The Xbox One backwards compatibility program has been scooting along since November 2015. During the launch, Microsoft hailed it as one of the biggest requests from Xbox gamers. Certainly, gamers are willing to defend the feature. The forum to request new Xbox 360 BC additions lists hundreds of thousands of votes per title. Purchases of landmark games like Red Dead Redemption or Call of Duty: Black Ops II are strong enough to push them into current sales charts when they launch on the compatibility service. It’s a huge win for gamers in principle, but is it actually used much?
According to data compiled by Ars Technica, the answer is “not really.” In fact, looking at the total time that Xbox players spend across all services the console offers, it amounts to 1.5% of everyone’s activity. That’s not a lot of return on investment in sheer user time, but intangibles like marketing and retention may hold value to Microsoft beyond those disparaging figures. Everyone seems to want it, but very few people take advantage of backwards compatibility. Maybe Sony’s global sales executive Jim Ryan was on to something when he asked Time “Why would anybody play this?” in regards to how older games look on newer consoles.
Gamers have racked up over 100 million hours of gameplay in backwards compatible Xbox 360 games. This, according to Microsoft, is to date since the feature rolled out in November of 2015. With the New Xbox One Experience update owners of the Xbox One can play selected Xbox 360 games they already own on the newer console either digitally or by using their old discs. Popular titles like Fallout 3, Gears of War, and Call of Duty: Black Ops have been snatched up by players eager to relive the heady days of the last console generation as soon as they were added to the service.
The full list of backwards compatible games has grown steadily, but significant entries like Crackdown and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion remain absent. While gamers clamor for these missing games, Microsoft and the publishers have chosen to stay quiet, saving their announcements for maximum value. The latest being no exception. At long last, Rockstar’s cowboy magnum opus, Red Dead Redemption is coming to backwards compatibility.
Starting on Friday, every Red Dead Redemption Xbox 360 owner will be able to play the game directly on their Xbox One, regardless of which version of the game they own (Red Dead Redemption, Undead Nightmare and Red Dead Redemption: Game of the Year Edition). And for those who have yet to experience it, the game will be available to purchase on Friday from the Games Store on Xbox One.
Microsoft is allowing cross-network play, to include other console systems, on the Xbox One. Chris Charla, the director of Microsoft’s [email protected] program, announced the upcoming feature while outlining events at the Game Developer’s Conference. Psyonix’s Rocket League will be one of the first games to take advantage of the Xbox One’s cross-network functionality.
While Rocket League on PlayStation 4 has enjoyed cross-network play with PC users on Steam, the Xbox One version previously did not have this capability, a feature deficit that garnered some harsh criticism from fans. Rare games like IDARB do have cross-play with Xbox One and Windows 10 Store versions, but play with gamers outside of Microsoft’s ecosystem is a new, and welcome, development.
The New Xbox One Experience, an overhaul of the user interface and menus, is out today. Microsoft says the software redesign makes the console the “fastest and most social Xbox experience ever.” There’s a new home guide system that lets you check messages and futz with settings without leaving your game or media app. A new community section offers a ton of stalking and social media one-upmanship opportunities. Avatars, those virtual dress-up doll microtransaction sales catalysts, are back. Controller buttons can now be remapped. Finally, Microsoft has revamped the Game Hubs and the storefront to be more user-friendly and community focused.
Some of your old Xbox 360 games should also work in the Xbox One now. The list of compatible titles isn’t that long, but Microsoft assures us that more games will be added to the backwards compatibility feature in the coming weeks.
You can even enjoy multiplayer with friends playing Backward Compatible titles on Xbox 360. To start playing your Xbox 360 games on Xbox One after 12pm PST today, refresh your Game Collection to see your pre-purchased, digital Xbox 360 titles from the Backward Compatible title list in your ready to install queue or simply insert the disc for a supported Xbox 360 title and download the game to start playing it on Xbox One.
For now, the New Xbox One Experience is an optional download, although if you don’t update, you won’t be able to access some of the revamped services. On the 23rd of November it will be a mandatory update. It’s about 1GB in size and there is also an update for the wireless controllers.
Two high-profile sets of gaming numbers will no longer be reported. Microsoft will no longer divulge Xbox hardware sales numbers, and Activision Blizzard will no longer give out World of Warcraft subscriber data.
Microsoft announced that they will no longer be sharing Xbox One hardware sales in their investor reports. In their latest earnings release, Microsoft folded Xbox One sales under More Personal Computing and stated only that gaming revenue grew 6%, and that Xbox Live transactions were healthy. When pressed on the change in reporting, Microsoft told GameInformer that they feel Xbox Live engagements are more relevant to the business. No doubt Microsoft would be crowing about hardware sales if the gap between sales of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One weren’t so far apart and getting worse all the time.
