There has been plenty of speculation about whether the words “Xbox One backwards compatible” would come out of a Microsoft representative’s mouth as we got closer to the next-gen console’s launch. After all, what better way to crash Sony’s PS4 launch party than to come out and say it in the same week as the competitor’s system arrival? Well, those words have come up this week. But the way they did so will cause Sony’s PS4 fans to party harder, not feel bummed.
In a post on Polygon, Microsoft’s Albert Penello confirmed that the Xbox One will not be backwards compatible. Many gamers had hold out hope that by saving games to the cloud and/or enabling Xbox 360 emulator-type functionality via the cloud, people would be able to keep playing their Xbox 360 games on their shiny new Xbox One. No dice, folks. Looks like you’ll have to keep your Xbox 360 consoles laying around to play Skyrim and Oblivion after all.
Penello said that cloud streaming was simply too failure-prone to provide a realistic solution for most consumers. The assessment, while accurate, is still a bit puzzling, considering that the Xbox One (and PS4) all but require a broadband Internet connection. Such a high-speed connection would also be required for cloud-based streaming functionality.
“It’s really cool and really problematic, all at the same time, insofar as it’s really super cool if you happen to have the world’s most awesome internet connection. It works way better than you’d expect it to,” Penello told Polygon. “So managing quality of service, the tolerance people will have for it being crappy. Can you imagine, in this day and age, with the bad information around, and we can’t control the quality of that experience and make sure it’s good, or have to tell people they can’t do it?”
Yes, Mr. Penello, we can imagine it. That wild West-like experience is called Xbox Live, and there’s a reason people joke wryly about playing with foul-mouthed 12 year-olds. With that said, that’s a user problem, not a network problem, so it’s forgivable and easy to solve: just play with your Friends List rather than strangers.
Penello didn’t ultimately rule out cloud-based Xbox One backwards compatibility forever, but it’s not likely to happen for the foreseable future.
“I know we did a lot of work behind it, and we said this is one of the things where the network just has to get better before we can do it,” he told Polygon. “When that happens, you’re going to have a really interesting conversation around that, can I actually run Xbox One games that way as well.”
Penello also chided Sony a bit with its PS4, questioning whether Sony’s net-gen console would ever attain true backwards compatibility either. He did retain veiled hope, however, throwing down a bit of a gauntlet in the process about Sony’s Gaikai streaming-game service.
“I’ll be really interested to see how our friends in the Bay Area [at PlayStation] deal with this problem. But I can tell you, it’s totally possible. We like it, we’re fans of the cloud. We’re not shy about that.”