Microsoft has made a big deal about the backwards compatibility of the Xbox Series X. Not only will the upcoming Xbox Series X be able to play almost every Xbox One title (anything requiring Kinect is out), but even the Pro and Adaptive controllers will work with the new hardware.
But one question is still up in the air: can Xbox Series X owners play with Xbox One players?
Will Xbox Series X play nice with Xbox One?
While the general consensus on message boards seems to be ‘yes’, I can’t find an official Microsoft answer on this point – only crumbs that point to a mixed picture.
It’s safe to say that some games will be playable between Xbox Series X and Xbox One. If you’re playing your Xbox One disc of, say, Modern Warfare 2 in the Xbox Series X, then it stands to reason that you’ll be playing the game with Xbox One players filling the multiplayer lobbies. It is, after all, the same version of the game, and thus will connect to the same servers.
And I think we can safely say that in-game chat will work just fine between generations. The evidence for this? Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer tweeted back in May that he was “100% on XSX”, which would be odd if using prototype hardware blocked him out of current-gen multiplayer lobbies, chat and so on.
But what about games that have different versions for each generation? Well, presumably titles supported by Xbox Smart Delivery will work fine, but those that aren’t might be a bit trickier.
The Xbox 360 version of GTA V, for example, connects to different servers than the Xbox One version. And it’s worth remembering that EA uses a completely different engine on FIFA for Xbox 360 and Xbox One – if something similar happens with next-generation games, there’s simply no way the two will work together. Ball physics would be all over the place!
It’s very telling that both the developers of Fortnite and Destiny 2 have felt the need to confirm that cross-generational play will be a thing. That implies a certain amount of opt-in is required if one party is using a next-generation version.
I think, reading between the lines, that it’s complicated.
It’s clearly Microsoft’s aim to blur the lines between console generations, and make the Xbox more like a PC where cheap laptops owners can theoretically play with owners of souped-up gaming PCs. View things through that prism and features like Smart Delivery make a whole lot more sense.
I suspect Microsoft hasn’t given confirmation that Xbox Series X will be able to play with Xbox One because rules will be inconsistently applied – and that makes for a muddled message at a time when the company is trying to get people excited for their future purchase. But for the most part, I expect the answer to the question to be a qualified yes.
I will, of course, update this if it turns out that I’m well off the mark.
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