Xbox Series X: Backward and forward compatibility confirmed

Xbox Game Studios
Xbox Game Studios /

With backward compatibility and forward compatibility (Smart Delivery), Xbox Series X will already have a huge library of games available at launch.

Given the leaps taken with Xbox One as it pertains to backward compatibility, it was no surprise that Microsoft would continue its gamer-friendly policy with Xbox Series X. We’ve known for a while now that the next-gen Xbox would support backward compatibility and in a new blog post today, Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, touted the feature.

"“Our commitment to compatibility means existing Xbox One games, including backward-compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, look and play better than ever before.”"

The statement is pretty straight-forward. Xbox Series X will play all existing Xbox One games without requiring you to re-purchase them again on the new platform. This presumably also includes all Xbox One games in the pipeline as well as both first- and third-party published games.

Additionally, all current Xbox 360 and original Xbox games that play on Xbox One will also be playable on Xbox Series X. Basically, your whole current library will be accessible on the Xbox Series X which is a truly gamer-friendly move.

In an interesting note, Microsoft says these backward compatible games will “look and play better.” More specifically, you’ll get “steadier framerates, faster load times and improved resolution and visual fidelity” when playing these older titles on Xbox Series X.

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This is incredible for gamers. Now in our fourth-generation, Xbox owners have amassed quite a digital collection of games. It’s awesome to be able to not only carry this over to a new console but have them run and play better than before. What this means for remasters, remakes and re-releases that help third-party publishers generate some extra revenue remains to be seen.

Not only will Xbox Series X be backward compatible, but it will also be forward compatible. With every new console generation, there’s an awkward transition phase where new games release just before the launch of a new system.

Cyberpunk 2077, for example, releases on April 16 — just months before the launch of the new console. We know it will eventually be available on Xbox Series X, so do you wait and just buy it for that? If you’re like me, you probably want to play it immediately. So do you buy it for Xbox One and then purchase the Xbox Series X version? Microsoft is making this decision super easy for you thanks to what it’s calling “Smart Delivery.”

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"“This technology empowers you to buy a game once and know that – whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X – you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you’re  playing on.”"

Smart Delivery is only guaranteed for exclusive Xbox Game Studios, such as Halo Infinite. However, the technology will be available for all developers and publishers. Each developer and publisher will be able to choose if they want to utilize the feature for a game releasing on Xbox One first and coming to Xbox Series X. In other words, we can get a good sense of who the greedy ones are.

Remember the Cyberpunk 2077 conundrum from earlier? Well, CD Projekt Red has already stated they will be making use of Smart Delivery. If you purchased Cyberpunk 2077 for Xbox One, you’ll get the Xbox Series X upgrade for free.

Microsoft has put forth the tools to make Xbox Series X the most gamer-friendly platform. Between backward compatibility, Smart Delivery and Xbox Game Pass, you’ll have quite a collection of games already playable on Xbox Series X when it launches.

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Even beyond being gamer-friendly, these features are budget-friendly. We already figure to be dropping $500-plus on the new console. For some, spending another $60-$120 on a new game or two may not be feasible. With backward compatibility and Smart Delivery, you’ll be able to buy the Xbox Series X and still enjoy it without spending another dime.