Microsoft has recently revealed the list of Xbox 360 games that you can play on your Xbox One. While this is a mean feat especially considering that the 360 was a custom designed architecture and the Xbox One is a PC/x86 semi-custom designed AMD architecture.
So, how many games can you play via backward compatibility on your Xbox One? The list comes in at 104 titles which is good in and of itself. But there are an estimated 1162 games that has been physically released and countless others that has been released on Xbox Live/digital downloads. Now, the 104 number is certainly to grow but it seems a bit too small, doesnt it?
I applaud Microsoft for even attempting to and actually adding backwards compatibility so Xbox gamers can get more value out of their systems. But the original Xbox games are a no go. This is in stark contrast to Sony having no current plans for backward compatibility on PS4 due to the wildly varying architecture and the under powered hardware (Xbox One is similarly underpowered) to run the games via software emulation.
The PS3 at launch was backwards compatible via a small chip that allowed older PS2 games to be played. But Sony removed it in subsequent revisions of the PS3 model. Sonys latest PS4 doesnt support backward compatiblity at all (not at the moment). The only way to play previous generation titles on the PS4 is by forking up cash for PlayStation Now which has its own latency streaming (since its over the internet), always online connectivity, server issues.
So, what do console gamers get? They have to keep their old systems at hand to ensure that any game they spent their hard earned cash on is still playable at the very least.
Now lets get on to the PC platform. The PC has only gone through one major architecture change (if you can call it that) in recent history and that is from 32 bit to 64 bit. And do you know what? All 32 bit games run on 64 bit hardware with no problem as all 64 bit hardware is backwards compatible. The first released consumer 64 bit CPU was AMDs Ppteron which was released way back in 2003. So, its not like the switch from 32 bit to 64 bit caused many games to stop working overnight or that the platform is split indecisively.
Another change that the PC gaming platform goes through is the OS upgrade. But that has been as seamless as possible with Microsofts latest and greatest Windows 10. You see, starting from Windows 7 (released in 2009), any game made since has worked with no problem whatsoever on your operating system of choice. Even games for Windows XP (released way before when in 2001) can sometimes be played on Windows 10 with no problem. Other times its just as simple as applying a couple of mouse clicks to enable “Compatibility settings”. Even if that doesnt work, you can usually turn online to make some simple community mandated tweaks to get the game running again.
Case in point: Star Wars Knights of The Old Republic 2 was an RPG game released by Obisidian in 2005 (and also on the original Xbox) that works with no problem whatsoever on Windows 10 and the developer even released an update in 2015 to add controller support, modern screen resolutions and what not. Now, thats some dedication!
Finally, you can even play Wii and PS1/PS2 games on the PC using emulation software. A PS3 and Xbox 360 emulator is in the works though but Im not sure how successful theyll be since both those architectures are complex and not fully documented publicly.
What Im trying to get at is that the PC is an extremely open gaming platform and we are at no ones mercy to dictate what will and wont work on newer or current hardware. I suggest that console manufacturers adopt the same approach (not necessarily the open ended nature) to ensure that gamers regardless of their preferred platform get the most value for their money and is not left behind. This may be possible if the next generation Xbox Two or PS5 uses the similar x86/PC architecture (likely) as in the Xbox One and PS4 to ensure this happens. And if it doesnt you can always try Steam and Steam machines.