Ahead of the Xbox Series X Games Showcase on Thursday, Xbox revealed that the new console would include backward compatibility with all Xbox One games. This is an escalation of the arms race of consoles that happens twice or so every decade between Microsoft and Sony. With both the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 set to be released this holiday season, both are trying to find a leg up, especially in the uncertain economic times that most of the world finds itself in currently.
Xbox head Phil Spencer positioned this switch to backward compatibility as a way to ease these economic stresses felt by many families. “I think what you see is us challenging some of what I will say are the financial tropes or financial historicals of the console business,” Spencer said. “Because I don’t think everybody should have to go buy a new collection of games when they buy a new console. I just fundamentally don’t believe that. I think you should have games that look great on that new console. But you shouldn’t have to go buy all-new games to go play on that console. I think if I make a purchase on Xbox One — I believed this even in the 360 days, even though we didn’t do it at the launch of Xbox One — it should continue to work as I move up in the hardware [cycle].” Spencer told Polygon.
Along with the promise of being able to play older games, Xbox has also invested a lot in newer games and intends to showcase what those are Thursday. There will almost definitely be a new Halo but there is also speculation about a new Gears of War and the return of other popular titles. This is only reinforced by the fact that Microsoft has been purchasing many development studios in preparation to roll out a new line of Triple-A titles.
It seems that the drivers of these moves within this arms race have been creativity and exclusivity. For example, PlayStation acquired the rights to two massive game releases in 2018 in Spider-Man and God of War (2018). While Xbox has held the franchises of Halo and Gears of War exclusively. These moves appear to be doubling down on this idea as a way to not only entice consumers with he allure of the console itself but also with the allure of the exclusivity that comes with the said console.
It will be interesting to see how PlayStation responds and what they will do next in the arms race for the video-game consumers attention.