Activision Blizzard’s executives told investors listening to the company’s latest quarterly conference call that World of Warcraft current subscribers hit 5.5 million, and that it would be the last time they reported that data. According to them, subscriber numbers do not adequately tell the story. “There are other metrics that are better indicators of the overall Blizzard business performance.” Surely, the fact that 5.5 million subscribers represents a 100,000 loss of players since the last quarter, and makes this a nine-year low for the MMO had nothing to do with that decision? To Activision’s credit, the news about their impending acquisition of Candy Crush developers King Digital had more impact.
Gamescom 2015 kicked off with Microsoft’s press briefing today. While Sony decided that they had better things to do than talk to Europe, Microsoft took the opportunity to remind everyone that they had a lot of really great games on the Xbox 360.
A bunch of new Xbox One games coming up will come with a digital copy of the previous game in the franchise series, playable thanks to Xbox 360 backwards compatibility. Buy Just Cause 3 and you’ll get Just Cause 2. Purchase Rainbow Six Siege and you’ll get Rainbow Six Vegas. Plus, all future Xbox 360 Games with Gold titles will be backwards compatible on Xbox One. Current gen players will effectively be getting four games a month with their Xbox Live subscription. Backwards compatibility is something the PlayStation 4 can’t do, so it makes sense that Microsoft is going to push that feature for all it’s worth.
Microsoft and 343 Industries stressed how much they want Halo 5 multiplayer to be an eSports darling. Halo 5 has better balance and new fast-paced abilities built into players’ armor. The game has two competitive modes called Warzone and Arena. They’ve built live commenting tools like on-screen graphics and instant replays into the feature set of the game. They’re sponsoring a $1 million Halo 5 tournament. They all but begged for gamers to come back to Halo. Won’t someone think of the Spartan children?
Crackdown 3, Scalebound, Quantum Break, Forza 6 and Fable Legends were shown as Xbox One exclusives with some of the titles also coming to Windows 10 as well. A rep from Mojang, looking about as unenthused as possible, premiered Cobalt which appeared to be a lackluster multiplayer platformer. On the flipside, Cuphead, a side-scroller set in a faux-1930’s cartoon from Studio MDHR, looks more evocative than anything else Microsoft brought in their reel.
Remember Homefront? It’s back as Homefront: The Revolution. This time, it’s more of an open-world affair. You’ll still be fighting implausibly powerful North Korean invaders, but now you’ll do it on a motorcycle. There was a distressing lack of Hooters and White Castle in the gameplay video. Perhaps in the game’s dystopian future, North Korea has outlawed theme restaurants?
Finally, in a bittersweet moment, Microsoft announced Halo Wars 2. It’s being made by Creative Assembly and it’s coming in 2016. Pour one out for Ensemble Entertainment!
Microsoft’s E3 2015 show started with their trusty headliner Halo 5 Guardians, then dropped a bomb on the audience. Microsoft is enabling backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One. According to Microsoft, over 100 titles from the last-gen library will be playable on the Xbox One by the holidays with more to come. Retail discs and digital download titles will work with this feature. No work is required from game developers. They only need to approve the compatibility and Microsoft does the wrapper work on their end. Microsoft couldn’t resist sniping at Sony’s PlayStation streaming service by pointing out that their backwards compatibility service was free for gamers to use.
A spiffy new Xbox One Elite Controller is coming this Fall. It has paddles, a rocker directional pad, and removable widgets. They must help with the shooting somehow.
On the software side, Microsoft kept to exclusives for the most part, with a few mutiplatform titles. Forza 6, now with inclement weather and night racing was previewed with Ford’s help. Rise of the Tomb Raider was QTE heaven. There were videos of Ion from Dean Hall, (of DayZ fame) Dark Souls 3, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Fable Legends, and Gigantic. Tacoma, the newest title from Gone Home makers The Fullbright Company got a quick spot in the indie segment along with Cuphead, a gorgeous side-scroller done in the style of a 1930’s cartoon. Rare has apparently been busy with a Rare Replay collection that bundles up 30 of their games in a discount package, as well as working on Sea of Thieves, a new title featuring multiplayer pirating. Gears of War returned to Microsoft’s show with the Gears of War Ultimate Edition that remasters the original Gears of War for the newer console, and Gears 4 which is apparently all about walking through pitch-black areas very slowly.
Microsoft has announced Windows 10. That’s not a misprint. Your next PC operating system will not be Windows 9, the logical follow-up to Windows 8. It’s Windows 10, because according to Microsoft, there were too many changes for a measly one number jump. It combines everything Microsoft has learned about Windows 8 and mashes it onto every device. Plus, the Start Menu is back! Microsoft acknowledged that a lot of people stuck to Windows 7 and if they upgraded, it was only because Windows 8 is what was installed on their new system. The company is keen to make these people comfortable and not force the infamous Metro screen on them.
“We want all these Windows 7 users to have the sentiment that yesterday they were driving a first-generation Prius, and now with Windows 10 it’s like a Tesla.”
