Microsoft still working on backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360

Xbox One

Xbox One being able to play Xbox 360 games is something a lot of folks want to see, and Microsoft is definitely looking into it. With Build having just taken place in California you can bet that the question came up in one of the sessions. It was put to Partner Development lead, Frank Savage, by a member of the audience, and garnered this response:

"There are, but we’re not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately. It turns out to be hard to emulate the PowerPC stuff on the X86 stuff. So there’s nothing to announce, but I would love to see it myself."

What form any emulator would take is still open for debate, though simply sticking your discs in might not be the way it would work. In any case, it's great news that Microsoft is at least looking into making it happen. Whether it will or not is another story for another day.

Source: Kotaku


Reader comments

Microsoft still working on backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360


I wonder could this help the image issues they are having? I want to see them make it where 360 and one players can play together somehow. Last I read they couldn't.

+1 on the different systems being able to interact. This would be very important for the release of a game such as Destiny.

Probably not for games like Destiny where certain aspects are omitted from pre ious hen consoles. Maybe with simpler games like the arcade titles bit that's probably as far as they'd go. On top of that nothing going forward will likely do it. I watched this segment WPC is talking about and the problem is different CPU architectures - you're taking about having two houses coexist on one foundation and it isn't easy nor is it profitable for MSFT to do something like that right now. I do think Savage was referring to disc and online-based emulation as their initial direction before cloud solutions are implemented. The XB1 can read the X360 discs it just won't carry out instructions since a translator needs to be present (emulator). If they can get one it will be a big deal.

It all depends on the user. I have a One and a gaming PC and the One is well worth the cost for the way I use it.

I respectfully disagree its not worth it at the moment. It is a nice piece of hardware but honestly outside of the Kinect and bluray I don't do anything I can't do on my 360. In fact I still have to turn my 360 on to watch apps like flixster and hbogo.

Or even to navigate to a share to play media. Security and family settings on 360 is light years ahead of the One as well. Outside of USA...integration with cable is non-existent (I am in Canada) so its even less of a plus. I basically replaced my ps3 bluray player with the Xbox one.

Yep, we have a One and a 360...One has been turned on maybe 5 times since Christmas...while the old Halo Ed 360 keeps on plugging away...my sons buddies still use the 360 over the One...even with Titanfall, they're just not into playing it yet.

We have a One and a 360 a well. I haven't turned on the 360 since I got the One. This weekend I finally disconnected the old 360 and moved it out to the garage. I plan to have it setup as a dedicated Rock Band machine for the boys and I. Nerd garage band :)


Backwards compatibility with my collection of X360 games would certainly be a nice-to-have.  But, as a product developer, I have seen what kind of compromises must be made for the sake of backwards compatibility and it can seriously hinder new and exciting features.  I can understand if they don't make this a priority.

What if they can make it work, and they put a team of developers on it for several months to make it work.  What cool new features did that team of developers not create because they were taked with making an 8 year old X360 title work?

I would like to see this. I think this would be done through cloud gaming playing 360 game in the cloud through the xbox one. Because didn't they show this last year of a windows phone playing halo in the cloud?

Yes they did; Sony is also doing this exact same thing with PlayStation Now, at least that's what I believe it's called.

Yeah Sony i think could implement this easily from what I've seen. This would be good to see Microsoft implement remote playing on xbox one. There are alot of capabilities with next(current) gen consoles it will be interesting at e3 to see what is shown.

Streaming cloud games is terrible for anything that requires low input latency. Shooter games would be terrible. You'd be able to do RPGs decently as long as they're older style.

What they should do is have a super easy path to get 360 XBLA games onto the XB1. Like one button recompile easy. That would be huge.

Then I could play Hydro Thunder Hurricane on the One! I thought it was stupid to not let digital downloads work on both stores though. 

Right now that's the only thing that's holding back from getting an Xbox One is that I have a few games I'm currently playing on the 360.

If they can either do backwards compatibility or if I can insert the game disk and download the equivalent One version I'd be happy to switch.

