Xbox Backwards Compatibility Explained

Hardware issues will prevent use of existing games.

Posted by Staff
On Tuesday we reported that Microsoft spokespeople had claimed that the Xbox 360 will be 'backwards compatible with some top-selling titles'. While at the time we speculated that this might mean that the device would use software emulation rather than embedded hardware, we've now got to the bottom of it.

Microsoft have explained that current Xbox games will simply be incompatible with the 360. The problem being, of course, that while the Xbox uses an Intel CPU and an nVidia graphics unit, the 360 comes equipped with an IBM processor and ATI GPU.

Xbox games will all theoretically be able to play on the next gen XBeast, but only if they are recompiled. Needless to say, unless you are some kind of 1337 hax0r, that's not the kind of procedure you're going to be able to carry out at home. We imagine that they are saying you'll be able to purchase the same old Xbox titles, but formatted instead to work on the 360. This explains why they said only 'top-selling' games - each title will have to be re-manufactured to run on the 360, and this will be driven by demand.

It's difficult to see what would induce people to buy games that they already own just to avoid the hassle of plugging their old 'box in again. The obvious solution to us would be some sort of exchange policy where people can trade in their old software for a 360 friendly-version.
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Comments

richardjamesparker 20 May 2005 10:10
1/15
I don't call that backwards compatible. A bit like saying the GBA is backwards compatible with the SNES (same games, but you'll have to buy them again).

An Exchange Policy would be good but I presume this would mean the game can't be played on the original Xbox.

Hmmm. I wonder if there are any more microsoft xbox 360 bendings of the truth to be uncovered....
narcogen 20 May 2005 10:14
2/15
Major Nelson, who runs XBL for Microsoft, has already busted this rumor.

You won't need to recompile anything or repurchase anything. They're aiming for all games to work at launch time, although they might not achieve 100% compatibility for all old games.

http://www.majornelson.com/2005/05/19/no-you-do-not-need-to-recompile-your-xbox-games/
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Master Chef 20 May 2005 10:38
3/15
I guess this is what happened when you believe what you read on GamesIndustry. Spong - stop perpetuating their made up garbage!!!!
Ditto 20 May 2005 10:44
4/15
Master Chef wrote:
I guess this is what happened when you believe what you read on GamesIndustry. Spong - stop perpetuating their made up garbage!!!!


Oh dear. Wait until Dr Dee sees this.

By the sounds of it, SPoNG are reporting the truth. Most game sites are saying the same thing, independant of GI.

Prehaps that dodgy-looking blog site is wrong?
Paul Hill 20 May 2005 11:05
5/15
Adam M wrote:
Master Chef wrote:
I guess this is what happened when you believe what you read on GamesIndustry. Spong - stop perpetuating their made up garbage!!!!


Oh dear. Wait until Dr Dee sees this.

By the sounds of it, SPoNG are reporting the truth. Most game sites are saying the same thing, independant of GI.

Prehaps that dodgy-looking blog site is wrong?


"Most game sites" are just linking back to the original, wrong, GI.biz story. And the blog site is Larry Hryb, who "does" XBox Live. The story is junk, and clearly stupid, and anyone who thinks that Microsoft would make people buy Halo again and call it backwards compatibility is an idiot. The damn story even on GI.biz is updated. Go look!
Master Chef 20 May 2005 12:40
6/15
Paul Hill wrote:
Adam M wrote:
Master Chef wrote:
I guess this is what happened when you believe what you read on GamesIndustry. Spong - stop perpetuating their made up garbage!!!!


Oh dear. Wait until Dr Dee sees this.

By the sounds of it, SPoNG are reporting the truth. Most game sites are saying the same thing, independant of GI.

Prehaps that dodgy-looking blog site is wrong?


"Most game sites" are just linking back to the original, wrong, GI.biz story. And the blog site is Larry Hryb, who "does" XBox Live. The story is junk, and clearly stupid, and anyone who thinks that Microsoft would make people buy Halo again and call it backwards compatibility is an idiot. The damn story even on GI.biz is updated. Go look!


The classic "report it before verifying it" approach wins again.

fluffstardx 20 May 2005 12:52
7/15
There's this thing, called Live? And it, like, lets you download this stuff called "code"?

