One of Microsoft's big announcements at its E3 press conference this year was support for Xbox backwards compatibility on the Xbox One. Not Xbox 360 backwards compatibility, which has been around for some time: OG Xbox backwards compatibility, starting with beloved air combat game Crimson Skies. Naturally, when we talked with Xbox chief Phil Spencer today, we asked if we might see that emulation make its way to the PC in the future. His one-word answer?
Straight to the point. Exciting! But also: we wanted more. Thankfully, after letting that affirmative hang in the air for a few moments, Spencer elaborated.
"I want people to be able to play games!" he said. "[Emulation] is hard. [Xbox] 360 specifically is a PowerPC chip, emulated to x86, which is difficult. It's a little bit easier when you have a fixed spec, when you think about Xbox, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X. And you think of the variable specs of the PC space, so you're taking a fixed-spec PowerPC emulator and then moving it over to run on PC, so there's a lot of work there.
"The original Xbox, OG Xbox, is a little bit easier, because that was an x86 chip it was running on. Obviously when we think about UWP and the ability for games to run across console and PC, we're getting closer. I want developers to be able to build portable applications, which is why we've been focusing on UWP for games and even apps that want to run on multiple devices.
"So I think we've got work to go do there, but I think it's in our future."
We also asked Spencer about the Xbox Game Pass, a $10 monthly subscription that grants access to a library of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games. Given Microsoft's increased PC focus, could we see the Game Pass on PC, too?
"I've said I want to bring Game Pass to the PC. The team doesn't love it when I pre-announce things, but I definitely want to bring Game Pass to PC," Spencer said.
"It's a business model that I think could be good for creators, and when business models work for creators, it usually means good content will come for gamers. I like that. We don't have the deep catalog of games on PC that we do on console, so I've had some pushback from the marketing team that, well it wouldn't necessarily be the best feature right now, because we won't have enough games, but I just want to start. So I'm putting a lot of pressure on the team to go get enough content lined up to do something on the PC, and then make sure we have a long-term commitment to build."
Spencer had more to say about developing games for PC, the return to Age of Empires, and what Microsoft still needs to do to improve the Windows Store and UWP. Check back soon for our full interview.