Microsoft shared some pretty big news for Xbox One owners on Sunday: The company will let you play select games from the original Xbox — the one that launched in 2001 — on the current Xbox One console, with a software update coming later this year.
The news was announced at Microsoft’s annual press briefing at the E3 video game mega-conference in Los Angeles.
Microsoft started down this path in June 2015, with the announcement that the Xbox One console would get the ability to play an ever-growing roster of Xbox 360 games. Now, Microsoft will be taking it a step further, adding compatibility with first-generation Xbox classics like “Crimson Skies: Road to Ruin.”
Furthermore, Xbox boss Phil Spencer promises that classic Xbox games will “look and play better” on Xbox One than they did on the original hardware. In other words, these games are likely to get graphical upgrades when they arrive on Xbox One.
This is a stark contrast with Sony’s strategy with the market-leading PlayStation 4. Sony has repeatedly downplayed the importance of so-called backwards compatibility, going so far as to question why anybody would want to play old-school PlayStation games on modern consoles.
From Microsoft’s perspective, however, this plays directly into Spencer’s Xbox strategy. Now, the Xbox One will support games from three different “generations” of Xbox — which dovetails nicely with Spencer’s idea that a new console shouldn’t mean that your old games and accessories are immediately obsolete and worthless.
So while Sony’s position, with almost 60 million PlayStation 4 consoles sold, speaks for itself, there are a lot of gamers out there who welcome the notion of playing old games on new hardware. Now, we’ll see how much this moves the needle for Microsoft.