No matter where you stand in the everlasting trivial console wars, one department that the Xbox clearly wins in is backwards compatibility. Sony executives have even gone on to say that nobody wants to play old games and their focus on developing new exclusives whilst completely neglecting even the thought of reviving generations-old classics speaks true of this. In contrast, Xbox has embraced this idea and has breath life into many old titles thanks to its commitment to backwards compatibility.
Microsoft’s Xbox Backwards Compatibility program introduced back in 2015 has been a Godsend for old-school gamers looking to ride the highs of nostalgia one last time and it has not disappointed since. With nearly 1000 original Xbox and Xbox 360 games playable on the Xbox One and, now, the Xbox Series, Microsoft has fed us good. And, after a 2-year long break, Microsoft is adding 76 new titles to its Backwards Compatibility today. But, this news is more bittersweet than the sentence prior suggests.
The Backwards Compatibility Issue
Part of the reason why Sony has never even really bothered with backwards compatibility is because of the strenuous efforts that are required to make that possible. You’d have to go through countless legal and technical loopholes to figure out a good enough way of bringing old games back to life on new platforms. Microsoft also acknowledges this barrier but has fought hard to make sure it doesn’t hold them back down. However, it has come close to giving up and with today’s update, it’s simply no longer possible to fight.
Back at E3 2019, Microsoft made it clear that their focus with the Backwards Compatibility Program will shift from adding new games to making sure the already-backwards-compatible games work properly on “Xbox Scarlett” aka Xbox Series X|S. In other words, it was Microsoft putting an indefinite hold on adding new games to the program and, even though, it was never explicitly confirmed, many expected that was the end. That changes today.
The Unexpected Surprise
Out of nowhere, as part of Xbox’s 20th Anniversary, Microsoft announced that 76 new games will be coming to Xbox Backwards Compatibility Program. Announced in an Xbox Wire post, classics such as the May Payne franchise, Red Dead Revolver, Dead or Alive 4, and Timesplitters 2 and 3 (Future Perfect) have been added to the program. On top of that, the entire Skate franchise is now fully playable with Skate 2 being a part of today’s additions.
All games in the program, the ones added today and ones that already were part of it, support Auto HDR and FPS Boost. These two features enhance the quality of these old classics using modern technology so that they play even better than they did on their original hardware. Auto HDR automatically adds HDR enhancements to games on Xbox Series X|S on supported displays. Whereas, FPS boost, as the name suggests, provides a noticeable bump in frame rate on older titles with some even doubling their frame rate from 30 FPS to up to 60. This is also exclusive to the Xbox Series.
For Xbox One users, there’s still a 2x resolution increase that they can enjoy on their consoles. And, on the Xbox One X and Xbox Series X, you’ll see a 4x increase in resolution. For the Xbox Series S, there’s a 3x resolution improvement in place. So, regardless of what Xbox you’re playing on, the games will look and play better than ever.
To check the full list of the 70+ games added today, see the image below, or click here.
A Fond Farewell
As with all good things, it must come to an end. While the program itself isn’t ending as you’ll still be able to keep playing these games, the prospect of new additions is dead. Buried at the end of the Xbox Wire post, after thanking the community, Xbox made it clear that after today’s update, no more games will be added to the program in the future. And this isn’t a shift of focus thing or even a financial reconsideration. No. It has simply become impossible to add more titles due to real-word limitations.
While we continue to stay focused on preserving and enhancing the art form of games, we have reached the limit of our ability to bring new games to the catalog from the past due to licensing, legal and technical constraints. Thank you for being part of this journey with us.
This was further clarified by a Microsoft spokesperson who, in a statement to IGN, said:
Yes, this is the final addition of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games to the backward compatibility program. We have reached the limits of our ability to add additional games to the catalog due to licensing, legal or technical constraints. We know we’ve said this before, but we went back one more time to bring as many fan-requested titles as possible to the catalog to celebrate our 20th anniversary.
While the announcement in 2019 left the slightest bit of hope in our hearts, this statement is clear-cut and makes no mistake is affirming that we won’t see any new Xbox and Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles going forward, ever. So, cherish the ones you’ve already got and thank Microsoft for being the only company actually giving a damn about keeping old classics alive.