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Xbox fires back about PS5 backward compatibility list

The next generation of console gaming is almost here. Sony and Microsoft have been neck-and-neck, both demonstrating the strengths of their respective upcoming systems. Soon after Microsoft announced the Xbox Series X release date, Sony followed with its own launch date for the PlayStation 5, which will come out just two days after the Series X and Series S. With anticipation at an all-time high, Microsoft has released a post covering its extensive backward compatibility for the Series X and the Series S.

In its statement, Microsoft boasts its impressive backlog of games dating all the way back to the original Xbox. Starting its backward compatibility program in 2015, Microsoft has prioritized the unification of Xbox games on supported platforms, including the next Xbox. Calling it "the best place to play 1000s of games from across four generations of Xbox," the company has made every effort to enhance the all-in-one user experience. In addition to creating a robust platform for its entire library of games, a team known as the "backward compatibility engineers" has been hard at work to update and improve older games, both in terms of graphics and performance.

Backward compatibility has been a hot subject for the two upcoming consoles. While gamers were hopeful that the PS5's library would reach all the way back to the original PlayStation, it looks as though that will not be the case. With this in mind, it seems like Microsoft's announcement is a strategic move to appeal to gamers who might be disappointed in the PS5's backward compatibility.

Microsoft has concentrated on a centralized gaming experience in recent years. With the introduction of the Xbox Game Pass, fans who subscribe to the service have access to a rotating library of over a hundred games on multiple platforms. No longer is the company targeting a specific console, but more a legacy of gaming. This sentiment is echoed in Microsoft's announcement regarding its backward compatible games, where the company has chosen to focus on game preservation without added cost to subscribers.

"Preserving the games of our past is fundamental to our DNA at Xbox and our continued promise to you," according to Peggy Lo, the compatibility program lead for Xbox. Appealing to emotion and nostalgia, Lo goes on to state that "Backward compatibility lets you experience your cherished gaming memories again and in new ways," making a compelling argument for Microsoft's strategy. It's also a compelling argument for those who are still conflicted over which next-gen console to buy in November.

Sony seems to be going a different route, instead focusing on console exclusivity and the future library of games. While the PS5 will support almost all PS4 games, titles from the PS3 and older PlayStation consoles will not run on the next-gen hardware. This creates a sharp divide between the two newest generations and everything else. The PlayStation 5 still has plenty to offer, but its lack of support for backward compatibility continues to be an issue for fans. Will Microsoft's superior list of backward compatible games be the blow to the PS5 that the company is hoping for?

One user on Reddit broke down Sony's strategy, comparing its approach with the PS4 to how it is handling the PS5. Redditor andrew0593 explained that the key to the PS4's success was in focusing on developers and gamers, finding the perfect price, and offering the best hardware. For its successor, Sony appears to be continuing its emphasis on strong first-party offerings and making development easier for dev teams. Ultimately, andrew0593 points to mass adoption as Sony's key strategy for winning the next console war, which is accomplished by moving more PS5 units and games. In this way, Sony is relying on a killer lineup of exclusive games to pull in its audience.

The PS5 is projected to outsell the Xbox Series X, but could the difference in backward compatibility turn things around for Microsoft? Is Microsoft choosing a path that will lead to victory?

In the grand scheme of things, Microsoft may not be trying to win the console war, but instead, win gamers over with its philosophy regarding gaming exclusivity. The PS5 may outsell the Series X, but when looking at the bigger picture, winning the sales battle may not be everything. Come launch day, Microsoft users will be able to clear the clutter of older systems and enjoy an immense back catalog of games while PlayStation owners will have another machine to add to their collections.

Whether or not backward compatibility is a dealbreaker for next-gen gamers, Microsoft may score some points for video game preservation and its dedication to enhancing the existing Xbox catalog. Hopefully Sony will look into adding similar functionality in the future.