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5 ways Xbox One backward compatibility should be improved

Xbox disc
Xbox disc (Image credit: Windows Central)

Xbox One backward compatibility has become one of the greatest successes this generation. Following a surprise announcement three years ago, the program's library continues to expand, now spanning three generations of hardware. And with the Xbox One X, many of these games are being upgraded for the future in full 4K glory.

A "big update" lies ahead for the program, with news on original Xbox backward compatibility on track for this month's Inside Xbox showcase. Reflecting Xbox's past, here's what we hope for from backward compatibility's future.

List of backward compatible Xbox One Games

Achievements for Xbox Originals

While Microsoft has made strides in helping backward compatibility feel native to Xbox One, many of the platform's flagship features are still separated. As a natural progression of the program, tying titles even tighter into the current Xbox ecosystem would be a welcome evolution.

While Xbox Achievements made their debut with the Xbox 360, bringing support for original Xbox era titles would provide strong incentives for players to return. And with Achievements set to play an even larger role in the rumored "Career" system, this would even further bind these titles into Xbox One.

Understandably, the logistics of implementing achievements into original Xbox games aren't simple. Backward compatibility doesn't touch code, so Microsoft would need to find a way of reliably implementing this into existing games. That's not accounting for the creation of Achievement prerequisites either, resulting in a considerable volume of work for goodwill. Regardless, such an effort would go a long way in the hearts of nostalgic Achievement hunters.

Reviving the old Xbox Live

Halo 2

Halo 2 (Image credit: Microsoft)

Although online integration has become the norm for new titles, last game's gaming landscape was a little different. Xbox Live launched as one of the first console gaming networks, delivering a revolutionary new way to play with others. Original Xbox games were eventually cut off from Xbox Live in 2010, yet reviving their services would be a major step for complete backward compatibility.

Giving a second life to Xbox Live is a frequent fan request, though rebooting it isn't just flicking a switch. As previously discussed by former Operations Manager for Xbox Live, Eric Neustadter, significant resources would be required to put it back online.

Ultimately, the original Xbox Live doesn't hold up by today's standards. Software and services from the era are neither scalable or secure for the current gaming landscape, with stability also lacking in comparison to modern networks. It's not impossible, but a heavy rework of the network's backbone would be required.

Official 'throwback' Xbox One accessories

Xbox 360 Controller

Xbox 360 Controller (Image credit: Windows Central)

Late last year, Hyperkin announced its plans to produce a replica of the original Xbox "Duke" controller (opens in new tab) designed for Xbox One and Windows 10. Backed by the controller's original creator, Seamus Blackley, the project aims to deliver a faithful and functional recreation of the icon. Despite being handled by a third-party accessories manufacturer, Microsoft has been keen to support the Duke's return.

Microsoft has established Xbox accessories as a major pillar of its gaming hardware, with official controller variants, headsets, and more designed in-house. And as proven by Sony's 20th Anniversary PlayStation 4 range (opens in new tab) and Nintendo's NES Classic Mini consoles (opens in new tab), nostalgia sells – really well. With clear interest, an official line of "throwback accessories" would be a promising extension of this line.

Looking back, previous consoles both had their own beloved (or infamous) accessories. The Xbox 360 controller (opens in new tab), Xbox 360 wireless headset (opens in new tab), and other peripherals sit among iconic pieces of Xbox history. Even the original Xbox's removable memory units (opens in new tab) would make cool flash drives. If an old form factor can be revived with the technology of the new, Microsoft could have some coveted accessories on shelves.

Reducing digital pricing

Accessibility of previous generation Xbox software has improved on Xbox One, with a majority of backward compatible games listed on the Microsoft Store. In an age where availability of older games is scarce, the backward compatibility program has highlighted the convenience of digital distribution.

While routes for obtaining classics have been streamlined, digital gamers now have to overcome pricing. With some decade-old titles priced above triple-A Xbox One releases, inflated pricing hugely diminishes the value that backward compatibility offers.

