Microsoft talks about the Xbox Next 'Forward Compatibility' and how they can do it

Microsoft has been making some noise about the “Forward Compatibility” of the “Xbox Next”. Most of you are familiar with the backwards compatibility concept (old games work on new console), what is forward compatibility?


It’s the idea that games will not only “run”, they will also be “enhanced”, thanks to the new hardware capabilities. Graphics, for example, could be enhanced. There are programmatic ways to improve textures, resolution or frame-rate on old games, but usually improving the user-interface, the network capability or even the game-play is much harder.

That sounds like voodoo magic, but it’s not: graphics can be improved by the console’s system, if developers use an API like DirectX. The OS can then do a bunch of things that even the game program isn’t aware of. The downside is that often, developers want to bypass the Os and code stuff directly “down to the metal” to squeeze the best performance out of the hardware. Changing stuff in the game simply means that the developer has to do it right now, for a console that will come out in many years – you can see the odds of this happening.

This is an interesting idea, a typical “early stage” thinking, but we will have to see how it will be executed, and most importantly if developers are on-board. They surely have enough work with shipping their games in time. If you’re a game developer, what do you think of this?

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