Microsoft confirm backwards compatible games on Xbox Series S will use the Xbox One S versions

When the full specs of the Xbox Series S were revealed we noted that “The Series S has less of its speedier RAM (8GB) than the Xbox One X makes available to developers (9GB), and it also runs at 224GB/s compared to the One X’s 326GB/s. The implication is that for backward compatibility to Xbox One titles, the Series S would not be able to run games in the One X mode, and would instead step back to original Xbox One resolutions up to 1080p.”

That has now been confirmed by Microsoft, the Series S will not run the Xbox One X enhanced versions of games, and will instead revert to the base Xbox One S versions of the game.


Here’s Microsoft’s statement:

Xbox Series S was designed to be the most affordable next generation console and play next generation games at 1440P at 60fps. To deliver the highest quality backwards compatible experience consistent with the developer’s original intent, the Xbox Series S runs the Xbox One S version of backward compatible games while applying improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times and Auto HDR.

Microsoft do, however, explain that the Xbox Series S will run those games better than the original Xbox One hardware, pulling the same kinds of tricks that the Xbox Series X will. On the simplest level, this will allow games to run with more consistent frame rates and at the top end of the dynamic resolutions set by the developer. Games will also load quicker, especially when installed to the Series S’ internal SSD storage.

However, Xbox Series X | S backward compatibility can also overrule the original game coding and implement improved texture filtering, potentially double the game’s frame rate from 30Hz to 60Hz or from 60Hz to 120Hz, and implement an Auto HDR feature to add HDR to games not designed with it in mind.

Even so, it’s a strange sideways step from the Xbox One X to the Xbox Series S for anyone thinking of playing Xbox One games on the console.

In case you missed them, here are the full specs for the Series S and Series X.

Xbox Series XXbox Series S
CPU8-Core Zen 2 @ 3.8Ghz / 3.6Ghz w/ SMT8–Core Zen 2 @ 3.6Ghz / 3.4Ghz w/ SMT
GPURDNA 2 GPU – 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHzRDNA 2 – 20 CUs @ 1.565 GHz
Memory16 GB GDDR610 GB GDDR6
Memory Bandwidth10GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s8GB @ 224 GB/s, 2GB @ 56 GB/s
Performance Target4K @ 60 FPS, Up to 120 FPS1440p @ 60 FPS, Up to 120 FPS
Internal Storage1 TB PCIe Gen 4 NVME SSD512 GB PCIe Gen 4 NVME SSD
I/O Throughput2.4 GB/s (Raw), 4.8 GB/s (Compressed)2.4 GB/s (Raw), 4.8 GB/s (Compressed)
Expandable Storage1 TB NVME Expansion Card1 TB NVME Expansion Card
Optical Drive4K UHD Blu-Ray DriveDigital Only
Video OutputHDMI 2.1 – Up to 4K at 120Hz, 8K, VRRHDMI 2.1 – Up to 4K at 120Hz, 8K, VRR
Backward CompatibilityXbox One, Xbox 360, XboxXbox One, Xbox 360, Xbox
Availability10th November 202010th November 2020
Price$499 / £449 / €499$299 / £249 / €299


Source: Gamespew

Written by
News Editor, very inappropriate, probs fancies your dad.


  1. Wait, so the Series S, being sold as a “next gen” console, can’t play the One X version?

    • And just because they cut corners on the memory. How much more would it have cost to put enough memory in? Maybe made it £299 instead of £249.

      Sony just need to point out that both PS5s run PS4 games in their Pro mode. Or better. Which is presumably the case. Hopefully they’ll reveal everything soon. Next week seems possible, having had a week for the internet to work out everything Sony need to make a point of addressing. MS might regret blinking first, especially given how quickly the reaction seems to have gone from “That’s impressively cheap” to “Let’s see what Sony have to say”.

  2. So is the Series S below the One X? I’m genuinely confused by the Microsoft line up of consoles. Between the naming convention and letters to the pricing and teraflops it gets confusing. Its similar to mobile phone handsets and their confusing model numbers.

  3. You missed the part where MS day the Series S will apply its own enhancements to these games. Microsoft says players can expect to see “improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times and Auto HDR”.

    So whilst not quite the Xbox Series X enhancements (building on the Xbox One X enhancements) the Series S will still play Xbox One and back-compact games better than the native system, probably making Xbox One games finally look/run as good as their PS4 counterparts a generation later.

    • That was in the quote from MS, but yeah, I’ll make that a touch clearer.

    • It might help to some extent. Although there’s a good chance it’ll run into problems with some games that end up getting confused by things running faster.

      And it’s not going to be as good an option as running the One X enhanced version where the developers make the choice of where to put the extra power to use.

  4. I don’t see it being a big issue, anyone opting for the series S is probably not going to be counting the pixels anyway.

  5. It’s funny how big an emphasis is on backwards compatibility this time around compared to last gen.

    • Well, MS need some games for the X/S. So that’s why they’re making a big deal of it. Even while releasing a cheaper console that confuses things a bit.

