We always wonder if video game hardware developers are making the right decisions with their systems. Microsoft has made a few choices that are suspect over the years. The Xbox 360 HD DVD Player was one. (Remember HD DVDs? I don't either.) Including Kinect in every launch Xbox One was another (like Fetch, Kinect will never happen). But there’s one decision they’ve made in the last few years that’s paid off exponentially. Backwards compatibility is the Xbox One’s rock star.
Backwards compatibility first appeared on the Xbox One in June 2015. People who participated in the Xbox Preview program were able to begin sampling a handful of Xbox 360 games, like Mass Effect, BattleBlock Theater, and A Kingdom for Keflings. It quickly grew and developed until its official launch on November 12, 2015. 104 games were initially backwards compatible for the debut, which is no slouch.
But what matters even more is that Microsoft hasn’t let up. That figure has tripled in the year backwards compatibility has been available for the Xbox One. There are now over 300 Xbox 360 games that can be played on the Xbox One. Every week, it seems like one to three games is added to the list. People’s wants are considered. Even multi-disc games, like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Blue Dragon, were added to the list.
Clearly, it’s paying off. Microsoft wouldn’t be adding games in such leaps and bounds if it wasn’t. But, it’s more than just seeing enthusiasm that confirms this feature is well received. There’s official word from on high as well. Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, confirmed on Twitter that over 50% of Xbox One owners play Xbox 360 games on their system. That’s quite a large, and telling, figure.
It also means more options for enticing people to subscribe to services, pre-order games, or visit the Xbox Store. Now that there’s backwards compatibility, Xbox Live Gold is a better deal for Xbox One owners. They get four free games each month, instead of only two. Companies trying to get people to commit to a pre-order can offer a free backwards compatible game. Bethesda gave away Fallout 3 to Fallout 4 buyers, while Bandai Namco offered Dark Souls with Dark Souls III pre-orders. And, when Microsoft wants to celebrate something, say the one year anniversary of backwards compatibility, it can do something like giving away Lost Odyssey for a month.
If only Microsoft had led with backwards compatibility at the very start; just think where the system would be now! It might be tied with the PlayStation 4 for first place or even beating it, rather than a bit behind. If Kinect had totally been abandoned at the start, allowing for easy access to older games instead, it might have really helped with the adoption rate.
But let’s not worry about speculation. Instead, let’s celebrate this feature for everything wonderful it does for us. Xbox One backwards compatibility has become quite a selling point. Whether you’re moving on to the new console after owning an Xbox 360 or a newbie who still sees some older titles with merit, this feature is one of the system’s strongest points. One can only hope the list of compatible games will double by this time next year. I'm rooting for Tales of Vesperia!