Why the Xbox Series S will run games designed for Xbox One in their 'Xbox One S mode,' rather than 'One X mode'

Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series S is the affordable alternative to the next-gen Xbox Series X, designed to replace the current Xbox One consoles. The Xbox Series S is, over all, a superior system to that of the Xbox One X, but with some drawbacks in terms of RAM and raw GPU power. While games running on the next-gen GameCore OS environment should perform better than they would've done on the Xbox One X, games being built first for Xbox One will remain in their "Xbox One S" version on the Xbox Series S, and not take advantage of the 4K resolutions offered by Xbox One X titles. However, games that are upgraded and optimized for the Xbox Series S could end up performing better, due to the more powerful CPU inside the Xbox Series S.

Gamespew obtained the following statement from Microsoft, clarifying the matter.

"Xbox Series S was designed to be the most affordable next generation console and play next generation games at 1440P at 60fps. To deliver the highest quality backwards compatible experience consistent with the developer's original intent, the Xbox Series S runs the Xbox One S version of backward compatible games while applying improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times and Auto HDR."

Despite the fact the Xbox Series S is capable of 1440p resolutions and 120 frames per second, the games need to be built and targeted specifically towards the Xbox Series S architecture. Older Xbox One games built on the "ERA" developmental platform will still get natural benefits from running on an Xbox Series S, including more stable frame rates, faster texture loading, and more consistent resolutions from games that use dynamic scaling. And of course, the Xbox Series S will have the NVME drive, providing much, much faster loading speeds.

For a true 4K next-gen experience, the best option was always going to be the Xbox Series X, which is priced in equivalency with the Xbox One X, complete with a per-month contract option called Xbox All Access. Still, for those who were hoping the cheaper Xbox Series S would be a definitive upgrade from the Xbox One X may be disappointed.

Which Xbox Series console are you planning to buy? Let us know in the comments.

Xbox Series X/S


Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • I don't think that will be a huge problem. The people buying the One S are not buying a 4K gaming rig. If they want that, they will buy the Series X. So the fact prior generation games will be limited to "One S" or 1080p should not be that big of a deal given that the people buying the Series S are doing so likely because they only have a 1080p display anyway. Using the One X on a 1080p display with games set to "Performance Mode" is still an upgrade even if you aren't using the increased resolution. The same should be true here.
  • As most of the latest games do not even run at 1080p on the One S, people going from it to the Series S will definitely see a huge difference between current and next-gen games.
    Even more so than going from One X to Series X, as the resolution won't improve much.
  • My question would be, since the cheapest option for next gen is the Series S, which has no disc drive, what do upgraders do with their physical games? Re-buy everything? Run 2 consoles?
  • Indeed, what ever happened to the 'Trade-in partners' MS talked about before Jez?
  • Did they talk about that? or was it just a rumor?
  • I don't remember now, I thought it was 'plans' by MS. I can't find the WC article remember seeing it in, but it does look like it was a rumor: https://www.gamesradar.com/xbox-one-digital-trade-in-used-games/
  • I haven't bought a physical game since early Xbox 360 S days. Once they allowed more than a 16GB flash drive to be used as ext storage, that was game over for physical media. I like to replay old games, but I also never buy brand new for $60 either. It's nice to have the options of several games to play with the family, or friends, etc. One MAJOR advantage is buying a game once and playing anywhere at the same time! Bought Halo 5 and my son and I play online co-op, him on the One, me on One X. Then hosted a game night and played 4 copies of Halo 4MP across our 2 360s and 2 Ones for 16 player LAN!
  • It makes sense, the Series S doesn't have as much Ram as the One X and the One X has a stronger GPU if the new features of RDNA2 like Mesh shaders, VRS and RT aren't being used.
  • No issue with this.
  • '...games being built first for Xbox One will remain in their "Xbox One S" version on the Xbox Series X, and not take advantage of the 4K resolutions offered by Xbox One X titles' Shouldn't that be Xbox Series S, in the third line? Surely the Series X WILL play the games in 4K?
  • Yeah sorry, typo there.
  • Lots X's and S's there; tricky reading! 😄
  • Not that big of a deal. It will do all the behind the scenes BC updates just not X1X enhancements. And after seeing actual Series S gameplay (link below) I am pretty impressed what this machine will provide going forward with next-gen games. https://youtu.be/fYtJWIxt3-M?t=434
  • It's very easy to explain why. The One X has 9gb available for One X enhanced Xbox One games. The Series S has 8Gb available for gaming. So even though the Series S ram usage and solution is far superior to One X, games designed to use One X ram won't work on Series S without the gane being redesigned for the Series Ram usage and SSD Asset streaming. It's literally as simple as that. So we will get One S enhanced ganes on Series S due to 1gb less ram available than One X. If you can afford a Series X awesome. If you can't afford a Series X but can afford an S you will still have a much better machine for next Gen ganes over your X. And still be able to play One S games enhanced with better resolution, framerates and loading speeds. There is just no point in developers reworking a One X game to advantage of the better ram set up of the Series S. Series X however has 14gb available for game usage. So there is no reworking needed of ram usage to older games from One X. The GPU power in Series S is absolutely more powerful than Tahiti/Polaris 6tf. Digital Foundry did real world tests for RDNA 1 vs GCN. So the gains for RDNA 2 will be even greater for Series S. https://youtu.be/fzPo7gu-fTw
  • The GPU has better functionality and features, but in terms of raw resolution, it isn't quite up to snuff. So basically for games actually designed for the One X and the Series S then the Series S will look significantly better, but at a lower resolution.