Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Was A Gamble For Phil Spencer

Xbox One backwards compatibility was "disruptive innovation," says Corporate Vice President.

Backwards compatibility has been one of the most commendable features on Xbox consoles. Microsoft Corporation started integrating backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games onto the Xbox One back in 2015 and still continues to do so. Essentially, the feature allows players to play games from previous generations of the console on the current generations if they own the game either digitally or physically. However, as significant as this feature is now, the company wasn’t always sure whether it’d work or not.

In a recent interview conducted by GQ, Kareem Choudhry, the Corporate Vice President of Cloud Gaming at Microsoft explained that backwards compatibility was the company’s first “disruptive innovation.” He further explained that this was one of the features that Phil Spencer would say, “probably wouldn’t work,” but ended up being a massive success.

“After the Xbox One launched, I went to Phil,” he said. “I’m like, ‘I’ve been thinking, we don’t have the ability to play old games on Xbox One. I want to take a team of about 30 of our smartest people. And we’re gonna go work on it for a year, and only at the end of the year will I then tell you whether or not it’s going to work’,” he further explained.

It seems like Phil Spencer’s gamble with backwards compatibility on the Xbox One worked, as the feature has become one the most notable elements of Xbox consoles and Microsoft Corporation continues to expand the already immense library of games that players can play from for free. In contrast, the backwards compatibility feature on PlayStation consoles still has many restrictions, so it’s safe to say that the company has surpassed the competition in this regard.

Kareem Choudhry also explained that the way Phil Spencer and the entire team thinks about the future is in parts of three; “Horizon One,” “Horizon Two” and “Horizon Three”. The first part focuses on current projects, the second one focuses on projects happening in a couple of years or more from the present, and the third one focuses on innovations that might not be happening in five years or even a decade from the present. According to Kareem Choudhry, “Horizon Three” is where the game-changing evolutions come from and backwards compatibility for the Xbox One is the biggest example.

“What I’ve learned is it’s also very risky not to do that,” said Phil Spencer, in response to Kareem Choudhry. “You have to plant those seeds today. Because they’re not just going to ‘happen’. And you’re not able to buy innovation easily,” he stated. Of course, this belief has been the reason for so many of the company’s reforms, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Phil Spencer further explained, “At some point that Horizon Three stuff is going to be the Horizon One stuff. And if you don’t put the investments in place? Man, you’re just running out the clock.” It has been a while since Microsoft Corporation has added new games to the Xbox backwards compatibility library. However, it seems like that will be changing very soon.

What do you think about this? Do tell us your opinions in the comments below!

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Huzaifa Khan


From writing short stories in my room to finding my true enthusiasm in gaming and computer hardware journalism, I play video games and write about them.
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