Xbox Platform lead explains complexities of backward compatible releases

Xbox 360 games on Xbox One
Xbox 360 games on Xbox One (Image credit: Microsoft)

Ever since backward compatibility was revealed for Xbox One, and thus the steady trickle of games coming to the program started, there has been a constant call for Microsoft to expedite the addition of some of the more popular games from the Xbox 360 era (looking at you, Black Ops II). And while it may seem like Microsoft is dragging its feet at times, the truth is it's a very complicated process with lots of variables involved. In a post on Twitter, Bill Stillwell from the Xbox Platform team has given fans a somewhat detailed look into the process of ushering a game to the backward compatible program in an attempt to give some more insight and assuage fears that some games have been forgotten.

You can check out Stillwell's post on Twitter, and we've reproduced the full, lengthy text below:

Twitter is a great medium, but often hard to use to properly answer a complex topic. Lately, there has been another surge in the "We want BOII!!!" tweets. With lots of continued angst and concern over why there is no answer. Combined with the lull in releases for BC overall, I wanted to give more context directly, hence this "wordy" reply.First, it is important to remember that BC releases have always ebbed and flowed. Just like the industry, some months are loaded, and others are pretty light. We are still 100% committed to the program. I expect big releases in the near future. But unlike the holiday season, big bi-weekly releases of titles are unlikely to happen each and every month.Yes, I know the upcoming titles, what issues we have with each one (technical or not), and the runway before they launch. I'm still very confident in this year's plan, and that we'll see happy customers in the future. Beyond that, it is not my place to communicate those plans. Especially when it involves someone else's IP.Releasing a big/popular game, even as a rerelease into the BC program, is a heavily orchestrated event. Publishers often have target dates that coincide With other initiatives, such as sales, or related titles, and they want to maximize the release. We also have long term business relationships, and want them to continue to deliver great news games to the console for many years. It makes no sense to jeopardize that business relationship for a short-term boost.Additionally, I can't understate the complexity Of the non-technical part Of this. We are in some cases reviewing licensing agreements that are a decade old, evaluating the impact of new technology on those agreements, and then negotiating with a host of Other parties for terms to get renewed/changed. This is not a quick process most times.Finally, I do appreciate the well-wishers. I also have no problem with the continued asks. We've been doing this for over a year and half, and it's been a constant stream of "Where's RDR...Black Ops...Skate 3...BOII...and so on." And if and when Black Ops II ships, I'm sure there will be another title to take that crown. We even have a pool internally! This is all goodness. I have said many times that I'd much rather work on a project with passionate fans, even if it trends to the annoying at times, than work on something no one cares about. The day no one is clamoring for a game is the day this program is no longer of value!I'm not going to tell you when BOII is coming. Or Fable, or Halo, or any other game not yet released. I'm not going to tell you that a title is in or out, as those are confidential publisher decisions I am not authorized to reveal. I will just say that we in the program want these games out as much as you do, and are working hard to make them happen. I'd prefer that the entire 360 catalog was already running on the Xbox One With no exceptions. And this team Will continue to move towards making that a reality as long as we can.

