Microsoft has confirmed that it has plans to introduce an emulator that’ll allow users to play their Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One.
News of the upcoming emulator came during this past week’s BUILD development conference in San Francisco when a partner development lead, Frank Savage, responded to an audience member’s question about Microsoft’s plans for making Xbox 360 games playable on the Xbox One, according to Kotaku.
“There are [plans for an Xbox 360 emulator], but we’re not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately.”
So when can users expect their Xbox One consoles to play the Xbox 360’s games? That’s remains in the air. After initially saying that Microsoft has definitive plans for an emulator, Savage goes on to give a pretty good reason for why users haven’t seen the functionality already saying, “It turns out to be hard to emulate the Power PC stuff on the X86 stuff.”
What Savage is really saying is that it’s difficult for the company to replicate the conditions that an Xbox 360 game would require on an Xbox One. The two consoles use entirely different internal hardware. Changing the internal hardware for the Xbox One allowed Microsoft to use its Windows operating system to introduce new features. It also meant that allowing users to play their old games would take time, if it ever happened at all. Microsoft might have made the best decision it could, Sony’s PS4 gaming console doesn’t have backwards compatibility either. Still, having to restart your game collection because all of your old games won’t work with upgraded hardware isn’t ideal.
To their credit, Microsoft does have some experience in introducing backwards compatibility through emulation. Microsoft made the original Xbox’s games available to buyers of the Xbox 360 too. Users couldn’t play online, but single player campaigns and any games that had local multiplayer were fair game. Unfortunately, backwards compatibility wasn’t universal and the company had to spend time testing and fixing each game to operate on the new console. Many high-profile Xbox games never made it to the Xbox 360 and it’s likely the same thing could happen if Microsoft introduces an Xbox 360 emulator on the Xbox One.
Sony has gotten around this hardware problem by introducing a cloud gaming service. Dubbed PS Now, the service offloads the game itself to Sony’s servers and users the PS4 console itself as a sort of viewer. PS Now is in beta right now.
The Xbox One is on store shelves now for $499.