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Microsoft just revealed the upcoming Xbox Series X’s biggest feature. Microsoft has already confirmed that “thousands of games across four console generations will look and play best” on the Xbox Series X, but the term “best” in itself does not say much. Gamers want to know how and where exactly they’ll see improvements. While Microsoft is still keeping the “how” a secret, it’s now letting them know what sort of visible upgrades are expected when it comes to the Xbox Series X and its backward compatible games catalogue.
Even though the Xbox Series X will be a next generation console with a next generation chip architecture, it will still be compatible with all existing backward compatible Xbox and Xbox 360 games, and Xbox One titles, and it will be able to play them natively “with the full power of the CPU, GPU and the SSD.” Not only will these games run at “peak” performance, in some cases, they’ll be able to perform even better. We’re looking at “higher and more steady framerates and rendering at their maximum resolution and visual quality, and reduced in-game load times.” Moreover, backward compatible games will also benefit from Microsoft’s new Quick Resume feature which will allow gamers to switch between multiple titles quickly.
But that’s not all. Microsoft is adding platform-level capabilities to the Xbox Series X that will allow some of your older games to run in HDR and at up to 120fps. What’s even more amazing is that because Microsoft is putting these capabilities in the platform itself, developers don’t need to do anything to achieve HDR and 120fps in their games. They don’t need to upgrade their existing games to be Xbox Series X-ready, and that’s just, wow!
“In partnership with the Xbox Advanced Technology Group, Xbox Series X delivers a new, innovative HDR reconstruction technique which enables the platform to automatically add HDR support to games,” Jason Ronald, Director, Program management for Xbox Series X, said in a blog post. “As this technique is handled by the platform itself, it allows us to enable HDR with zero impact to the game’s performance and we can also apply it to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles developed almost 20 years ago, well before the existence of HDR.”
Elsewhere, “the compatibility team has invented brand new techniques that enable even more titles to run at higher resolutions and image quality while still respecting the artistic intent and vision of the original creators. We are also creating whole new classes of innovations including the ability to double the frame rate of a select set of titles from 30fps to 60fps or 60fps to 120fps,” Ronald adds.
How exactly does Microsoft’s HDR reconstruction technique and new classes of innovation work, we don’t know just yet. Microsoft isn’t showing them off to the public either at this point of time, so we will wait to wait and watch out on that one. The premise is surely intriguing though.
It’s important for Microsoft to get this right because backward compatible games are a key differentiator for the Xbox. Microsoft may never be able to boast of as exhaustive a catalogue of “exclusives” as Sony, but there will always be demand for older, classic games and the dream to play them today, at higher frame rates and in HDR, without compromising on the original intent and thought process of the developers will never go out of fashion. That’s what would really set the Xbox Series X apart from the PS5 in the days to come. Sony says that the PS5 will support nearly all of the 100 best-selling PS4 games, in case you’re wondering.