When Microsoft launches the Xbox Series X this fall, the console will be in stiff competition against Sony's PlayStation 5. One of the biggest edge's Microsoft has over its rival is its embrace of backward compatibility. Microsoft has confirmed the Xbox Series X will support all Xbox One titles, with one specific exception.
Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer says the Series X will not support Xbox One games that were built for Kinect. That's because the new console will not support the Kinect motion sensing accessory in any way.
“It's our intent for all Xbox One games that do not require Kinect to play on Xbox Series X at the launch of the console,” says Spencer. “And because of the unprecedented power of Xbox Series X, most of your favorite games will load faster and look and perform many times better on the new console.”
Speaking to The Verge, Spencer offered a simple reason why Kinect support is lacking. “There's no way for Kinect to work,” on the Xbox Series X, Spencer explains. So that's that, the end of the Xbox Kinect era.
A Failed Experiment
Of course, it's no surprise that Microsoft is ditching the device once and for all. You may remember the original Kinect debuted during the Xbox 360 generation. This was when motion controls and family/casual gaming was at an all-time high. Microsoft thought Kinect was the future and bundled it into the Xbox One.
That was a catastrophic mistake. By adding Kinect to the console, the Xbox One cost $100 more than Sony's PlayStation 4. It's hard to say if price alone allowed Sony to dominate the Xbox One in terms of sales, but it surely played a part.
Microsoft misjudged the market. The company mistook what was really a time and a place gaming fad, driven by the Nintendo Wii, for a more permanent shift in the gaming landscape. It wasn't to be, and now we can look back on Kinect as a “what might have been” technology.
Certainly, Kinect remains an interesting idea and tech to this day. Interesting enough that Microsoft repurposed much of the underpinning technology for its Azure Kinect DK camera. Still, on the gaming front, Kinect support remained throughout the Xbox One generation despite the accessory being forgotten.
For the Xbox Series X, that support will be removed.
Backward compatibility is a big part of the Xbox Series X. Microsoft has been using Backward Compatibility on Xbox One, allowing users to play a wide selection of Xbox 360 games on the console. This feature was shut down last year as Microsoft started working on Backward Compatibility for the Series X.
In fact, the company is taking the concept even further. It is expected every (non-Kinect) Xbox One game will be supported on the new console. Moreover, Backward Compatibility will also extend to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles.
“Our backward compatibility engineers have spent years devising innovative ways for modern, next-gen technology to make the games library you're building today even better, at no additional cost and with no work from developers,” says Spencer.
Spencer says Microsoft will not be pushing customers into upgrading to the new console. He says “Xbox Game Studios titles we release in the next couple of years — like Halo Infinite — will be available and play great on Xbox Series X and Xbox One,” says Spencer. “We won't force you to upgrade to Xbox Series X at launch to play Xbox exclusives.”
Redmond is aware many consumers won't be upgrading to the Series X immediately, even if many will. For those staying on the Xbox One for the time being, a feature called Smart Delivery will help when buying games.
Games will ship for both Xbox Series X and Xbox One. Smart Delivery means customers buying for Xbox One don't have to worry about losing the game when they upgrade to the Series X. When the console upgrade is made, the available game will be the corresponding Series X version.