Microsoft thinking about planning the possibility of maybe trying to design a 360 emulator for the Xbox One

Xbox One Sixty

Microsoft’s Mattrick says he doesn’t think compatibility is really a problem. He said only 5% of customers play older games on a new videogame system anyway, so spending time and money to develop technology to allow them to play older games isn’t worth it.
“If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards,” he said.

» Wall Street Journal, May 2013

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Are there plans for an Xbox 360 emulator on Xbox One?
SAVAGE: There are, but we’re not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately. It turns out to be hard to emulate the PowerPC stuff on the X86 stuff. So there’s nothing to announce, but I would love to see it myself.

» Build Developer Conference, April 2014

Well there we go. When it was first announced the Xbox One would have no backwards compatibility there was the usual outcry but it didn’t get any momentum. After all, the PS3 launched with backwards compatibility and then removed it. Again, outcry, but then the console went on to do pretty well anyway – continues to do well at that. So Microsoft must have been pretty confident they could weather the criticism, especially with analysts saying things like this:

…negative sentiment could hurt sales in the short term, but it could also help drive sales for the new devices, “as gamers rebuild their entire library for a new console.”

Given the obvious technical challenges of emulating a completely different architecture with sufficient accuracy and power to run games that were written to squeeze every ounce of performance, every drop of horsepower from the 360, the decision to simply not do it must have come as something of a relief to the developers and engineers on the Xbox One team.

But now it’s months after launch and games are pitifully thin on the ground. Players still can’t build a new library, never mind rebuild their old one. It seems that no studios are porting their existing games to the new platform so now it seems that the ball is back in Microsoft’s court. With few games to spend money on at least an emulator would ease the way for 360 owners to make the upgrade.

At the end of the day the Xbox one simply isn’t a gaming platform yet. Even safely couched in a cocoon of weasel words, Savage’s statement that an emulator is at least being considered is a promising sign that they’ve noticed.

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