Just don’t hold your breath.