Making games backwards compatible on Xbox One can be more of a legal challenge than a technical one

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I'm the backwards man the backwards man

The Xbox One may not have the sublime capture features of the PlayStation 4 or a better selection of exclusive games right now, but it does have something more nostalgic in its favour: Backwards compatibility. It’s a feature that the PS4 has yet to properly crack, whereas the Xbox One setup is a painless download away from having you enjoy one of your favourite Xbox 360 games of yesteryear.

Or it would, if the catalogue was filled with a few meatier entries. There may be some Gears of War and Skate 3 available to boot up on the Xbox One, but where are the real games, maaaaaaaaaan? I’m talking games like Vanquish, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and more importantly, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. When are those games, and possibly a few others that are nowhere near as awesome as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, going to be made available to the public?

I can walk as fast as fast as you can I can walk as fast as fast as you can

Turns out that making a classic game backwards compatible isn’t as easy as you think it is. Technical hurdles are one thing, but limitations and publisher relationships? That’s a whole other barrel of fun to navigate. “First, it is important to remember that BC releases have always ebbed and flowed. Just like the industry, some months are loaded, and others are pretty light” Xbox Backwards Compatibility Program Head Bill Stillwell said on Twitter.

I’m still very confident in this year’s plan, and that we’ll see happy customers in the future. Beyond that, it is not my place to communicate those plans. Especially when it involves someone else’s IP.

Releasing a big/popular game, even as a rerelease into the BC program, is a heavily orchestrated event. Publishers often have target dates that coincide with other initiatives, such as sales, or related titles, and they want to maximise the release. We also have long term business relationships, and want them to continue to deliver great new games to the console for many years. It makes no sense to jeopardise that business relationship for a short-term boost.

Additionally, I can’t understate the complexity of the non-technical part of this. We are in some cases reviewing licensing agreements that are a decade old, evaluating the impact of new technology on those agreements and then negotiating with a host of other parties for terms to get renewed/changed. This is not a quick process most times.

Fair enough. I get that legal matters can make such releases a nightmare to get done right, and video game publishers can be somewhat…odd with what they allow to be released. Although I’m fairly confident that the friendly letter I sent to Konami recently should convince them to finally get cracking on the BC port of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.

Konami-letter

Yeah, that sounds caring enough.

Last Updated: March 15, 2017

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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