Why are Microsoft's Back Compat team so far ahead of the rest?

Microsoft’s Back compat on both the Xbox One and what we are seeing with XSX is just so far ahead of the pack its not funny. Sony had to make the PS4 Pro to have a butterfly GPU where they could disable half the GPU to allow the Pro to play PS4 titles. Microsoft however with the XOX wernt held back by this and could have a GPU with over double the CUs and still run Xbox One games. Not only that, but they were enhanced, well beyond Sony’s abilities with the pro. To add to that, MS also went from 8 Gigs of DDR3 RAM and a pool of ESRAM on the OG One, to 12gigs of GDDR5 RAM on the XOX and it wasn’t an issue. That change up alone I thought would have caused issues, but nope. Then we have the next Gen, and Sonys decision to stick with the paltry 36CU GPU was in part to help back compat with PS4 games. Again however, MS isn’t held back with that and are putting out things like HDR in older games in BC, and smashing it out the park.

Why is there such a gulf between the two companies? Is it just because MS is a software company and has more resources than Sony in this area? Is it because DX12 allows this to be the case as it is also used on PCs where there is scaling with multiple rigs and so it transfers over more easily?

Whats makes MS just so much better than the others?

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IMO the reasons are

  • high level APIs for games
  • restricted low level (to the metal) API calls
  • using Abstraction layers that translate old API calls into current API calls
  • added features in abstraction layers that allows the use of new capabilities without changing game code
  • Games run in a virtual environment with a hardware abstraction layer (HAL) and direct hw passthrough where necessary.
  • selected BC support features as fixed function hardware and GPU microcode
  • solved problem of CPU task scheduling for different CPU architectures.

Microsoft is the backwards compatibility company.


Plus the will as a company to make it happen, put the resource in and do it without seeing much of a direct return.


This is pretty much the key reason. The version of DX12 for Xbox One is a low level API but it runs in an environment that can be carried forward.

In contrast, the PS5 BC relies more on hardware support since the OS and games are written for the hardware in a less abstracted way.

This is why when you play a 360 game on the Xbox One, the game think it’s being played on a 360 but if you play a PS2 game on the PS4, it’s being run as a PS4 game.

Microsoft invested very early and Sony had to play catch up. The head of their company thought no one wanted to play “old” games like 2 years ago.


Microsoft took it seriously. Plus they have not gone for exotic tech like Cell which is still going to be an issue to emulate.

Well they have been kinda been doing software compatibility for a long time. Just look at Windows. This is one area of tech where Microsoft has very few peers.

Ultimately it comes down to priority and investment. Microsoft has dedicated a lot of money and people towards backwards compatibility.


Doesn’t explain how PS4 BC is dealt with on PS5 and how Pro reached compatibility with PS4 games. MrZweistein posted the reason and Microsoft has many years of virtual environment knowledge due to Windows and Azure. To put it blunt. MS is just better at these tasks than Sony.

Talent and experience is equally important. Sony has their field of knowledge and MS their fields.

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PS4 Pro is just a console made to play PS4 games at a higher resolution. You still have the same CPU. You can meddle with the GPU here and there and that is what Microsoft and Sony both did with the mid generation refresh.

Nope, the BC methods were different and the result was Pro used 18CU at 911mhz resulting in ~ 2,1 TF for unpatched games. MS solution leveraged much more of the One X hardware in unpatched games.

I am sure Sony has just as talented software developers working for them. I mean they have been in the gaming business since the early to mid 90s. The thing is that Microsoft has a large team that handles their backwards compatibility program and I am not sure Sony puts as much investment into their’s.

Every company has a budget and it is up to them where that budget goes to.

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Because Microsoft actually put the time, monetary investment, and staff into making it a priority. I think it’s as simple as that. I’m sure PlayStation could have amazing BC if they actually cared.


This too. MS seem to actually care that BC is a thing going forward and actually want to invest time/tech and money into it.

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Microsoft cares and has the experience and necessary resources. Sony doesn’t care even if they have to for a product. Remember the Playstation Classic, that was embarrassing.

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The way MS designed their backwards compatibility from the start using VM’s and a hypervisor to essentially use a system’s resources to their fullest potential is the big reason why they are so ahead in that department. All without any work from the developer of each game which is also a huge boon for it.

They designed it from the getgo to be something for the future that with the way it has been built, it can smoothly transition to the next generation and continue to boost/improve the games in other ways like even higher framerates/res and the machine learning HDR that they also demonstrated with Halo as well on BC.

It also becomes a boon/boost to xcloud when they get them games streaming as well in the near future. Providing all XB1 games bar the kinect ones and the selected Xbox 360/OG ones as well. I’d imagine they are also working behind the scenes to add new games to the program for the older consoles.

Ms made some choices and investments when making the xbox one and its paid off this gen and next gen. Sony didnt.


MS started earlier and took it seriously. Who was it at Sony who said nobody cared about BC.

Now look at how they’re having to scramble to get something ready

I have to say replaying my older games with a fresh lick of paint has been nothing short of amazing

I hope to see it continue


I want to see them upscale textures with their ML hardware for BC titles. They can do it with next gen games already (apparently), and it has been done before on PC. Would be a killer use of ML, alongside upscaling the frame res, interpolating framerates for fps boosts, and HDR.

To answer the OP’s posed question, MS is really good at this sorta thing and Sony never bothered to learn about it much as it was never in their best interest to do so. They want ppl buying brand new hardware to show off new games, not old games. Seems really short sighted to me tbh.

On X1, due to Game Pass and GWG I have almost 400 games now. I’ve played maybe 1/10 of them. GP makes me interested in trying TONS of stuff I’d otherwise never consider spending cash on, which in turn really broadened my tastes and now I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d get an XSX without BC being a big part of the platform feature set. I’d be abandoning soooo many games if that were the case.

In a weird and indirect way, GP has made me care even more about BC, and therefore appreciate it more than I would otherwise. This is the first gen where I’ll have a completely smooth transition between consoles and all my games library comes with me. It’s exciting knowing I’ll never have a drought of stuff to play probably ever.