Xbox One gamers don’t play backwards compatible titles? No so fast, says Microsoft

Microsoft disputes Ars Technica's Xbox One backward compatibility report

Xbox One S
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Update: We received a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson that disputes Ars Technica’s report. We’ve provided that statement in its entirety.

Many Xbox One owners were ecstatic when Microsoft announced that the system would be given backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games on a title-by-title basis — but it seems that most don’t use the functionality all that much. New research suggests that backward-compatible games only account for 1.5 percent of the total minutes users spend with their Xbox One consoles.

These figures come from a new report undertaken by Ars Technica. A third-party API was used to take a random sample of usage data from almost 1 million active Xbox One gamertags, starting last September and continuing for a period of nearly five months.

In total, 1.65 billion minutes of usage were tracked, at an average of 1,526 minutes per player — and the average time each user spent with backward-compatible software was just 23.9 minutes. Backward compatibility may be an attractive feature in theory, but it seems that gamers have a preference for newer titles.

Call of Duty: Black Ops, which was made backward compatible in May 2016, was apparently found to be the most popular Xbox 360 game among the sample. However, even Black Ops was only played by three or four players out of every 1,000.

These findings beg the question of whether or not backward compatibility is a productive use of resources for Microsoft. The list of compatible Xbox 360 titles continues to grow, but if such a small proportion of players are taking advantage of the functionality, the company may choose to move the staff working on the project elsewhere.

In February 2017, Xbox chief Phil Spencer said that bringing Xbox 360 backward compatibility to Windows 10 was unlikely, but remained a possibility. If this data is valid, then it seems very unlikely that Microsoft would invest any more time and effort into pursuing the feature elsewhere in its ecosystem. What’s more, it might reinforce Sony’s reticence to investigate similar functionality for the PlayStation 4.

However, a Microsoft spokesperson sent us a response that disputes Ars Technica’s findings:

“We’ve carefully reviewed Ars Technica’s article, and have completed our own analysis of the actual data using identical parameters. Based on our findings, Ars Technica’s analysis and conclusions are grossly inaccurate and misleading due to an incomplete set of data and drawing conclusions about actual usage from data that approximates usage. As an example, we specifically know, based on our complete view of Xbox Live usage data, players are highly engaged with backwards compatible game titles. It’s why we continue to support this well-loved feature and the games that use it. We appreciate the work and effort by Ars Technica to share more information about the Xbox community and we are continually looking for ways to do so that also protect the interests of gamers and our partners.”