Backward compatibility has been a constant desire of console owners since the dawn of time?or at least since we realized we could upgrade systems without losing all the precious titles into which we’d already put so much time. The Xbox 360 allowed for backward compatibility of certain games, but tensions surrounding the subject grew following Sony?s decision to remove the feature in newer versions of the PlayStation 3. This subject was fresh on everybody?s mind when the announcement of the newest console generation rolled around. Microsoft attempted to satisfy fan desire for backward compatibility with a new program that allows support for Xbox 360 games on a case by case basis, usually released in waves. While this seemed like a reasonable solution at the time?and one we never expected to happen?there are still plenty of reasons to be dissatisfied with the service’s limitations.
The leading cause for disdain of the program is precisely what one would expect: a lack of some of the most highly requested games. One would imagine that the incorporation of this system would be to bring the most popular games from previous generations to the new consoles. While there have certainly been some big titles to make the jump, obvious and highly requested titles like Skate 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II have so far been omitted to seemingly make way for shovelware games no one asked for. Admittedly, this issue is easy to fix if Microsoft simply puts in more of an effort to turn out the games players want most, but the simple fact it has taken this long has given many a bad taste in their mouths.
Those highly-sought after titles that do make a return don’t always do so fully intact. Games added to backward compatibility sometimes make the jump without some of their features, and these features can be what players primarily enjoyed about the games. Most often the missing piece is the game’s multiplayer which?whether due to publishing or networking complications?could not be brought to the new consoles. While there are those who would say some is better than none, one must ask how much will consumers tolerate being stripped from these older titles before it doesn’t become worth it.
Even when popular games are brought to the program in all their glory, it could pose other problems. Games that are brought to the Xbox One through the backward compatibility program normally do so with the same design, functionally and visibly similar to how they were originally released. While this may sound like a welcome proposition to a nostalgia-driven audience, there is an alternative to revitalizing older titles in the form of remasters. Remastering is a method to bring old games to the current market with a full upgrade to their aesthetics, and often with extra content bundled in. Games that resurface through backward compatibility presumably have a much less likely chance of seeing a remastered edition, since developers have a smaller market of players who can’t access the game and therefore have any reason to buy it.
In the wake of the recent Xbox One backward compatibility update, it pays to be aware of these concerns. A backward compatibility program was a welcomed feature when the console launched?and ultimately it still is?but there are notable ways in which the service could improve.