On Xbox 360 Compatibility

Microsoft released today a list of XBox games that will be playable on the XBox 360 with the optional hard drive installed. The list runs to about two hundred games across many genres.

For many customers at work one of the selling points for the XBox 360 would be its ability to play the current-generation XBox games. Looking at the list, that reason for having an XBox 360 isn’t a reason any more. Speaking for myself only a third of the XBox games I have would be playable on the 360 hardware, and there’s even some question as to how the 360 system will be able to play current XBox games–it’s software emulation, but the necessary emulation layer may need to be downloaded from XBox Live instead of coming pre-installed on the hard drive.

What does this mean? For early adopters, probably not a lot. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t parting with my Halo edition XBox system when I learned, roughly, how the 360 would handle its backwards compatibility. Software-level emulation is slower than running the software natively on the hardware, so there will be a slight performance hit for people playing XBox games on the 360 system. Other early adopters may feel the same, though a good number of our customers at the store did trade in their XBox systems toward their 360 pre-orders.

I’m curious to see how things shake out, though to be frank at my position software compatibility on the 360 system is the least of my short- and long-term concerns.

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