Growth has also been seen in Xbox One's services with Xbox Live Gold (opens in new tab) and Xbox Game Pass both offering regular titles under their respective subscriptions. Adding more original Xbox and high-tier Xbox 360 licenses would continually build these services while providing a cheaper point of entry for backward compatibility.

Where to buy original Xbox games for Xbox One backward compatibility

Games, games, games

Continuing its work with third-party studios, Microsoft still has a vast library of potential games untouched by the program. As of publication, only 16 original Xbox titles are backward compatible on Xbox One, with many of the platform's most iconic releases still absent. While a healthy collection has built for Xbox 360, some of its biggest blockbusters are also yet to surface.

Backward compatibility has found its place on Xbox One X too, with this latest flagship delivering enhancements to select titles. Without needing to alter game code, these upgrades a great way to revitalize sales without committing resources to a full remaster.

With the success of the backward compatibility dependent on its library, securing a steady expansion will help long-term relevance.

Over to you

What are your thoughts on the current state of Xbox One backward compatibility? Drop into the comments section below with what you want to see.

Matt Brown
Matt Brown

Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Games Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

27 Comments
  • I know it's licensed stuff that they've had to work hard on bringing some games with multiple IP to backwards compatibility on the xbox one, but I really do think Microsoft missed the boat not allowing for backwards compatibility as a play anywhere feature for Windows 10. It would have instantly created a huge library of AAA tiltes as a from reconised brand within Windows 10's Store.
  • 100% agree on the Play Anywhere. It's all emulation from PowerPC to x86 so it should be relatively easy to get the emulator running in Windows 10. Especially if you used the Surface line's as a hardware baseline for optimization purposes.
  • May not be the easiest for 360 games, but OG Xbox games shouldn't be too had, considering the hardware was x86 based. A lot of custom Nvidia hardware and an Intel CPU. (a celeron if I remember correctly) The issue is that humans suck and would go well out of their way to "hack" that emulator to run all OG games that can be downloaded from the web.
  • True, hacking is one of the problem we'll have to face.
  • Don't think it's viable to bring OG and 360 games to PC. Compare to consoles, PC is a mess for gaming with those minor issues happening day to day (the more freedom for user, the more trouble for developers and HW makers). bringing OG&360 games to PC will attract a lotta ★☆☆☆☆. If MS's going to do it, they should let it run only on 1st party HW. * Don't tell me you've never seen fans of different graphic card maker fighting each other over which $500 card crashes more. I'm sure all cards must be cleared from all QA test before release (in a controlled environment). The forcefully Win10 update was a chore to many old / cheaper NB and custom build PCs (esp when HW makers don't updating their drivers fast enough or your HW is just too old, not worth patching). Why isn't my 4yo $2.5k Alienware NB's not affected?
  • How about allowing you to use Microsoft gift cards / Ms credit to buy BC titles?
  • can't you already do this from the Microsoft Store (website)? I am pretty certain I purchased Red Dead Redemption (digital from MS store) with credit in my MS account.
  • I believe it only lets you use credit if you are purchasing from an Xbox 360 console. If purchasing from the One or the website, it doesn't let you for some reason.
  • I would love to see the same Xbox One screens and my library of games when I open up the Xbox app on my Windows 10 PC. It would also be nice if Xbox 360 games were updated with better graphics and framerate on Xbox One S and X. For example, I own the 360 version of Forza Horizon 2, why would I have to buy the Xbox one version? Maybe pay a smaller fee to upgrade titles.
  • this may not be possible with 360 games with licenses, but i do hope MS is smart enough to implement your recommendation for the next Xbox (Xbox Two?) For example, let's say Gears of War 5 comes out the same year as the next generation Xbox. If i buiy gears 5 on Xbox One, and eventually upgrade to the next Xbox (say Xbox Two), then I get the free Xbox Two version of the Gears game.
  • Destiny did this IIRC, and some other big game, maybe Black Flag, offered a discounted upgrade from 360 to One.
  • ms may do one better than that xbox one looks to be the platform now so instead of a xbox 2 its more of a one x 2 you buy gears 5 and it works with the one x and the next xbox, library always with you