Let’s say you’re not a PC gamer. Why should you care about an operating system for desktops and laptops? Beyond the fact that the OS influences development of games, take a gander at the image above that came from the press conference in San Francisco. That’s an Xbox One user interface redesigned for Windows 10’s “one platform” mantra. It’s just an early preview for now, but you can expect the company to drive the console towards that user interface barring any difficulties.
The Xbox One has a had a relatively trouble-free record when it comes to the quality of the hardware. Certainly, there haven’t been accounts of widespread problems that plagued the early Xbox 360 consoles. It seems however, that something is afoot with some of the Xbox One units sold without the Kinect sensor. CNET reports that some Xbox One owners are hearing a “terrible noise” coming from their consoles. Most of the complaints on the official Xbox support forum describe the loud noise coming from the faulty units as being “grindy” or “like loud static”. Unlike the Xbox 360 Red Ring fiasco, Microsoft is responding quickly and definitively.
“We have heard that a small number of Xbox One owners in some situations may hear a noise from the console that is too loud. While this does not affect the safety or functionality of the system, we’re asking customers who believe they are experiencing this issue to contact Xbox Support. At the request of our customers, we are exchanging those consoles for new systems.”
Microsoft has not explained why the Kinect-less Xbox Ones would have this issue, and not the other, but it’s good to see them taking the issue seriously. No end date has been announced for the exchange program.
The Xbox One sold twice as many units in June compared to May. Although the full figures haven’t been made public, Microsoft specifically mentions the Kinect-less Xbox One offering as part of the reason for their improved sales. The Xbox One units without Kinect are $399 at retail, putting it on equal price footing with the PlayStation 4. Dropping $100 from the price of the console resonated with consumers, at least for the month of June.
Can Microsoft keep up the momentum into the holidays? The company seems to think that having critically acclaimed previews at E3 is an indicator that the Xbox One will find success during the latter half of 2014.
Microsoft has announced an Xbox One retail package that does not include a Kinect sensor. The new SKU will be $399 and will have all the games and apps available to the normal Xbox One except buyers of the new SKU won’t be able to use Kinect features until they purchase an optional sensor that will be sold separately. The official news post from Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of the Xbox division, stresses that Kinect is still an “important” part of the company’s vision for the console, but recognizes that the consumer feedback pushed for a Kinect-less Xbox One.
The $399 Xbox One without Kinect goes on sale on June 9th, the same day as Microsoft’s scheduled pre-E3 press conference.
Microsoft has rolled out the first “achievements” for the OneDrive application on the Xbox One. OneDrive, formally known as SkyDrive before UK broadcaster BSkyB took umbrage at the name, allows users to store data on Microsoft’s servers for later retrieval across shared devices. According to the Xbox Wire, 0-point achievements will be given to Xbox One users for the following triumphs:
Week one winner – Open OneDrive on Xbox One in the first week
Week one wizard – Play 20 photos in a slideshow from your camera roll in the first week
Hope those aren’t all selfies… – View 10 photos from your camera roll
Long exposure – View 100,000 photos
On a roll – Watch five hours of slideshows
Now you’re thinking with folders – Add a shared folder to OneGuide
Better hurry if you want that “Week one winner” achievement! New OneDrive accounts will get 7GB of storage to start, but Microsoft does offer ways to increase that storage, including some free programs as well as a paid service option.
I’ve already played Tomb Raider twice, even though it’s clearly not a game designed to be played more than once. As a once-and-done narrative-driven AAA release, it’s one of a dying breed. But since it was released on the cusp of a new generation of console systems, publisher Square Enix has tempted me with a third playthrough by showing off the tech upgrades in the “Definitive Edition” re-release for the Xbox One and Playstation 4. If you’re looking for an excuse to re-experience one of the best games of 2013, how about new tress technology? How about new mud, blood, and sweat? How about new equipment physics? How about new, uh, drip maps? Yeah, drip maps. Frankly, I don’t really need an excuse for another playthrough, but this upgrade helps.
The PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One launch sales figures are in, and it’s a dead heat. Black Friday madness is over and the next-gen console makers are crowing over how well their products have sold.
Microsoft says the Xbox One sold through (that’s a measure of how many consumers actually bought an item versus the sales to the retail outlet) over 2 million units worldwide in the 18 days since launch. According ot their data, 1000 Xbox One’s were ordered a minute on Amazon.com during the peak.
Don’t fret Sony warriors! The PlayStation 4 sold terrifically as well. According to their numbers, the PlayStation 4 sold (no word on whether that’s sold through to customers or sold to retailers) 2.1 million units since its launch. Keep in mind that unlike the Xbox One, Sony’s newest console launched in the US and Canada first, followed by other markets after two weeks.
Pop the cork and celebrate, console fanboys! You all win! You can wrestle over Christmas numbers after the New Year.