+925. Yes the One has some games I would love to get my hands on. But right now, all of my family's favorites are only available for the 360. For now, it makes no sense for us to upgrade, because the only non-gaming feature we really use is DVD movie playback.

I'm no engineer, but I feel trying to run PowerPC architecture on x86 architecture would not only be a big technical nightmare, but a real waste of technical coding. They should have the engineers doing their own thing rather than trying to put all in one basket. If the X1 were still PowerPC architecture, then it probably would be no problem

You're wrong. It's easy when you know the specs of the processor down to the last detail (as Microsoft does). In fact, the processor is not even the main problem - it's the GPU and the interactions between every chip inside the 360.

Translating PowerPC to x86 can be easily done with Just In Time compilation that compiles PowerPC instructions to x86 instructions, especially because the basic architecture is widely known.

The GPU might have some funky stuff, but again, knowing what they are makes the task a lot easier.

The whole process is made easier by the fact that the 360 runs games in a Hypervisor, so 1-1 emulation is not a strict requirement, allowing for performance improvements.

Let me wrap up by reminding you of the original Xbox emulation on the 360. It's far from perfect or universal, but keep in mind there was a bigger shift in architecture (x86 and a very heavily modified nVidia GPU to PowerPC and an ATI GPU, plus the added complexity of the 360's software) then what we're dealing with here. Even more importantly, Microsoft owns the designs of every important part of the 360, which they didn't with the original Xbox, so they have all the specs lying around.

tl;dr - it's much easier than you think for Microsoft

That may be the case, but as proof has been shown, most games still run better under native architecture than emulated architecture. I guess I'm still old school.

While my understanding is far from perfect, I think what ericloewe is saying is that the games do not run "natively" on the Xbox 360 anyway and accesses the hardware through Hypervisor, As such the performance overhead is not going to be as heavy as it may have had the games run natively.

Probably totally wrong though. I only have a small amount of understanding and experience with virtualisation on PCs/Macs.

I am barely understanding what you just said, but what I got makes it sound easy enough... for them lol.
If you're right, you def have a place in MS headquaters. In the programing sector at least.

When you let engineers do their own thing you get a billion dollars blown on R&D for a marginally better controller.

Couldn't care less for going backwards, tbh. They need to sort out the basic UI on the XB1. What made for a straight forward experience on the 360 no longer exists. I could make a list of irritations, but frankly, its already wastes enough of my energy on a daily basis just using the damn thing.

Now I see this stupid comment way too much. Xbox 360 initially didnt have a party system it was introduced in a later update, that being said yeah it was a misstep on Microsofts part using the messed up party system they had. That's mostly been rectified with the major updates that came out the past few months and I promise you it will continue to improve far past Xbox 360. As for the UI well maybe I'm on my ne too much as I have zero problems with the interface as it is.. I guess keeping apps and games completely Closed could be easier.

Same here no major problems for me I have mine setup like windows 8 I just used pinned tiles or smartglass for 95% of what I use or need the other 5% can be found via search - voice, smartglass, or controller

I want a true one box solution. I hope they provide a way to play your 360 discs natively. I never sell my games to secondhand stores or buy used copies because I support the developers. So I've got over 100 games I've collected through the years. Love to be able to free up a plug on the ole surge protector.

That will not happen maybe digital but I don't see anyway physical disc working on Xbox one, I prefer I had all digital I hate having to get up and switch discs especially with all the different command inputs like smartglass,controllers, remotes and gestures

This will sound like blasphemy to many, but they should talk to Apple about it. They have some experience emulating PowerPC stuff on x86.

I have a feeling I know how this is going to play out.

Hey everyone, here are a bunch of 360 games you can download for a nominal fee. What's that? You already own them on disc? Well sucks to be you then because you can either bring out your old console or suck it up and buy the games again. Thank you for supporting Xbox, we love money!

