Xbox Continues to Add to Backwards Compatibility – But Does It Even Matter?

Just how important is backwards compatibility to players?

So we have word that there will be an episode of Inside Xbox on April 10th at 3pm PST, and that it will include a major announcement about backwards compatibility. According to EGM, the episode will feature information on ‘“a big update” on original Xbox backward compatibility,’ which presumably means that potentially all original Xbox games will become playable on the Xbox One, even those that are disc-based. So if you still have some older discs laying around, you may be able to play them once again.

This comes on the heels of a long line of additions to Xbox’s backwards-compatible features, including a few just since January. Owners of current-gen Xbox Ones can play OG classics like Saints Row 3, just like the Good Old Days. And all the while, Xbox senior management has promised that these continual additions to the nostalgia-train will chug along well into the foreseeable future.

On the surface of it, all of this sounds great. Who would say no to an additional feature that seemingly opens up your console to play way more games, some of which you fondly remember? And certainly, Xbox is to be commended for trying to give their customers more and more, even after purchase. And we do often hear players talk about wanting backwards compatibility, and getting pretty upset when new consoles don’t automatically include it.

The problem is, while players love the idea of backwards compatibility, the reality is that very few of them seem to actually use it when they have it. Now, admittedly, there isn’t a whole ton of data on just how much players use this feature, but the stats we do have seem to back this almost paradoxical idea up. As recently as June of 2017, an Ars Technica article showed that Xbox players spent a teeny-tiny 1.5% of their overall console time playing older, backwards-compatible games available to them. In fact, they watched YouTube videos (maybe of old games?) way more than they indulged their nostalgia for all those amazing backwards-compatible titles. What Xbox players spend by far the most time on – almost 55% – is, you guessed it, playing the current games.

backwards compatibility

And of course that makes perfect sense. Think about it: those times when you were able to play an old beloved title from your past, how long did it really take before you got bored and went back to a new title? For sure, there is a brief rush you get when you first revisit a classic, but pretty soon after, those old, clunky controls, ugly graphics and other frustrations you forgot about come back. That’s when you remember that today’s games are just plain better than the old ones. Face it, a lot of those retro games we loved “back in the day” often pale in comparison to the quality of today’s offerings – but we only realize that once we re-play them.

Backwards compatibility is overrated. It is a nice (maybe awesome) idea in theory – but when the chips are down, it just doesn’t matter that much to players. Xbox’s commitment to giving their fans more features, and making their console the best it can be, is laudable; but it is not driving sales, and it is certainly not a factor in the age-old battle for console supremacy. That 1.5% statistic might be a year old, but I suspect that things have not changed much since.

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  • Hates bad writers.

    While it’s nice and free, it’s slow. I have a massive backlog from picking things up on sale on all my devices and what kills the backcompat for me is that I get maybe 1 or 2 games that I own every 3-4 months. Longest was 6 months (minus games with gold). They aren’t focusing on titles people really really want, but It’s not unreasonable to think publishers are giving them a hassle as well (remember they need permission. Which is stupid). The only other thing I want is a list of devs/publishers that don’t want to play ball with the program and give permission to make games backwards compatible. So I can put them on my no buy list from now on. Granted that list is pretty long already. Really the only downside is that it is too slow and misses tons of games that should have been added over a year ago.

  • Jinger

    Really? Overrated? It’s a damn great option that every new console should have. I use it quit often!. This article just reeks of fanboy bullshit.

    • KashIsKlay

      Facts

      • J.j. Barrington

        Facts are that, despite how much folks like you play it up, the feature isn’t used much by most.

      • lonnie

        Where do they get these statistics? I play BC games a lot but no one ever asked me.

  • Greg

    Casuals may not care but given there is still no progress on Xbox emulation, this is our only option other than hoping your original Xbox doesn’t burn out. You would think preservation games in playable fashion would matter for something but I guess not.

  • Lightning

    No Exclusives + $500 + BC = DISASTER (Retrobox X)

  • lonnie

    I went and bought an original Xbox just to play some games that are not BC. Like some of the SSX games and seeing that Xbox doesn’t have a decent baseball game i play mvp ncaa 06 and mvp 05. Would love them to come to the one.

  • KashIsKlay

    I use it all the time. Trash article

    • Jon Willie

      Yep, Microsoft debunked the Ars data, yet still other sites never got the memo and reference it like its fact. Outside of a couple sentences at the beginning of the article, Ars even chooses not to acknowledge the fact that “some statistics are grossly inaccurate”, something that would cause a proper company to redact the article. Instead Ars just digs their heels in and say they worked really hard on it.

  • J.j. Barrington

    Even as a fan of the feature, I’d say it’s just not that important.

  • Sauce Boss

    Nope. It doesn’t. World’s most powerful console to upscale ten year old games. M$ better have something planned for E3.