Halo 5: Guardians looked great, fooling around in Minecraft with HoloLens was borderline science fiction and the promise of Lara Croft’s new adventure in Rise of the Tomb Raider is exciting.
But, the biggest news at Microsoft’s press conference earlier today? The word that Xbox One will soon be able to play Xbox 360 games.
It’s more than just news of backwards compatibility that’s huge here. The way they have it set it up – and the little jab at Sony that might have gone unnoticed by some – is pitch perfect.
First, the announcement made it sound like a library of Xbox 360 games will be assembled digitally on the Xbox One. That’s great for new console owners without an aging collection, because they can pick up, say Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts digitally and play it on their XBO.
That’s great. However, the fact that you can use your disc for games that you already own and play them on your Xbox One by tossing the disc in the drive and downloading the digital version of the game from the store is outstanding.
My colleague Eric Frederiksen raised an interesting question that I don’t think we have an answer to yet. Will you be able to play these games that you’ve installed by inserting the disc into the console without having the disc down the line? That is, will I be able to loan my copy of Halo Wars to Eric so that he can install it, give the disc back and then we can both play?
Let’s pretend that Microsoft has already deemed game sharing impossible by forcing users to keep the disc and pop it in whenever they want to play Mass Effect. Even with that potential choice, this backwards compatibility feature is enormous.
Consider the money the company leaving on the table by not going the route of PlayStation Now. Sony requires users to pay for that backwards compatibility, regardless of whether or not they already own a PlayStation 3 version of Uncharted. Now, the game streaming stuff is entirely different, and PlayStation Now works on the PS Vita, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and a host of televisions. That much isn’t lost on me.
But, when Microsoft said something to the effect of “we won’t charge you to play games you already own,” that drew a grin from my face.
Yes, I can go the digital route and pay Microsoft for a digital copy of Dead Space in order to play it on the Xbox One. Or, and here’s another piece of profit that Microsoft made the decision to skip, I can buy it on Amazon used for a few bucks and enjoy the same experience.
Then there’s the fact that my Xbox Live library on the 360 is finally moving up to the Xbox One. This is huge for me, as I only have so much space beneath my TV for consoles. Having the ability to play my arcade games and my discs from the previous generation is outstanding.
I’m excited for the games Microsoft announced today, both known and unknown. I adore their decision to go with backwards compatibility in this fashion. Truly. Compare today’s announcement to the Don Mattrick-led Xbox One team from a few years back complete with DRM and always-on requirements, and we have two massively different corporate machines.
That’s great growth, and Microsoft deserves the praise.