  • I do agree that they are doing a great job of getting all the backwards compatible video games available but I would like to see them make it more accessible like for instance once its downloaded we shouldn't have to be online to play the game or once it's installed onto a hard drive. I've had WiFi issues in the past, as we all do eventually, and if I'm offline and put a backwards compatible disc in it tells me that this game is not backwards compatible and for a list of compatible games go to blah blah blah. In all actuality I played the same game the day prior.
  • https://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/networking/using-xbox-one-offline Maybe because you are using a disc?
    I don't use disc anymore so I've no idea.
  • I really want to see Spider-Man web of shadows and more spiderman games make its way to backwards compatibility
  • I don't see much things to improve. More titles would be great, but considering that the main competitor Sony shows zero efforts in that regard, Xbox is already light years ahead. I only have one slot available in my TV rack, so glad I can revisit RDR 1 on Xbox One before the second one comes out this year, and without having to hook up the last gen console. I'm really pumped about those One X enhancements for 360 titles. The Witcher 2 for example, which is a great game, but it looked awful on 360. The One X update is basically a free remaster, and it looks incredible in native 4k.
  • I can't say I know how simple this would be, but perhaps since the games have to be downloaded anyway they could patch them to use the Xbox Live One system? Perhaps they could even make v1 XBLA work again by doing this!
  • This seems like the best way to me too... basically a Live v 1 emulator that translates it to the modern Xbox Live service. No idea how incompatible they are though of course.
  • Bayonetta/Doom on Switch proved that it's possible to play AAA titles on mobile, and third-parties manufacturer try to bring Steam enabled Windows 10 handheld PC for gaming like GPD Win 2. I'll like to see MS provide us an Play Anywhere portable hardware like Nintendo Switch or PSV, so we can play those games on the go.
  • Without downgrade patch... can you expect a handheld (ARM?) to run XB1 games smoothly? And if you are talking about Play Anywhere... WoA is there for you.
    1. (rumor) MS's doing a small dual screen device.
    2. Small screen device is what ARM does best and I'll not surprise if some OEM...
    3. all devs have to do is to re-compile their games to ARM64 and upload to MsStore.
    Then you can dock an ARM on your gamepad. IF MS's doing a dedicate xbox handheld, an OG&360 portable is prob more ideal.
    1. good performance with current-gen tech/HW.
    2. nostalgia (not that I've beaten or played every single OG&360 games. I didn't even owned a OG. There are still new contents for me.)
    3. 1st party OS, SW and HW, quality is relatively easier to maintain.
    4. log in and you can access to all your OG&360 library and saves.
    5. You can continue your progress on your xb1 @ home through BC. Serve OG&360 first and leave xb1 handheld for later.
  • Except that Sony plans on discontinuing the Vita soon.
  • I still find it silly that you can't buy any of the DLC for Forza Horizon even though they put all they effort making an enhanced version of it.
  • Due to licensing I think. You cannot sell it anymore but you cannot block people from accessing the contents they've bought. And you certainly cannot remove user's purchase from their DL list without telling. btw... Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (beat'em up) is a rare one, a worth preserving one (in the gaming history). The art style and gag will never go old. You cannot sell'em anymore, but I hope it gets BCed one day...
  • I believe the cars and music are only licensed for four years. Every forza game gets delisted after that period of time. It kills me because somehow I missed that the 1000 Club was a free addon at the time and I desperately want it!
  • It was basically a gift when they got it BC very shortly before delisting it. I couldn't believe when they made it X enhanced... looks unbelievable!
  • Am not kidding: I am eager to get 360 kinect support... either with original or v2 kinect. I have a PS4 and Xbox 1 but my kids play 360 kinect games daily (the library is huge) so the 360 is hooked to the tv. The ps4 for me is more than enough yet I would connect the xbox1 for sure if it supported 360 kinect games.
  • Having the original physical disc plus, say, an XBox Live Gold subscription, should give you a license for the store version, so that you don't need to keep inserting the disc to play the game. (Alternately, sell the store license for a token amount, $5 or less, if you have the original disc in the drive and an XBox Live Gold subscription.)