Back in November 2015, Microsoft added backwards compatibility to the Xbox One for several Xbox 360 titles. And now, it seems, those titles have a new family member: Call of Duty 2.
As Sony gets ready to announce release dates for its PlayStation 4 Neo and Slim models, it's worth pointing out that the PlayStation 4's backwards compatibility is still more or less nonexistent — and that may give Microsoft the edge over Sony in the coming months.
Sony is losing easy customers by not having backwards compatibility.
While there's obviously going to be a degree of investment involved, Xbox One's backwards compatibility feature has proven to be an incredibly popular feature and its existence should not be dismissed — by Microsoft or any other gaming company.
In fact, the PlayStation 4 has yet to implement backwards compatibility, which means it's still a step behind Microsoft in that regard. Yes, technically the PS4 can play select PlayStation 2 games through an emulator. And yes, several PlayStation 3 games are available via the PlayStation Now service. But neither of those offers the same sort of service as the Xbox One's backwards compatibility.
For starters, the PS2 games available are not only limited, they're also two generations older. And the PS3 games that can be played aren't done through an emulator, they're done through a rental streaming service — one that costs a subscription fee and requires a constant internet connection.
Sorry, Sony, but charging players to rent PS3 games — which they could easily already own — is not the backwards compatibility players want.
And with the upcoming PS4 Neo and PS4 Slim variations, there's no doubt going to be a flood of newcomers to the fourth-generation Sony console. If they're anything like me, though, these gamers going to be disappointed in the lack of playable PS3 titles on their new PS4 consoles.
Now would be the perfect time for Sony to introduce some sort of backwards compatibility.
Think about it. Sony already has gamers hyped for the (hopefully) official announcement of the PS4 Neo and Slim launch dates at its upcoming September 7th conference. What would push the announcement over the edge?
That's right, being able to officially play PlayStation 3 games on these improved consoles.
Microsoft was reportedly blown away by the fan response to backwards compatibility, with more than 145 million hours already having been dedicated to Xbox 360 titles. For me personally, I've skipped out on both the PS3 and PS4, but I've been seriously debating purchasing one of the new PS4 models when they debut.
If I knew I could play any (or at least most) PS3 games on one of these new consoles, that would seal the deal. And I'm sure I'm not alone — if Sony wants to draw in as many gamers as possible, all they have to do is add backwards compatibility. And no, PlayStation Now does not count.
Backwards-compatible games can also improve the experiences of former games.
On the Xbox One, older games are technically run through an emulator. Inserting a backwards-compatible Xbox 360 disc will initiate the emulator-downloading process and the game will not actually use the disc itself to play the game. Because that emulator is running on newer hardware, it's likely to lead to improvements (though not all games will show a difference).
It's the same principle as upgrading a graphics card in a computer, or even purchasing the latest version of a phone (think iPhone 5 to iPhone 6). The game/software being used isn't changing, but the device has better hardware that can keep up with what that software is trying to do.
It's worth noting that backwards compatibility doesn't make a game look better. It's not the same as a remastered edition of a game, which is intentionally designed to look better based on current-generation hardware specifications. However, the game can still perform better.
When we say the game performs better, we're talking about things like framerates, stuttering, and potentially load times. The video above from DigitalFoundry is a perfect demonstration of the sort of differences between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions of Call of Duty 2.
The Xbox 360 version always intended to have a steady 60 FPS, but because of the way the system processed that, the frames would occasionally drop to 30. With the Xbox One's hardware (and whatever emulation software Microsoft is using), the game can maintain its target of 60 FPS as intended.
Even if games don't show any improvement at all, though, I think the overwhelmingly positive response to the Xbox One's backwards compatibility proves that Sony should invest in adding the feature to the PS4.