It was generally expected that the Xbox One would not be backwards compatible. Despite many hopes to the contrary, it won’t be possible to just toss in an Xbox 360 disc into the Xbox One’s optical drive and have it work. That’s no real surprise either, both from a technical and a business standpoint.
What is surprising, however, is that the Xbox One won’t play any Xbox 360 or original Xbox games, even if they are downloadable.
“Xbox One hardware is not compatible with Xbox 360 games,” a representative from Microsoft told us in response to a question about downloading games from Xbox One’s marketplace. “We designed Xbox One to play an entirely new generation of games—games that are architected to take full advantage of state-of-the-art processors and the infinite power of the cloud. We care very much about the investment people have made in Xbox 360 and will continue to support it with a pipeline of new games and new apps well into the future.”
This means that the nearly 1,000 games currently available for the Xbox 360 will be unavailable to Xbox One users, and it instantly puts the Xbox One’s library at a significant disadvantage compared to what the PlayStation 4 is capable of. Using streaming technology – the same sort of cloud that Microsoft uses – the PS4 could conceivably beam any game ever released on any model of PlayStation to the new console. Granted, the technology is completely different, but the hows and whys won’t matter to gamers.
The news also marks what could be a fundamental shift for Xbox Live Marketplace. Although Microsoft hasn’t gone to quite the same lengths to mine its past library as Sony and Nintendo have, there are hundreds of original Xbox titles available to download to the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Marketplace today. Microsoft’s early library is nowhere near as robust as its competitors, but the Xbox 360 library is filled with plenty of hits that will now be lost to those on the Xbox One.
Given the growing and lucrative market that springs from re-releasing classics both on disc and via digital download, it is possible that Microsoft will be motivated to find a way to eventually offer at least some of its previous hits on the new Xbox Live store. At the moment, however, that doesn’t seem to be a priority for the fledgling Xbox One.