Seems the easiest way to me. You want to play the game, you download the "patch". Easy.
The_Moss 20 May 2005 13:04
8/15
Regardless of the solution, in which i'm sure MS will do their best to make as hassle free as possible, the fact is that they haven't explained what that solution will be.

If you've got and Xbox and you plan to get a 360 you still don't know if your current games will work. And the 360 will be the first of the current next gen crop to be released. The PS3 has confirmed full retro compatibiliy, no questions asked. Even the Revolution, which no one knows anything about, will definitely play 'cube games.

The reason there's been so much speculation is because MS didn't just say 'We don't know to what extent we'll be able to do it but we're going to do our best'. While nice, backwards compatibilty isn't a deal-breaker and i think people would have been satisfied with that. Instead they've made a few vague comments hooping that the problem will go away. It's no wonder that people are curious.
Bluelinebruiser 20 May 2005 13:20
9/15
To me, backward compatibilty isnt that big of a issue. I already have 2 Boxes, one set up for system link lan parties and the other is set up for Live. Its not going to be hard for me to turn around a year from now and push the power button on the old box to play some old games. The other thing is this.. its a new machine and a new platform I want to see new games with a higher level of gameplay/features/graphics. I dont want to see a company whoever it is sacrifice new features to make room for backward compatibility. If MS does paint themselves into a corner and has to re issue games in a 360 format thats fine by me. I most likely wont buy them anyhow. I'll still have the old games and hardware to play the original.
Corosanite 20 May 2005 13:42
10/15
Here's the official message straight from Microsoft:

"We're not sure where this came from, and is incorrect. At launch, Xbox 360 will be backward compatible with the top Xbox games. Our goal is to have every Xbox game work on Xbox 360. You will NOT need to purchase a new 'version' -- your original games will work on Xbox 360."

ozfunghi 20 May 2005 14:17
11/15
Pfff,
too bad, i was gonna call the xbox backwards compatible with the N64...

bummer
Xbox360Backwards 23 May 2005 06:46
12/15
This is wrong! Xbox IS backwards compatable with current games, you will not have to buy new ones

http://www.majornelson.com/

the facts are there. this article is bogus

Xbox360Backwards 23 May 2005 06:47
13/15
This is wrong! Xbox IS backwards compatable with current games, you will not have to buy new ones

http://www.majornelson.com/

the facts are there. this article is bogus
config 23 May 2005 14:18
14/15
Xbox360Backwards wrote:
This is wrong! Xbox IS backwards compatable with current games, you will not have to buy new ones

http://www.majornelson.com/

the facts are there. this article is bogus



Of course Major Nelson is going to say that - he'd be fired for saying anything else. I'm pretty certain he's jumped to the "NO! NO! It's just not true" defence for a previous Xbox360 outing, and it turned out to be true. Can't recall which though, so you'll just have to trust me on this (unless someone can recall what it was)

Also note that the Major didn't mention just how this magic backward compatibility was to be achieved? It's not hardware or any form of decent software emulation, otherwise it'd be more than just the top games. It's prolly a Live download of the executable code, or some form of derecompilation. Real, proper backward compatibility that would be; "please wait while the box decompiles your old game and recompiles it", with a little waving Windows flag or something. Rock on.

DoctorDee 24 May 2005 11:45
15/15
Adam M wrote:
Oh dear. Wait until Dr Dee sees this.


I saw it. But I'm still not clear on what happened here.

But we clearly ran a story that Microsoft didn't like. And which they've subsequently denied. Other sites have accepted the denial on face value, much like they accept everything the publishers tell them on face value.

We however, are more sceptical. We do not believe that backwards compatibility to a machine with a different CPU and different GPU architecture will be easily achieved. Microsoft's ambiguity does little to disavow us of this belief. Their claims that "best selling titles" will be compatible makes no logical sense. Why would less well selling titles NOT be comptible unless some form of re-compilation/re-distribution is not required?

Many people have stated that backwards compatibility is not a big issue for them. However, Nintendo and Sony are making a big thing of it. I suspect that Microsoft's claim of backwards compatibility is a fire-fighting move, simply to remove the heat until the console is on sale, and can win users through its design, power, Live features and games.
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