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Xbox One Backwards Compatibility – Can you play Xbox 360 games on Xbox One?

Sam Loveridge by

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Xbox One backwards compatibility - Can I play Xbox 360 games on my Xbox One?

Xbox One backwards compatibility has been a feature thats been oft requested by gamers, especially those looking to upgrade from an Xbox 360. It’s not exactly a question that’s come out of the blue either, as plenty of original Xbox games were compatible with the Xbox 360, as long as you had equipped yourself with an official Xbox 360 Hard Drive.

It’s not an unjustified question either. Like thousands of gamers, we’ve got a healthy back-catalogue of Xbox 360 games that we’ve loved and are rather unwilling to part with just yet — or possibly ever for that matter.

The Xbox One initially launched with completely no support for playing Xbox 360 titles, but thankfully Microsoft announced at E3 2015 that backwards compatibility is on its way for all Xbox One owners later this year.

That means you can dust off your Xbox 360 games library right now, and check out what you’ve already got downloaded from the Xbox Live Store for your old console because soon both will work with your Xbox One.

This is a great boon for the Xbox One, as it suddenly unlocks a huge incentive for those toying with the idea of upgrade, to finally make that investment.

Maybe it’s time to pack up the Xbox 360 and put him in the loft at last.

It’s interesting to note that the PS4 is still not backwards compatible, with Sony instead throwing its eggs into the Playstation Now service basket. This lets you rent PS3 titles and stream them to your PS4 along with select Sony Bravia Smart TVs and Sony Blu-ray players. But, this comes at a cost. Two-day rentals on PlayStation Now start at £2.99, with the majority of high-profile titles actually costing a steep £4.99 to rent for two-days going up to £7.99 for a 30-day rental period.

See also: PS4 backwards compatibility - Can I play PS3 games on my PS4?

Xbox One Backwards Compatibility

Xbox One backwards compatibility - How does it work?

“One of the features that we’ve had a lot of requests for — and very vocals requests for — is the ability to run Xbox 360 apps on Xbox One, which is quite difficult to do,” explained Microsoft’s Product Evangelist for Windows 10, Ian Moulster. “It is easy to conceptualise, but actually quite difficult to achieve.”

To turn the Xbox One into a backwards compatible machine, Microsoft has built an Xbox 360 emulator that will run on the new console. This basically means that Microsoft has essentially built an Xbox 360 in software, which then runs within the Xbox One. This emulator does all the same things as the Xbox 360, but it just sits inside the newer console.

The emulator springs into life when you insert a compatible Xbox 360 disc and lets you download and install the title right to your HDD. You’ll notice that any Xbox 360 game you have installed on your Xbox One will be shown with an Xbox 360 logo strip down the left hand side, so you can quickly distinguish between your old and new games at a glance.

As you had to with the Xbox 360, you’ll need to keep the game disc in the tray while you play, but you won’t need to be connected to the internet unless you want to access any of the game’s online components.

We’ve tried it with Mass Effect and all you need to do is insert the disc and wait for it to boot up. Then you’re ready to play.

See also: What is PlayStation Now? A guide to Sony's streaming service

Xbox One

If you’ve previously purchased any compatible Xbox 360 titles from the Store, these will automatically show up in the right-hand panel of your “My Games” section of your Xbox One, where it lists games that are “Ready to Install”.

You can then pick and choose which games out of your Xbox 360 collection you wish to install on your Xbox One — after all you might not have space for all of them.

We tried out Super Meat Boy in this way, and again, all you need to do is download it and you’re off.

What’s great about the Xbox One backwards compatibility service is that even though it’s running your Xbox 360 games within an emulator, you can still take advantage of the Xbox One features while you play. That includes Game DVR, the ability to snap an application to your game and broadcast your gameplay.

Xbox One backwards compatibility - How much does it cost?

Unlike Playstation’s Now streaming service, which charges for all games even if you previously owned them, this Xbox 360 emulation on Xbox One will be completely free for all supported games. That’s definitely a nice touch.

“It is free. You don’t have to pay for the emulator. You don’t have to pay again for the games or anything. They’re your games. It just works,” added Moulster.

See also: Best Xbox One Games 2015

Xbox One solo bundle

Xbox One backwards compatibility - When’s it coming?