And there you have it. The explanation is unlikely to satisfy anyone aching to jump back into Black Ops II right away in the short term, but it's good to have a small window into an enormously complex process. While some high profile titles have yet to hit the program, the full catalog has grown quite a bit since launch, now totaling more then 300 games. For the full rundown, check out our comprehensive list of backward compatible games.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • I think it's important to remember that BC is not some once-off miracle that the Xbox engineering team achieved one day. Yes that plays a big part, but each and every BC release is actually an amazing feat of coordination and engineering and we are lucky to have even a few games available, let alone hundreds.
  • As others have mentioned before, it's a pretty complex process both technically and non-technically (legalities, permissions etc.). I just hope the IP owners realize that they have more to gain than lose with the BC program. Many of those games will probably fade into obscurity gradually as we hit the next generation of consoles. BC practically immortalizes the games, while making them some extra cash on the side as some buyers acquire digital copies. Hopefully, some day, the entire 360 catalog will be BC
  • I wish they would consider putting new releases on sale when they hit BC. 50% off for the first week/month.
  • The licencing must be a nightmare. Not just the game itself but each game will have multiple licences for soundtrack and certain technologies use in the game, then each of those may also branch into more licences...
  • Not sure why the big problem would be. So you have a NEW system... all the game you made can no be played on the new system so no one will buy them any more. So, a company comes up and MAKES them compatable with the NEW system, people can not play the game unless they OWN the game. Only case I could see is if a company like creating a combo disc with COD 1 2 and 3 on one disc (or download) but, that would be it, otherwise it would be a WIN-WIN for the chance to for more people to by a game that that they would never have would of ordered as they cant play it on their system.
  • Every time there is a release, there is someone complaining about it not being available in their country at the same time as in the US. THe complexities of licensing, making sure everyone allows it, even making sure you are not violating local laws (many countries have laws against any violence - laws enacted since the game was originally released). But still we will have people here complaining that they are being treated unfairly, that Microsoft does not care about their country. When the truth is that licensing is hard, that licensing needs to be negotiated often on a country by country basis, and this article shows a little bit of how hard it is, even for one country.
  • Take your well reasoned argument and GTFO, man. Nobody wants to hear your ****! :D
  • Black Ops 2!
  • If any game should have been allocated the resources to ensure backward compatability it is Forza.  Turn 10 is a Microsoft development company and the Forza franchise is one of the largest on the Xbox.
  • That's what I was thinking
  • In all honesty think of how many licenses forza has. Sure car manufactures' have a license on existing Forza games. But that doesn't mean the licenses for say Forza 3 are still valid to release again. All those licenses need to be renegotiated on. And that's alot of car manufactures' to please.
  • Not even just the car manufacturer licenses, but the track licenses, and the music licenses, and the sponsor licenses... I'm impressed they even got Forza Horizon backwards compatible, although it has the smallest car roster, no licensed tracks, and was seemingly immediately removed from the Xbox Marketplace afterwards, as if to ensure they weren't selling an unlicensed product.
  • It is also stated that companies don't want to step on their own shoes by releasing a BC game and a new game of the same name/category. Probably what MS is doing with forza, and I don't blame them.
  • So after reading that, I can see APF2k8 never becoming BC due to MS ties with EA / Madden.
  • BC is an incredible feature and I'm quite happy with what I get more often than not, there is always variety and sometimes the games aren't for me so I give them a pass and wait for the next release, to build I believe a virtual xbox 360 emulator into the xb1 is a great technical feat to achieve by any measure! Kudos!
  • Give the list of problematic publishes and I will stop buying from them
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  • Anyone interested in backward compatibility needs to listen to Major Nelson Radio podcast 584. Lots of great info.
  • Re-releases of games is making it even more complicated. I just paid twice for ultimate marvel vs Capcom 3, when I could of had it backwards compatible.
  • Biggest problem which can be easily fixed is about regions i think. Xbox One has no region restrictions for games. But when you want to get a BC Xbox360 game and if you're out of US, you can't get some best games. For example I couldn't buy Mass Effect and Bioshock digitally because they didn't released in my region ever. And for ME2 and ME3 i can't buy them because MS doesn't sell them digitally. They say these games are 2DVD's, so that's why. I say these is silly. If I get EA access it gives me ME, ME2 and ME3 digitally without region and multiple dvd structure problem. How EA can do something MS can't?
  • One word: "Licensing"
  • I understand all these issues, but what about with 1st party titles? For games like Halo, Microsoft owns the licenses to everything including the soundtracks. The 1st party titles should be easy to make backwards compatible (eg The Gears Of War series)
  • Why would they release a title on BC when they have spent the money and time to remaster and release for XBox One, I.e. MCC?
  • all I need is
    forza1 2 3 4
    project gotham racing 3 4
    or at least 4 from each... and proper wheel support is a must!
    currently it works but far from good emulation
  • I wish they would add Dust and Bastion to the list, i want to finish playing them
  • I think BC is an Xbox user thing since there is a lack of exculsive titles.  I don't think PS4 users really care about playing old BC games.