I don’t know of many times in my lifetime that I had the experience of seeing something that I was told time and time again was impossible, only to have it become possible and take place right before my eyes. Sitting 5 feet away from Phil Spencer hearing him talk to the crowd of Xbox diehards, I had my eyes on the teleprompter. I’m always insatiable about news so I needed to see it first, and instead of watching one of the best speakers in the Industry, I was consumed with getting as fast as I could and at that point I see the impossible become possible. As the lines scrolled I see the announcement of Backward Compatibility for 360 to work on Xbox One and myself with a few others reading have a smattering and a few wows, and a couple of holy shits. Phil can actually hear all of this as he later described on his Giant Bomb interview and it was somewhat distracting. Phil the professional that he is continued with his lines and backward compatibility is announced. He is met with one of the loudest ovations ever heard at an Xbox E3 conference to date. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear the announcement, instead I just heard a stacked full house at the Galen Center going crazy about what they just heard.
Up to this point backward compatibility was something that was laughed at if you brought up as a possibility. Even being the most voted feature on xbox feedback site, the idea that this would come to Xbox One was a pipedream at best. We all knew that the Xbox software team was amazing delivering 100+ features to the Xbox in the previous year, but even this feat was a little much to expect from them. The architecture for Xbox One is x86, Xbox 360 uses a completely different architecture, prompting people to throw around that word ” impossible”. Sure enough the team at Microsoft wasn’t phased by any of that talk, they set to take on the task, and at times came to points where they didn’t know if they could get it to work. They endured and kept at it and delivered it. How do I know this? read on….
The next day I walked to the west hall. I walked a straight line and had no idea where I was going other than I wanted to see what xbox had on its floor at e3. As I approached the west Hall I ran into Ray, the #1 gamer for Xbox with the highest gamerscore at a heavy 1.2 million give or take a few achievements. He directed me to the broadcast booth and said something was wrong with the air conditioning. It was hot but I didn’t care, I headed into that direction and I saw Aaron Greenberg perched above the floor in the broadcasting area doing an interview. I head in that direction I see probably the realest guy at Microsoft I have met during the whole E3 trip, Albert Penello. I see him look at up me but I don’t press him or bother him. At that time I tell Jeremy Conrad where I am in a DM and where to meet up. At that point Albert comes up to me and shakes my hand. We talk a little bit about Sony’s conference and little bit of NeoGAF. We have a few laughs and then Jeremy comes down and I introduce him to Albert.
We start talking about the impossible, backward compatibility and how it works. Jeremy is asking Albert how the process is being done. He talks about how the 360 is emulated as opposed to how they did backward compatibility with the 360 in regards to the original Xbox. As we go back and forth on all of this a gentleman comes by and Albert quickly says this is the “guy”. The guy who made Backward compatibility a reality. He introduces me to him and his other friend who is apart of the dev team and I quickly thank him and shake his hand and his coworkers hand. We start talking about backward compatibility and he starts to tell Albert how the amount of preview requests grew 24% since the E3 announcement. He then talked about other stats that show a huge boost in numbers internally. I then ask him, “How does it feel to make something possible that people said was impossible”? He responds it responds “feels good” and laughs. As with all the my interactions with Microsoft/Xbox employees at E3, a sense of feeling that fans mattered was central to all the conversations I had, so I kept on with the conversation seeing how much info I could get. The convo goes on and they mention that they have been doing this for 2 years, and they were at a point where they were about to scrap it, but as the gentleman engineer said, ” I wanted it for the fans, but, I also wanted it for myself ” He then explains to me Albert and techy Jeremy Conrad the ins and outs and at that time I took the the chance to thank him and his team from all the fans on this great achievement. I wanted him to know that he truly did something great and the fans genuinely are grateful. I think I left an impression, but that was my intention…
So we are two weeks past and looks like backward compatibility is still a hot topic. 1 million plus votes on the xbox feedback site for games, countless questions by fans on twitter to Xbox executives, and per Aaron Greenberg on Major Nelson Radio, sales significantly up since E3. For Xbox, it sure did have its missteps along the way, but it finally seems to find its footing with Xbox one. Xbox finally has a bullet point for its console and Xbox One is poised to sell millions of consoles this holiday, and backward compatibility is a big reason for such a statement. Xbox did it the on the software side. Microsoft utilized its engineers and through ingenuity it truly did something that no one, not myself, not Sony, could accomplish. It is a testament of the brilliance of what goes on at Redmond on a daily basis. A willingness to take chances, a desire to push innovation and to never give into the Impossible. As Mike Ybarra once said to me on a tweet, anything is possible with software.