Beware: Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Hack Is A Hoax, Could Brick Your Console

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News Posted: Sun, Dec 8 2013 2:50 PM
There's a rumor going around on social media that you can enable Xbox 360 backwards compatibility  on an Xbox One by hopping through a series of steps meant to enable Developer Mode, changing a setting, and restarting the box. Don't believe it. There is no method of allowing the Xbox One to play Xbox 360 games, via any software program. Microsoft's Major Nelson has denounced the idea directly.



This is an opportunity to talk a bit about why you can't play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One, and how we know the entire program is a hoax.

The Backwards Compatibility Conundrum

There are two ways to make a system backwards compatible. The simplest is to build a complete version of the old console inside the new system. Sony's first generation of PS3's, for example, actually had a full PS2 implemented in hardware. This is relatively easy -- by the time the new console launches, the old console is well understood and its processors are much smaller than they used to be. It takes some additional work to ensure local storage is shared and partitioned between the two devices, and that controllers are cross-generation compatible, but this is all workable. Problem is, it's also expensive. Both Sony and Microsoft chose to save money this generation, and we know neither the PS4 nor Xbox One contains previous generation hardware.

That leaves software emulation -- and software emulation is a decidedly mixed bag. Ars Technica did an excellent writeup on the problems facing perfect emulation several years ago, but here's the bottom line: Emulating 95% of a game's behavior is easy. Emulating that last 5% -- including edge cases that can break an entire game -- is extraordinarily difficult. Small errors can lead to audio issues, graphics corruption, or make it impossible to finish a title. Perfect emulation is extraordinarily expensive -- accurately duplicating the SNES in hardware requires a 3GHz x86 processor, where the original system had a 21.47MHz input frequency and a 3.55MHz bus.

Obviously there are emulators with far, far lower requirements -- but they're much less compatible with edge-case software. Microsoft would need to target a high level of compatibility to truly market the feature -- but emulating a modern multi-threaded Xbox 360 game on the Xbox One's eight Jaguar CPUs would be an exercise in futility. Eight Jaguar cores may outperform three dual-threaded Xbox 360 cores in aggregate, but Xenon was designed for high clock speeds. A game designed to run on a 3.2GHz chip is going to struggle on a core clocked at a little more than half that speed.

The reason there are no major emulator projects for PS3 or Xbox 360 hardware, despite their age, is that the architectures are too difficult for conventional PCs to model. With CPU performance improvements having slowed to a crawl, that's unlikely to change. Don't be fooled -- the only way to experience an Xbox 360 or PS3 title will be to buy the console itself. 
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If Xbox lusers are so concerned with backwards compatibility, why don't they just keep an old 360 around? Yet another reason why the PC Master Race is far superior to consoles. Just about everything that has ever worked on a PC will still work now. Granted sometimes you need a patch or workaround. DOSbox is a perfect example of one of those workarounds.

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They need to sell their old consoles to buy new ones. That's how peasant they are

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its incredible sad that they couldnt make them backwards compatible

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anyone with half a brain could design a system to play any game on the previous systems

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Joel H replied on Sun, Dec 8 2013 6:45 PM

[Deleted as duplicate]

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Joel H replied on Sun, Dec 8 2013 6:47 PM

Curtis,

the PC master race is "superior" because a great many people have spent a great deal of time to create workarounds. Microsoft deserves a lot of credit here, having maintained backwards compatibility as well.

But fundamentally, the PC compatibility issue isn't trying to also cross architectures. And that's a huge difference.Even so, backwards compatibility can fail -- oftentimes new GPUs + new drivers won't run as well in older games without modification. Drivers aren't tuned for old titles, so no one notices if a driver update breaks something in an old game.

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Joel H replied on Sun, Dec 8 2013 6:49 PM

Did you read the story? No, you couldn't. 

 

The only way to keep the Xbox One seamlessly backwards compatible would have been to duplicate the entire set of hardware. Anything but that is *enormous* work. 

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sevags replied on Sun, Dec 8 2013 7:01 PM

There is a lot more negativity in this thread than usual...

Curtis; just because you don't like a console doesn't mean those that do are losers. The ps4 isn't backwards compatible either so unfortunately owners of both new consoles are losing out on this functionality.

You are fairly correct with your 2nd statement. I still have my copy of Unreal Tournament G.O.T.Y Edition from 1999 that I have installed into every new system I've gotten for the last 14 years. If it was a console game from that time period I would have lost the ability to play it a long, long time ago.

Kevin; why would that be a bad thing? Especially if you don't think you will play the old system much anymore why not sell before prices drop further.

Cliff; yes anyone can and Joel mentioned 2 of the ways in the article. No one said it couldn't be done but the article states several reasons why both new consoles weren't designed with backwards comparability.

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From the get go, Microsoft said their system was not compatible with the old games. If it comes from the horses mouth, why hear it from an ass?

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It confuses me why they do this... I would love to get one of these but all my games are xbox 360 games so it wouldn't really help me in the end

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Not sure why the Wii U wasn't mentioned in this article - they did pretty much what Sony did with the PS3 and had separate HW to run Wii games; it's not the slickest way, but it works pretty flawlessly. After owning a console for a couple years, people don't really use backwards-compat b/c their library is replaced.

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AlexHaley replied on Tue, Dec 10 2013 3:35 AM

@cliff with Your incredible language skills and positivity I'm not sure why you arent the head of microsoft! Please design a system for the world, with your half brain.

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KZukowski replied on Tue, Dec 10 2013 6:44 PM

"Sony's first generation of PS3's, for example, actually had a full PS2 implemented in hardware."

Really? Whoa. That's awesome!

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Joel H replied on Tue, Dec 10 2013 8:18 PM

The Wii U needs much less work to run Wii games because the Wii U kept the same CPU architecture. The Wii U chip = Wii's Broadway, clocked higher, and with three cores.

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I guess that's why new TV's come with 6 HDMI ports, component, AVI, SVGA and HDMI splitters are a big Xmas gift this year. You have to keep your old hardware for at least two generations.

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