Yes, but of the three Microsoft was predominantly steering clear of such things (Nintendo and Sony being quite blatant about it). Would be good if they'd just suck it up and create a software emulator, it will, guaranteed, sell a lot more consoles.

You and ai both know it'll be a lot more than a 1 buck relicensing fee. I doubt they'll reach Nintendo levels of price gouging though.

This and having access to my networked media would remove any barriers to buying. Definitely not doing the Xbox music crap so network storage access is a must.

Plex is on the way xbmc as well as background music, and external storage ps4 hasn't announced anything in that field

Plex isn't a solution for me as I run WHS 2011 and Plex isn't a supported addin and running software locally can introduce problems. Already looked into Plex and it won't work with WHS IE as its in protected mode which means I have to download another browser to set it up which just leads to junk all over the OS. That's why a native, builtin player is better for me.

I have been running Plex on WHS 2011 for almost two years.  No problems at all.  You can disable protected mode or you can just use the browser on another PC and remote the settigns.  Its just http://WHSIP:32400/web/  This would be the web address to play on other PCs using a browser as well.  To access outside your local net, just do port fowarding and use your external IP.

Has there been any indication that MS is interested in supporting local or server-based media on the Xbox One? I think the writing was on the wall when they started deprecating Media Center.

Three things are stopping me buying a One.

1. Lack of apps I use daily on 360

2. Lack of a large enough quality game library (there's nothing I'm burning to play yet)

3. Lack of backward compatability while I have so many games still to complete on my 360.

I know I can keep the 360 and get a One but that's yet another piece of hardware under the telly, another plug, another HDMI cable etc. If they could sort out the compatibility question I'd find it much easier to justify making the leap.

For me this is key to the success of the Xbox One. A major goal of Mr Spencer should be to make the process of jumping from the 360 to the One a lot easier. Currently you lose to much if you jump and this really should not be the case.

They should have had this sorted prior to launch, end of story. Their unit sales would have gone through the roof had they already included this feature from the start. Instead they're now playing catch up.

Neither system has this available and 360 is still selling as well as still making games why offer a 2 for 1 system when u can milk two for even longer

Agreed. They would of sold a TON more consoles IF they could play 360 games, No question. If you had a failing 360 now with tons of games and you walked in the store, what system would you buy ? Most "Parents" would buy a 360 because all their current games are for that system but, If they Xbox One could do it, it would be a easy step up for a lot of people, play the games you have now but, when the One games are hot, they you can just play.

Well not saying your wrong but the Xbox 360 had backwards compatibility whereas the PS3 did not and you really didn't see a huge difference in sales of either

The original PS3 actually had backwards compatibility with the entire PS2 library. It made that particular model ridiculously sought after to the tune of people paying well above the market value for the convenience.

The bigger issue that arises is that games are still coming out for the 360/PS3 so people have less interest in upgrading as they aren't getting cut off from future purchases, once that happens you'll see sales boom (look at the PS2 because Sony still stocked the console in stores game and console sales still did incredibly well after the PS3 launched).

Their unit sales were held back primarily due to the big price difference (thanks to Kinect) and due to all the negativeity they garnered with their terrible E3 conference last year. 

If they dropped the Kinect from the base SKU and sold it for $350 it would've outsold PS4. Or if they had included the year of Live and a popular game at launch and sold it for $450 as they're doing now. 

The fact that the Microsoft Store offers $100 trade-in for used Xbox 360S and 360E systems currently would make a lot more sense if the One was already backwards compatible.

Hopefully Microsoft pulls this off and adds in what should have been a launch function.

This, and this alone, is why I haven't yet bought an XBOne. Until then, it's not an upgrade, it's a whole new platform.

Thinking about it, why didn't they just include a extra PowerPC CPU in the chipset of they Xbox one and made this a big feature of the xbox one ? If anything it could of given Devs more options for games (a extra CPU to work with on Xbox one games) and better games. If anything the costs would of been what ? Under 0.50 a console (it's a 8-10 year old chip now) ???

