Events at the E3 video-game convention are notoriously over-the-top, like political rallies or religious revivals, but the screams and cheers were on another level when Microsoft announced backward compatibility for Xbox One yesterday. The news that the console will play games made for Xbox 360 was a surprising and cathartic moment for some of the most loyal Xbox gamers.
“There truly has never been a better time to be an Xbox gamer,” said Xbox chief Phil Spencer, wrapping up the news of the day. “If you’ve been waiting to move from your Xbox 360, now is the time.”
Or, as one of my old grade-school friends said on Facebook, echoing the sentiments of Xbox gamers everywhere: “Why they waited nearly 2 f—-g years to roll it out just boggles the mind.” He posted this picture of his Xbox 360 games, stacked two-deep in a bookshelf.
Addressing those types of criticisms, Microsoft makes a point of saying that it didn’t previously know if it could make backward-compatibility happen, technically.
Whether or not you buy that assertion, it’s clear that the company needs to win back the love of its most loyal customers. Over the past two years, Sony’s PlayStation 4 has emerged as the clear leader in worldwide console sales.
With a series of announcements over the past week, Microsoft is continuing to repair the damage done in the early days of the Xbox One. In addition to the backwards-compatibility news, the company permanently dropped the price of the 500GB Xbox One to $349, and announced partnerships with Oculus and Valve to support and work with their virtual reality technology.
Those partnerships are clear examples of the pragmatic approach that Microsoft has been taking under CEO Satya Nadella, working with companies that would have otherwise been viewed as competitors.
Microsoft’s new Xbox Elite Wireless Controller also gives hard-core gamers a reason to take a new look at Xbox One. By working across PCs, as well, the controller creates another bridge between Xbox One and Windows 10. The company previously announced the ability to stream Xbox One games to the new operating system, in addition to cross-platform gameplay for some titles.
Offering another reason for gamers to put their faith in the company again, Microsoft also teased ahead to the future with a sneak peek of Minecraft on its HoloLens headset. In the short term, the company will also be helped by a strong lineup of new Xbox One games, including upcoming releases in the Halo and Gears of War franchises.
But for now, at least, Microsoft has new momentum in the world of video games.
Here’s a video from the company showing how backwards compatibility will work on Xbox One, and this Xbox page has more details.