Before Don Mattrick left Microsoft for the apparently greener pastures offered by Zynga, he left a pithy remark about backward compatibility on the Xbox One, saying “If you're backwards compatible, you're really backwards.” And apparently, Microsoft is all nice and poised to backpedal once again, bringing a welcome treat along with it: the possibility of backward compatibility between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One.
Of course, this is still very early stage stuff, so the end result may take a while to trickle down to the everyday gamer if it even actually gets there at all. The word came from the recent Build developer conference, at which point an audience member asked the question about backward compatibility. Word from Frank Savage, partner development head for Xbox, says that there are indeed plans to do just that, but there are some major issues involved in making it happen. First and biggest on the list is the sheer amount of mechanical differences between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, whichrepresents a pretty substantial gulf indeed.
It's pretty big news, no matter how you slice it. Just the fact that Microsoft wants to get the backwards compatibility brought in is a marked departure from earlier projections, and represents what amounts to just the latest in an ever-lengthening line of retractions and reconsiderations going into the Xbox One. We've seen Microsoft backpedal on the always-on requirement, on the used games issue, on game sharing, and pretty much everything else that made the system a system. We've seen Microsoft backpedal so hard over the last year or so that it could have won the Tour de France in reverse. But this is good news, really, even if it may not seem that way immediately.
See, what all this means—the return to disk-based gaming, the always-on shutdown, the possible return of backward compatibility—is that Microsoft both knows what its current position in the field is, and what it has to do to get back to the number one position it enjoyed at the end of the last go-round of the console wars. Microsoft is starting to take the gamers seriously, as best I can tell, and bringing in all those things is proving to be a major help for those gamers. Of course, there's still a question outstanding as to whether or not this will help Microsoft propel ahead of Sony, who at last report was beating Microsoft by a pretty hefty number in terms of total units sold, but that's exactly the sort of question this may answer.
Can Microsoft get back to prominence? Can it at least narrow the gap between itself and rival Sony? What will this mean in terms of game releases—will we see fewer exclusives? Will we have a chance to get them back? Only time will provide us the answers to these questions, but it's looking pretty good indeed for the gamer in all this.