With generations continuing for the console market, legacy hardware continues to rise in numbers with the next big system on the way. At Xbox, the firm happens to be the one with the most resources in preserving older games. From the original Xbox, Xbox 360, and majority of Xbox One, users can play most of the unique library for the Xbox platform. However, the Xbox 360 store is set to shutter next summer.
In the past, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer did express interest in further support of the absent games on current hardware. Previously, November 2021 met the cut off of continued backwards compatibility support. However, Spencer did tell if there is a legal approach for full-on preservation through emulating, Xbox will consider it. In total, Video Game Chronicle counts 220+ games that will be gone forever after the axe falls in 2024.
When speaking to Eurogamer, Spencer presses on the topic. He elaborates on the stance Microsoft has, how much Xbox has expanded to appease legacy players, and the lengths that backwards compatibility has offered the platform.
Game reservation is critical to us at Team Xbox. One of the things we do is ship all of our games on PC, because I actually think PC is the best ecosystem for game preservation because it’s not tied to one piece of hardware. So at the meta level, if we think about video games as pieces of software, the more that software isn’t dependent on a physical device, the more preserved it can be in the long run.
On the 360, I love our back compat and the work that we’ve done. And maybe it’s a little bit of grandiose to say, but I think it’s world class, what the team has done around back compat, even on Gen 9. Not only does it run, but the best place to go play those games is through the back compat layer on a Series S or X. I love it, I think it’s awesome.
“The work on the 360 storefront was really just about the hardware and the lifespan of the hardware. We know how many people are playing 360 games on the 360. It’s a pretty small community,” Spencer continues on the matter.
“The community of buyers is very, very small. So as the back end – which is tied to that hardware, roughly – starts to kind of bring down just from a sustainability [point], and almost all the players have moved on, we’re like, ‘okay, we can focus our effort on where the players are and where they can buy’. So you can still go buy all the back compat games, all the multiplayer stuff all works. I think that’s pretty cool.”
There’s a list of, what 220 games that are not back compat, and I have that list and I’ve got it stapled on my forehead, and like, how can we make sure [you can play them still?] How many of those are on PC?
That’s one thing, because it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be able to play it on the existing hardware that you bought 15 years ago, but preservation is front and centre when all these decisions are made. I will say for us that preservation that’s linked to only one piece of hardware is a challenge. Because there can be hardware love as well – people who love and want this device to do this forever – but mechanical things will break over time.
But that’s why we gave people with this decision a year. Let’s say ‘hey, if you want to go buy things in the 360 store, we’re going to give you a year headstart, and you can go get those things’. And just know that the list of the 220 games is something that we see, and we would love to find solutions for those games to continue to play.
As noted, emulation is the forefront for this approach with Microsoft supporting the feature to run legacy games – that including the physical disc which users can insert into their console. However, proper legal emulating these games is the hurdle. In the past, support for certain apps that stray from the legal boundaries were removed to tackle this issue.
But, Microsoft sees the importance of this tool. In fact, the platform did generate some revenue from backwards compatibility, it’s reported. During the height of legacy Call of Duty titles restoring its online lobbies, Amazon was met with a wave of Xbox Series X|S purchases in the surge to relive nostalgia. You can read the full report by heading here.
What is your hope for further legacy support on Xbox?