I would be nice if they emulate it but, if it's like when moving to the Xbox 360 from the original Xbox, no thanks.

There were many games that just didn't work right (even though Microsoft said they worked) and if you have a game that you really like but, was not very hot of a game, chances are high is that it wont work at all.. As MS would only make the HOT games work...

because they learnt from Sony when they tried stuffing a ps2 into a ps3 ended up with a $700 console. Also the systems are old the cpu / gpu might not be in production for the life of the one. look what happened with the original xbox, nvidia stopped making the gpu after the 360 was released. This is all theoretical of course.

They would probably have to add the custom ATI gpu from the 360 as well. Plus additional energy consumption and heat dissipation. All for functionality that would fade in a year or two.

Cooling that 8-10 year old PowerPC chip would have forced the Xbox one to be the size of a large PC Tower.  Otherwise, they would have had to commission a complete redesign of the chip making it far more expensive than an extra $.50/ console.

Incorrect. The 360 CPU/GPU have been through MANY die shrinks and they're now on the same chip if not the same die. Power usage has been really reduced since launch. Don't forget that the X1 CPU and GPU could go into very low power mode while the 360 CPU and GPU are running. They might have even been able to just include the CPU since the GPUs are similar. 

Putting the 360 hardware in is feasible, but they probably calculated that it's not worthwhile. It wouldn't cost them a lot for the actual chips either because Microsoft owns them, producing them only involves the actual cost of production and no licensing.

The only reason I haven't bought an XB1 yet is because I still have such a huge backlog of purchased games that I haven't had time to play through on my 360. I know if I bought an XB1 I'd never touch the 360 again.

Just add a hdmi in with no processing so people can hook up a 360 and play it through the one with no lag....or maybe they can turn off the processing using software and have that option. I wouldn't bother with emulation.

Well, this might be difficult to do, but this would be the deciding factor for me to move to XBox One. I (along with all of my friends - no one has a next gen system yet) are still on PS3 and Xbox 360 because there are so many games we have accrued and dont want to give up. And I am not going to have an Xbox One AND an Xbox 360 sitting in my TV Console. 

I bet they don't want to. Its an excuse until sales crap out on the 360. But 360 sales, as far as I know, are still strong. Generally... You'd want the customer to buy older products because no matter what they will upgrade eventually so its just an extra sale. So I don't believe half of what they say

Didn't Satya work for like cloud engineering? He has to know a way to make this happen!

Ever thought of the licenced product inside every XB1, that is not present in XB360?

The Sony BD-ROM. If m$ can get xb360 working on XB1, why couldnt Sony make XB360 work on PS4?

It would have to read SS.bin for starters, check VIDEO.iso was present, al perform all other disc checks DMI.bin, Capacity, etc...

Pirates would be all over it, and i think m$ fears it too...

It's not going to happen... people who have 360's can play those today or buy a cheap replacement if their hardware dies.

PS3 initially had limited compatibility with PS2 and that was pulled because the real market demand is not there.  People buy a console for the latest games and features, not to play old games.

Plus to emulate the 360 down to register level is hard.  To do it with the same timing of the original console so the games played identically is almost impossible.  Massive effort, almost zero return.

Buy a $50 360 from ebay if you need to play 360 games...

Alas I fear the stumbling block will be how to monetize this, not the tech issues. Xbox emulation on the 360 was largely successful (if a little buggy in places) with some games looking better (Halo 1 & 2, for instance) via emulation. If they can get X86 code from the original Xbox working on the PowerPC architecture of the 360, I can't see why it's beyond the realms of coding the other way around.

Kinect is the issue for me.

Keeping the 360 aroud in the cabinet is no big deal. But having two kinects.  I am not even sure where to put them both...


You must be joking. It's no great news at all. From what he said it looks like they are not even sure how to go about it. That emulation would not work must have been clear very long time ago. So it's / he's just lying here.

It'd be nice to be about to play the downloaded games and dlc's I payed for on the Xbox One. Support my digital downloads.

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