The upcoming Xbox Series X will have thousands of games from past Xbox consoles playable at launch, Microsoft promised in an announcement Thursday morning.
The news bolsters one of the defining features of the Xbox brand of consoles: 500 Xbox 360 games are already available on the Xbox One. Jason Ronald, director of Xbox Series X program management, says more than 100,000 hours of testing took place to ensure they work on the upcoming Series X as well.
Ronald promises a diverse back catalog that will include cult classics as well as mainstream hits, making the Xbox Series X the next-generation console with the biggest playable library at launch this holiday - for now. While Sony has been trickling out information about PlayStation 5, little has been said about its backwards compatibility features outside of PlayStation 4 titles.
"Backwards compatible games run natively on the Xbox Series X hardware, running with the full power of the CPU, GPU and the SSD," Ronald wrote in a blog post Thursday morning. "This means that all titles run at the peak performance that they were originally designed for."
Ronald added that Xbox is working on a select few titles to push their performances even higher than originally intended.
The Xbox One, released in 2013, already accomplishes this for several Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. "Ninja Gaiden," released 16 years ago on the original Xbox, now runs smoothly at full 4K resolution on the Xbox One X. Same goes for "Halo 3," a 2007 Xbox 360 game, which runs in 4K on the One X console. The Xbox Series X hope is that it'll accomplish this for thousands of old games.
Beyond that, Microsoft is promising to update these old games by implementing high-dynamic range, or HDR, features. TVs and monitors capable of HDR can make colors pop more, giving new vibrancy to old graphics. Ronald said his team hopes to implement HDR to games released before the technology even existed. The Xbox Series X will also allow its "Smart Resume" feature (think of it like opening a phone app to resume what you were reading before) to the older games, a missing feature for backwards compatible games on the older Xbox One.
Ronald said all of the work mentioned above will be done by Xbox, not by individual developers, which makes sense since some games are so old, the studios that developed them may not even exist anymore.
Backwards compatibility is just one key component of Microsoft's Xbox ecosystem strategy. The Xbox brand is being positioned more to be like the iPhone, bringing your gaming software and profile to a number of different Windows and Xbox devices. Games, like smartphone apps, will be updated as users buy newer models of hardware.