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Xbox Series X Will Play Backwards-Compatible Games Better Than Original Systems, Microsoft Says

Microsoft has been making lofty claims about the Xbox Series X’s backwards compatibility, including that it will work with not only the entire Xbox One library, but also a bunch of titles from the Xbox 360 and original Xbox. Backwards compatibility on Xbox Series X was further clarified this morning by Jason Ronald, partner director of program management, who discussed how backwards compatibility was engineered for the new machine’s specs.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Ronald says that “[n]ot only should gamers be able to play all of these games from the past, but they should play better than ever.” The games, he said, will be able to run natively on the Xbox Series X with the “full power” of the CPU, GPU and SSD, without boost mode or down clocking.

According to Ronald, this meant working on the custom AMD processor as well as the Xbox OS and hypervisor to work with games that were optimized for older systems with different hardware.

It doesn’t stop there: backwards-compatible games from Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One should see reductions in load times thanks to the Xbox Velocity Architecture (a combination of Microsoft’s custom NVMe SSD, DirectStorage API, Sampler Feedback Streaming and dedicated hardware decompression).

The Xbox Series X’s quick resume feature also works on older titles to start wherever they left off. Because that’s a system-level feature, it won’t take any extra work from game developers.

Microsoft’s Xbox team is also working to “double the frame rate of a select set of titles,” Ronald said. That means moving some games from 30 frames per second to 60 fps and others from 60 fps to 120 fps.

It isn’t clear which games will work yet with which specific features. "The double frame rate technique will be for a select set of titles, and implementation of it will vary by title," a Microsoft spokesperson told Tom's Hardware. "We look forward to sharing more, but have nothing further at this time.”  

The spokesperson also declined to mention which games will see double frame rates, but that all titles will see "general benefits" from Velocity Architecture and more powerful components.

“Resurrecting titles from history often presents a complex mix of technical and licensing challenges, but the team is committed to doing everything we can to continue to preserve our collective gaming legacy,” Ronald wrote. 

The number of games that will work is in the thousands, so we’ll see how well backwards compatibility plays out when the Xbox Series X launches this holiday season. We’ll see how it compares with Sony’s PlayStation 5, which is also launching with a unique SSD solution. 

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex. among others. Follow him on Twitter: @FreedmanAE