Is Backward Compatibility the New Console-Exclusive DLC?

One of the biggest stories of E3 2015 was that by this Fall, XBox One would have backward compatibility, enabling owners to play Xbox 360 games on their new console.

Assuming most publishers will sign on for this, there are many obvious reasons to be excited about backward compatibility (Left4Dead and Dead Space are just two that come to mind for me).

But another interesting result of this initiative is playing out, and it’s one I think that has a lot of potential to bring Microsoft back into the console sales race this generation. Because the XBox One is now backward compatible, publishers that are releasing new franchise installments on Xbox One can bundle in previous installments, giving the Xbox version of the game an exclusive piece of content the PS4 version won’t have.

We’ve already seen this twice in the short time since the backward compatibility announcement. Those who pre-order Fallout 4 on Xbox One will get a code to download Fallout 3, and those who pre-order Just Cause 3 will get Just Cause 2 for free.

It’s pretty easy to see how Microsoft can really gain an advantage with multiplatform games by having earlier installments come free with the Xbox One version. Just like Sony getting Destiny or Call of Duty DLC first on the PS4, this is something that will influence where people purchase their multiplatform games. And unlike the DLC, these free games won’t be coming to PS4 in most cases.

So, in addition to bringing your old library of Xbox 360 games back to life again, backward compatibility is giving Microsoft a chance to make their platform the place to play beloved third-party franchises in the future.

Another potential implication of this initiative could be the reduction of HD versions of old games. If companies can just put the old games on Xbox One through backward compatibility, they won’t need to dedicate resources to creating an updated version of the game.

Of course, Sony has the PlayStation Now service, but that currently carries fees. Now, if Sony decided to throw that in with your PlayStation Plus subscription, it might be a nice counter move.

Things are starting to get really interesting for this generation of consoles.