January Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Details Arrive

Microsoft, makers of the Xbox One entertainment console, is adding a fresh slate of Xbox 360 games to the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program that arrived for console owners late last year. Somewhat predictably, some gamers are describing the list as “light” on big-name releases.

It was at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last June that Microsoft announced the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program. Xbox 360 games that make it into the program, digital or otherwise, are available for anyone to play on their Xbox One. The program gifts those with a physical copy of the game a digital download that’s Xbox One compatible and even includes Xbox Live functionality. Owners of a digital included in the program simply see that game in their list of installable titles. The additions to the program announced this morning on the Major Nelson blog are light indeed.

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is the only major title from the Xbox 360’s Games on Demand library that’s being added to the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program this month.

The rest of the new additions to the program a follow the same pattern established by the additions that Microsoft made in December. They’re all titles from what Microsoft calls Xbox Live Arcade games. These are smaller titles that were never released on disc. To get them, players had to buy directly from Microsoft.

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Aegis Wing, Age of Booty, Counter-Strike: Go, Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad, Sam & Max Save the World, Skullgirls, Small Arms, Soulcalibur and Space Giraffe are all available through the program immediately.

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To get any of these games working on Xbox One, users need to have purchased them already in some for. At least, that’s usually the case with games that join the program. The Wither 2: Assassins of Kings is actually available as a free download for Xbox Live users until February 9th on the Xbox website.

No doubt, gamers are going to be disappointing that the list of Xbox 360 titles coming to the Xbox One isn’t more extensive. That’s understandable; Microsoft positioned the program as the ultimate reason for users to trade-in their Xbox 360 and upgrade to an Xbox One. Things did start out promising. The program offered roughly 100 different titles at launch. Last month the company added Halo Reach, Fable 3, Braid, Peggle and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Microsoft is hoping that the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program will help set it apart from what Sony is doing with its PS4. That console sports backwards compatibility in a way, but not without charging users for it. PlayStation Now allows users to stream PS3 games from Sony’s servers to their PS4. PS4 owners pay rental fees to stream PlayStation Now games or a monthly subscription fee to get access to a wider catalog of titles.

Read: New Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Games Revealed

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Microsoft said when it launched the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program that it was giving users access to their favorite games from the Xbox 360, free of charge. It didn’t explicitly mention PlayStation Now, but the difference in approach was heavily implied.

To unlock an Xbox 360 compatible game, Xbox One owners need to have a decent internet connection and be logged into their Xbox account. Inserting the game disc unlocks the Xbox One compatible version from Microsoft’s servers. To play on the Xbox One, gamers do need their physical disc if that’s what they used to unlock the game. Game saves that were stored on Microsoft’s servers sync immediately.

Microsoft plans to continue adding new games to the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program on a regular basis. It’s asking that those excited for specific games vote on their favorites at its Xbox Feedback website.