As we just mentioned, Xbox Preview members can get a taster of the service right now. For everyone else it looks like it’s going to be sometime around Christmas. A bit of a wait then before we can dust off those old titles and get all nostalgic.

Xbox One backwards compatibility - What games are supported?

For those of you lucky enough to be an Xbox One Preview member, you can start testing out backwards compatibility right now, with the service currently compatible with 21 games.

Here’s the current list at the time of writing, but these are subject to change:

  • A Kingdom for Keflings
  • A World of Keflings
  • Alien Hominid HD
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Banjo-Tooie
  • BattleBlock Theater
  • Defense Grid
  • Geometry Wars Evolved
  • Hexic HD
  • Jetpac Refuelled
  • Kameo
  • Mass Effect
  • N+
  • Perfect Dark
  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Toy Soldiers
  • Toy Soldiers: Cold War
  • Viva Piñata
  • Viva Piñata: TIP
  • Zuma

When the next major Xbox One update comes out “later this year”, Xbox One backwards compatibility will be made available to everyone who owns the console.

Microsoft’s aim is to have 100 titles supported by the Xbox One backwards compatibility feature by Christmas, with hundreds more in the months to follow after that.

That means a large amount of Xbox 360 games will be playable on the Xbox One in a relatively short amount of time.

No doubt those numbers will continue to grow as developers and Microsoft work together to get the entire Xbox 360 catalogue supported.

Xbox 360 games

All the developers need to do is to approve Microsoft's access and then Microsoft itself does a bit of work to make it compatible. And, so far, developers have been keen to get on board.

“Certainly no-one has said no, and you can understand why. I mean why wouldn’t you. The choice of which games we pick are based on how popular the game is, what ratings it’s got and what the fans vote for,” explained Moulster.

The only restrictions to the full Xbox 360 games catalogue being ported over is peripherals. Sadly, you won’t ever be able to play Xbox 360 Kinect games on the Xbox One, because you can’t connect your old Kinect to the new machine. And the new Kinect isn’t compatible with the older titles due to its advanced technology.

Also, the same can be said for games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band due to the same hardware issues.

See also: Xbox One vs Xbox 360

Xbox One Kinect

Why wasn’t the Xbox One initially backwards compatible?

The Xbox One is fundamentally different to the Xbox 360. It uses a x86-64 processor architecture processor, just like most current PCs and laptops, as opposed to the Xbox 360’s PowerPC (PPC) chip. Why did Microsoft choose to shift to this architecture? The reasons are simple – it wanted to keep costs low and make game developers' lives easier.

It’s arguable that the PowerPC architecture is better than the x86 one – it’s newer for a start, PPC was created by Motorola, IBM and Apple to compete with Intel in the 90s. However since then the PPC architecture has lost favour, primarily because it was a lot cheaper to manufacture x86 processors. This is down to scale – practically every PC and laptop uses one. There's more to it though. AMD and Intel aggressively invested in the technology and advanced x86 at a faster rate than the PPC backers could cope with. In the end even Apple dumped PPC in 2006 and switched to Intel x86 processors for their iMac and Macbook ranges.

More power at a lower cost means a cheaper console to produce. Some of those savings are even passed onto the consumer. Win-win, sort of.

The second aspect is, perhaps, more interesting. Having the same x86 architecture as the PC means that games can be ported much more easily from the Xbox One to PC, and vice-versa. This means less complexity, shorter development times and fewer dodgy ports – the bane of many a gamer. In addition the PS4 also uses a very similar x86 AMD Jaguar processor, which will further help developers when creating cross-platform games.

See also: Xbox One Elite Controller preview

xbox one controller

Xbox One backwards compatibility - Can I use my Xbox 360 controller?

The Xbox 360 controller won’t work with the new Xbox One. That means that you will need to purchase extra controllers for same screen multiplayer action.

An Xbox One controller with with play and charge kit will set you back £59.99 or £44.99 for it without the extra battery. In the US that's $75 and $60 respectively. Microsoft has also just announced a rather fantastic looking ‘Elite’ controller. This lets you customise your game with replaceable triggers, a new stainless steel d-pad and a host of other improvements. It’s coming later this year for $149.99. Yes, that much.

Xbox One backwards compatibility - Can I use my Xbox 360 Kinect?

Once again the answer is no, but it’s less of a problem than the controller incompatibility. Some Xbox One bundles still come bundled with the new Kinect but you can also pick them up separately.

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