Moving to a new console generation has often meant leaving some of your favorite games behind, but Microsoft says that won’t be the case with the Xbox Series X. The team developing this next-gen console is testing older games to ensure they don’t just work but work better. Not only will older titles be faster and smoother, but Microsoft is also working on a host of technologies that can add new features to the games of yesteryear.
While Microsoft’s primary focus is on making new games that could never have run on older consoles, the Xbox Series X team has also spent more than 100,000 hours playing old titles on the console. Microsoft’s Director of Program Management Jason Ronald says thousands of classic games are already fully playable on the Xbox Series X, and the goal is to have 200,000 hours of play testing on the books by the time the console launches in late 2020.
Backward compatibility isn’t as simple as making sure you’ve got the right kind of disc drive. The system and chip architectures change in significant ways across console generations. Developers also optimize console games for a very specific set of capabilities and specs. A new console platform needs to know how to “talk” to older games. Microsoft built the tools for backward compatibility into the core of the Xbox Series X with its custom CPU and a new operating system hypervisor.
According to Ronald, classic games will load faster than they did on their original consoles. Plus, more demanding games that struggled to maintain a smooth frame rate on base-model hardware like the Xbox One S will perform unencumbered on the Series X.
Microsoft isn’t just going to lean on faster hardware and call it a day, though. The Xbox Advanced Technology Group has developed several new features that will enhance the classic game experience. For example, an HDR reconstruction technique will automatically add HDR support to legacy titles. It’ll even work on games from the original Xbox that were developed almost 20 years ago. Microsoft has touted the upcoming console’s “Quick Resume” feature, which allows players to quickly return to their game from a suspended save state. That feature will work with backward-compatible games with no changes to the games themselves.
The Xbox Series X will even be able to render older games at resolutions up to 4K. The team is also working on technologies that will allow doubling the frame rates on older games. Again, this all happens on the platform side — game developers don’t need to change anything.
Microsoft aims to have the Xbox Series X ready for sale this holiday season. It has not announced pricing yet, but rumors suggest it’s waiting for Sony to announce the PS5 price so it can undercut it with the Series X.
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