Microsoft 'Thinking Through' 360 Emulator for Xbox One

Neither the Xbox One nor the PS4 feature backwards compatibility for content made for the Xbox 360 or PS3. Sony has said it plans to make use of its Gaikai purchase for cloud-based emulation of PS1, PS2, and PS3, while Microsoft has also talked about backwards compatibility via the cloud. This past week at BUILD in San Francisco, Microsoft talked just a tiny bit more about its plans for backwards compatibility with the Xbox One.

Microsoft's Frank Savage told attendees at one BUILD session that the company is still working on backwards compatibility via an emulator. Savage highlighted difficulties with PowerPC and X86 in his response to a question about Xbox 360 emulators.

Read more: Xbox One Review: Unifying Your Living Room Experience

"Are there plans for an Xbox 360 emulator on Xbox One?" Kotaku cites an audience member as asking. "There are, but we're not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately," Savage replied. "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."

Savage offered no other details aside from the comments above, but it's clear the company hasn't quite figured out how to tackle backwards compatibility. Microsoft talked about backwards compatibility via the cloud around the time of the Xbox One launch last fall; that solution is not without its difficulties either. Speaking to IGN, Albert Penello said that controlling the quality was one of the biggest issues and that they were keen to see how Sony handles that issue.

"So managing quality of service, the tolerance people will have for it being crappy," Penello said. "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?" he continued, later adding that Microsoft has done a lot of work on it but that the network just needs to get improved before Microsoft can execute.

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  • weilin
    Quote:
    It might be hard to do, but it has been done before. Apple did it when they transitioned to the Intel CPUs. What about VirtualPC? Microsoft bought it - why not use that? Seriously, just do it and get off the pot. Tired of hearing Microsoft whine how hard something is...


    Is it doable? Sure, to get functionally correct emulator working is probably doable by a college student if given enough time. Microsoft can kick out an emulator in a few months without trouble. Will either result run smooth enough to actually play game? That's much harder to say. If you look at the emulator Apple put out, applications work, but not without it's glitches and the stuff supported is mostly 2D and latency insensitive.

    Cross ISA emulation takes order(s) of magnitude of compute power. To put things into perspective, only the highest end of PCs can run a 360 emulator (traditionally CPU bound) but even then it's not entirely smooth. The XBone is nowhere near that kind of compute power. Microsoft will have the benefit of forward designing instead of reverse engineering so their efficiency will be higher than that of the emulator community but I'm not sure will be enough...

    As for VirtualPC, that's designed to virtualize x86 OS on top of another x86 OS. It's more of less a way to pass instructions from the virtual world to the physical CPU. It won't help here at all.

    I think many are missing the key point that, for 360 (powerPC) games to run on the XBone (x86), the game must be converted to x86 code. This could either be done at runtime (requiring additional compute power on top of running the game) or potentially before runtime and saved to disk (requiring a lot of disk space). Either case, the conversion will no nowhere near as efficient as compiling from a high level language. Will the final result be playable? maybe...
  • Other Comments
  • Snipergod87
    "he continued, later adding that Microsoft has done a lot of work on it but that the network just needs to get network before Microsoft can execute"
    What?
  • macmuchmore
    It might be hard to do, but it has been done before. Apple did it when they transitioned to the Intel CPUs. What about VirtualPC? Microsoft bought it - why not use that? Seriously, just do it and get off the pot. Tired of hearing Microsoft whine how hard something is...
  • itchyisvegeta
    So the Power PC can emulate an x86 chip to play Xbox Original games on the 360, but an x86 chip can't emulate a Power PC chip to play 360 games on the Xbox One?

    I think they need to rehire a few emulator programers.