The Strategic Advantages of Backwards Compatibility on Xbox One

Backwards Compatibility had been one of the most requested features that most fans thought would never work but to our surprise Microsoft has delivered. There was much speculation as to how this would play out but after a few weeks we can now delve into the ramifications of this announcement.

Ever since the announcement of backwards compatibility for Xbox One the fan base has been generally ecstatic. That one announcement alone gave an immensely positive glaze over what was a safe E3 presentation, exhibiting Microsoft’s big AAA games coming in 2015 we already knew about with a few new games mixed in there. But Backwards Compatibility has had some unexpected consequences that have been overlooked, from the method of implementation, to preorder bonuses.

Microsoft presented backwards compatibility as a way for gamers to enjoy their favorite games from last gen on their Xbox One without any additional charges (surely a jab at Sony’s poor price model on PlayStation Now). But the one caveat to this deal was that Microsoft was going to be adding these games in bunches with over 100 games available at launch this fall (which you can go vote for on the Xbox feedback site) but in order for these games to work they need to be approved by the appropriate publisher. Essentially, Microsoft just covered their ass if your favorite game doesn’t make it to the compatible list; shifting blame on the publisher for not accepting their offer.

And that’s not to say that publishers are solely to blame but it’s hard to imagine that Square Enix would have made Tomb Raider backwards compatible, or even Bethesda’s Dishonored, when they had plans for a remastered edition to release. Would you really buy a remastered game for upwards of $40 when you can play the base game you already own for free or can pick up a used copy for a few dollars?

Other than the obvious move to make gamers still holding out in their last gen to finally move on to next gen with the announcement of backwards compatibility, this also had a tactical advantage for their next gen battle. Being an individual who had not burned his bridges with the PlayStation Nation, I’ve had a few acquaintances with PlayStation guys who have approached me to tell me they were making the switch to Xbox One from the PS4 for the backwards compatibility feature. But was just being able to play your old games on the next gen enough of draw to make someone switch?

As we saw in the E3 presentation, some publishers are taking advantage of backwards compatibility to sweeten the deal with Xbox gamers by giving Xbox 360 games away for FREE in addition to the base game. Ubisoft has stated they will be bundling in Rainbow 6 Vegas 1 and 2 with the purchase of Rainbow 6 Siege for Xbox gamers, adding even more value to that purchase over other versions. Where Sony had thrown money at developers to make exclusive content for multiplat titles on their system, like with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, many gamers felt inclined to buy their games on PlayStation for that content. Now with backwards compatibility, Xbox has flipped the script by adding value that is impossible at this point on the PS4 (unless Sony wants to make PSNow free), and its working.

With the Fallout 4 preorder on Xbox One, gamers will be receiving a code for Fallout 3 for 360 in 7-10 days and will be playable on Xbox One when backwards compatibility launches. Watching twitter reactions to this has been as expected, with frantic pleas for Bethesda to do the same deal with PS4 preorders and have Fallout 3 work on PS4. Some (myself included) have cancelled their Pipboy editions to get this deal with Xbox, and some are questioning their decision to get Fallout 4 on PS4.

Backwards compatibility has proven to be more than just being about letting you play your old games on Xbox One, It is a practical, strategic move that will allow Xbox to move more software sales as well improve their hardware sales. Only time will tell how much of a change that will be…

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