Microsoft started E3 with a bang by announcing something entirely unexpected – backwards compatibility for Xbox One. Starting this year, Xbox One users will be able to play their Xbox 360 games on the One – for free. It’s huge news, and pokes a sharp stick at Sony, which offers limited streaming of old games with PSNow, and only if you pay for it.
As Microsoft explains, this native backwards compatibility works in several different ways. On a digital level, you will be able to buy Xbox 360 games directly from Xbox Live and download them on the Xbox One – although you’ll probably want to bring along an external hard drive. Digital games will be available this fall leading up to the holidays, with around 100 games available by Christmas.
However, if you’ve already purchased an Xbox 360 game and still have the disk, you don’t have to buy anything again: You’ll be able to put in the disk, download the game to your Xbox One (again, an extra hard drive is advisable), and play just as you would on the 360. However, the big caveat is that you can only do this with the games that Microsoft allows, those 100 titles due out by the holidays.
Currently, Xbox One preview program members can immediately access 21 titles released especially for them. These include Mass Effect, which Microsoft showed off at E3, Perfect Dark, A World of Keflings, Super Meat Boy, and others, notably a lot of indie and Xbox Live games. Certain Xbox One features, like voice commands to share gameplay, can be used for these 360 games. All your achievements will transfer over, and you can play with friends who still use the Xbox 360.
It’s a pretty great deal, but it gets even more interesting: Microsoft is currently reaching out to Xbox members and asking them which games they want to see make it on that list of 100. Top voted games include (to no surprise) Red Dead Redemption, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and Skyrim, but we’ll see which way the votes swing over time.
If you aren’t a preview member you’ll need to wait until titles are provided to the other tiers to actually play. Microsoft hasn’t released any firm dates on this, but we’ll probably have to wait for fall to see any big updates on this exciting development.