This weekend, I blew the dust off my copy of Mass Effect and put it into the Xbox One.

“What are you doing?” asked my wife.

“Entering the future,” I responded ironically.

By now, you surely know about Phil Spencer’s (in)famous proclamation that Xbox One will support Xbox 360 backwards compatibility this fall. If you’re lucky enough to be an Xbox One preview program member, like me, you have access to this ground-breaking feature today; albeit with only a small selection of titles.

I believe the technical term for how this works is “magic.” Well, that’s how it seems anyway. Backwards compatibility appears to be simple enough, and when it comes down to it, all anyone really expects is for an old game to work on a new system. That’s it. Microsoft has gone much further, however, making the Xbox One’s version of backwards compatibility the new gold standard.

When I inserted Mass Effect, the entire game installed on my Xbox One, creating a digital app like any other on Xbox One. While the system won’t require the game data on the disc to play it, one caveat is that you’ll need the disc inserted each time for license verification. From there, it is smooth sailing. Some clever programming is at work here because once the game is launched, your Xbox One stealthily begins running Xbox 360 emulation. The emulation doesn’t completely override the Xbox One as it does with Wii Mode on the Wii U. This might not sound like a big deal but I was able to take a screenshot and capture game footage using Game DVR. The key social features of Xbox One are still available while playing Xbox 360 games. This is all while the familiar Xbox 360 guide is readily available just as if you’re on the old system.

The future is... backwards? (SOURCE: http://techcrunch.com/)

The future is… backwards? (SOURCE: http://techcrunch.com/)

For Xbox Live Gold members who save to the cloud, your progress goes with you. That means I was easily able to load my save file and replay the final battle against Saren (spoilers, I guess). If so inclined, I would also be able to jump back to the Xbox 360 and continue from my last save on Xbox One. The same goes for Achievements, which work seamlessly between the two consoles.

Did I mention I could snap a Twitch stream while playing these old games? The multiple operating systems allow for all these features to run alongside Xbox 360 emulation, and it is masterful. With Kinect, I’ll be able to live stream old games without having to run it through my PC. For backlogged gamers who like to share the experience, like me, this is a huge deal.

For digital titles, its even more user-friendly because I don’t have to go digging through my discs to play classic games. My copy of Perfect Dark simply appeared as a downloadable title in the queue under My Games and Apps. Thanks to the fully-realized emulation system, I will be able to play Perfect Dark, on my Xbox One, with anyone who still might be playing it on their Xbox 360. That might not sound impressive but the same logic goes for any multiplayer games. This type of cross-platform multiplayer is what elevates this backwards compatibility to legendary status. Think about Halo, Call of Duty, and so many other communities of players still committed to classic games now united across current and last-gen.

Empowering the Xbox One with backwards compatibility is a power move by Microsoft. By combining the primary functionality with modern features like live streaming and Game DVR, Microsoft is playing to the consumers and making Xbox One a friendly, safe, and familiar place for gamers to jump to. The cynics will say this should have been available at launch, but I cannot fathom such a strong implementation had it occurred 18 months ago. This is a symbolic gesture intended to win back some valuable gamer goodwill, and because it works, it will achieve just that.

Until the public launch later this year, 21 backward compatible titles are supported today for all Xbox One preview program members who own them.

  • A Kingdom for Keflings
  • A World of Keflings
  • Alien Hominid HD
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Banjo-Tooie
  • BattleBlock Theater
  • Defense Grid
  • Geometry Wars Evolved
  • Hexic HD
  • Jetpac Refuelled
  • Kameo
  • Mass Effect
  • N+
  • Perfect Dark
  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Toy Soldiers
  • Toy Soldiers: Cold War
  • Viva Piñata
  • Viva Piñata: TIP
  • Zuma

More than 100 titles will be available this holiday, and “hundreds more” within the following few months.

What classic Xbox 360 games are you excited for? Leave a comment below and be sure to give your feedback directly to Microsoft at Xbox Feedback. There’s a clever social aspect where the community will help improve and direct Xbox One backwards compatibility.

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