Xbox Series X can add HDR and 120fps support to games through backward compatibility

Microsoft have revealed more about their plans for backward compatibility on Xbox Series X, going far, far beyond simply preserving games. Instead, the console can actively enhance some games to run at higher resolutions, higher frame rates and even add in HDR where there was none before.

Writing on, Jason Ronald, Director of Program Management for Xbox Series X said, “Backwards compatible games run natively on the Xbox Series X hardware, running with the full power of the CPU, GPU and the SSD. No boost mode, no downclocking, the full power of the Xbox Series X for each and every backward compatible game.”


At a base level, this will work to help iron out the kinks that many games have as they push their original console hardware to the limits. We’ve seen dynamic resolutions become standard, and even then frame rates struggle to meet their targets of 30fps or 60fps. Xbox Series X will help any and all games to run at their maximum resolution and at their target frame rate, and if the game is installed to the NVME SSD, load much quicker as well.

However, Microsoft haven’t been content to sit on their laurels here. As we’ve seen with backward compatibility on the current generation, they’re able to selectively enhance games through the emulation and compatibility process. For Xbox One X, Xbox 360 games could be enhanced to run at native 4K and to even have things like anisotropic filtering applied to smooth out textures. The same applied to original Xbox games, too.

For Xbox Series X, the Xbox Advanced Technology Group can go a step further, with a HDR reconstruction technique to feed HDR support into games with no penalty to performance. HDR was introduced to Xbox with the Xbox One S, but the concept has existed within game engines, resulting in bloom lighting and other visual effects. It’s possible that the Series X is able to analyse what the game is doing and adjust the colour balance on the fly. However it’s happening, it can be applied to Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. Digital Foundry previewed this technology back in March when applied to the HDR-less Halo 5 for Xbox One, but now Microsoft are plainly stating this will be universal.

Unlike Xbox One X Enhanced games, where titles were cherry-picked and enhanced, Microsoft say that things like HDR and Quick Resume support are on a platform level, requiring no additional work.

However, they will be having to be selective about the Series X’s other trick, to double the frame rate of games from 30fps to 60fps or from 60fps to 120fps – for this you will need a monitor or TV that supports 120Hz playback. They’ve improved their techniques for running older games at higher resolutions and with improved image quality, while also creating the ability to double the game’s frame rate. However, they will need to tread carefully and be selective with the games that it is applied to, and there are countless examples of games that tie in-game elements like physics or animation to the game’s frame rate.

Microsoft officially ended their backward compatibility programme for Xbox One around this time last year, adding one final batch of games to the line up. All of those games will also be supported by Series X, but Microsoft note in this new post that they will start considering new titles to dig out and re-release despite technical and licensing difficulties.

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Source: Xbox

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  1. Given they lost massive amounts of gamers at the start of this gen already, who now do not own a current XBox or any games for it, it’s not really anything that could win any people back, is it? Unless we speak about some games that usually have aged badly, of two or more generations back, which someone wants to resurrect as a cheap party howler.

    Microsoft, I recommend you start making an effort, now.

    • Spot the fanboy lol! This is a positive, pro consumer move…it’s a shame Sony hasn’t done anything worthwhile on this front. I’d love to go back and play some classics or stuff I missed. PS Now simply isn’t good enough in terms of resolution or input lag for me.

    • It’s a positive – I’ve loved being able to play some of my old favourites, like the original Red Dead and Gears of War 3, in 4K.

      I own those games, and being able to return to them with new enhancements, for free (!), is way beyond what any other provider is doing right now.

      • It’s nice to have, sure. But not something people are going to be using that much, is it? Didn’t MS release some numbers at one point that said “people are using it, but not much”?

        And it’s 600 games from the original Xbox and the 360. Plus the “thousands” of XBone games they mention. But then the PS5 will also have thousands of PS4 games that work on it. (Despite the desperate attempts by some people to deliberately misinterpret what Sony said and claim it’ll only be some games)

        MS really need to be doing a better job on the Series X. So far we’ve had “here’s a confusing new name and an ugly looking box” and then “we lied about showing off gameplay”. Plus the “no first party Series X only games”. And now we’ve got “well, it’ll play all your current gen games, plus some older ones”. Oh, and some “look how big our fairly meaningless numbers are”.

        Sony are being fairly quiet so far, but hopefully very soon they’ll just do something impressive. MS haven’t really done anything so bad that Sony can just win with a 10 second video like last time, but there’s lots of little things Sony could react to quite easily. Save them all up and unleash them all at once and it could look impressive.

        But it could still come down to who blinks first on price details.

      • I absolutely agree that the name is stupid, and the reveal on Xbox Series X stuff was terribly mishandled *but* the question of getting value out of stuff you own already is a big deal. I certainly don’t want to pay to play anything I already bought.

        Sony will be going for a big reveal, and I hope that it’s phenomenal. I just want to see that the majority of my games are going to work on it – I can even cross my fingers and hope that that extends from digital PS1 games all the way through.

        Can’t wait to see where the pricing goes, but I think it’s going to be really close.

      • Sony pooh-poohed BC a few years ago, but if it was so pointless, why would they highlight the specific optimisations they’re making in the PS5 to retain BC to PS4?

        I think MS definitely have a lead in being able to enhance older games though. Sony have only talked about ensuring compatibility so far, but Microsoft have again gone first on talking about enhancing older games beyond steadier frame rates. They can theoretically follow, but I don’t know if it sounds like they will.

  2. I agree, I think Microsoft really need to up things. The third party games reveal was disappointing but hopefully we’ll see more 1st party stuff soon that will show off those studios they aquired. I don’t think the messaging is as mixed as you make out….I think BC is a great feature, so what if it’s not a system seller, it’s all about the package you get with xbox – Live, game pass, play anywhere etc. Sony need to up their game also. The tech reveal thing was a misstep in my eyes, poor way to show off the first details off your console…even if it was aimed at tech people, they should have known better. I also wanna see something other than more third party action/adventure games.

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