      Sony don’t need it as much, but if it’s trivial to do because there’s no change in the hardware other than lots more power, they might as well include it. They’ve not exactly made a big deal out of it, other than saying it’s a thing and they expect most games to be compatible. Compared to MS and their claim that everything is compatible, even if they clearly haven’t tested everything to back up that claim.

      • Ha ha. I think it’s more people like you making a big thing of it than Microsoft. But you do you.

  6. The fact that I can play 4 generations of Xbox games on one system with some great enhancements, some older games now running in 4K, flipped my purchasing decision for next gen. The price of the Series X is stupidly low, it is on paper the more powerful and Game Pass is great value. I can’t see devs making 3rd party cross platform games taking advantage of the PS5 SSD nor Xbox Velocity Architecture, so in raw power terms I expect games to look and play best on Series X with the added value of enhancements to older games, Game Pass and last gens accessories still compatible.
    When it came to the my One X vs my Pro – the One X looked and ran much better for 3rd party games. Though PS exclusives blew all other games out the water. Had Sony announced full backwards compatibility and perhaps made all PS Now games run natively too, I would have been more inclined to use PS5 as the main system and Xbox for Forza and Fable. As it has panned out, the Series X for most my gaming, accompanied by the PS5 for mind blowing exclusives, and a Switch because my kids love beating me at Mario Party, is where I’m at.

    On the flip side, for those wanting to do the opposite and have PS5 their main system but get a cheap way into Xbox and Game Pass – the Series S is perfect and we’ll cheap. I can’t help but think MS knows this and hence it exists.

    Let’s be real, PS5 is going to dominate, their exclusives are second to none. But I feel Xbox is in a great place, not to beat PlayStation, rather to be a very tempting cheaper way into MS Studio games and with great fidelity be it Series X or PC.

    • Why wouldn’t devs take advantage of all that SSD speed? Sony and MS both have it, so designing games to take advantage of it would apply to both. Actual implementation will be different, but that’s relatively easy to work around. It’ll just be a different API each console is using to get the same results, and you can probably wrap that up in something else in whatever engine you’re using to hide the differences.

      So I’d expect to see all next-gen games taking advantage of it. And Sony has a slight advantage with the theoretical speed, although I suspect in most cases you won’t be able to tell the difference. Possibly with the whole resuming games from where you left off thing, where it could be loading the entire 16GB of memory from the SSD, it might take 3 seconds on the Series X and 2 seconds on the PS5. And those SSD speeds are apparently an average speed, with a maximum speed being a lot higher (which it could possibly reach loading a big 16GB chunk of data straight into memory)

      Memory speed is a bit faster on the X, but I’m not sure that’s going to make a huge difference.

      And the GPUs are different. Not sure how that’ll work out in practice. 44% more CUs running at 80% of the speed? If you’re not using all those extra CUs, it’ll be slower. If there’s only so much work to do, the X might have a lot of unused power while that work gets done at a slower speed.

      We’ll probably find that some engines work better on each console, multi-platform titles are near enough identical and exclusives on both platforms really take advantage of the hardware. And the Series S will sell quite well at that price while MS count all sales as “XBox sales” to get close to the PS5 sales.

      Plus we still need to wait to see what else Sony have to say, along with their price and release date.

      • The same reasons 3rd party devs didn’t take full advantage of the One X power, Dolby Atmos, PS 3D Audio (Platinums), touchpad/gyro controls 3rd – cost/time. They created games for XB1/PS4 and scaled them up. Both the Pro and X we’re capable of much more and the majority of games besides exclusives tapped into their power. Only Wolfenstein II and Far Cry 5 took advantage of the Rapid Pack Maths on Pro, which closed the gap significantly with the XBX versions. Tomb Raider and Monster Hunter tapped into Atmos and 3D Audio. But most 3rd party devs pretty much pushed more pixels and some bits and bobs to make enhanced versions more shiny.

        The SSD in both will of course make for better games, but I’m not confident 3rd Party devs will harness the true benefits of the PS5 SSD if they are making the same game for Xbox/PC. The same with Velocity Architecture in Series X (unless it is really easy to use). They’ll most likely just develop the game, slap it on both systems and let the raw grunt decide fidelity.
        If it is a repeat of this gen, then I’d expect most games to run and look better on Series X, and unless MS Studios really work the system the PS exclusive devs will once again develop the best looking games on console.
        There will be a few exceptions, most likely Unreal engine developed games that will harness the way better PS5 SSD.

        Another thing to consider is what system MS are going to use for xCloud. With MS pushing it so heavily games may be targeting much lower specs and simply scaling up.

        Watch Project Cars 3 analysis on digital foundry, a perfect example of scaling for 4 systems with the 2 more powerful systems under utilised beside a resolution bump and better FPS. Yet it is easy to understand why any dev would be deterred from targeting each system separately.

      • But both the PS5 and the Series X have all that SSD speed, with hopefully nice simple APIs for devs to use to harness that power. MS have given their version a silly name, and Sony have possibly gone a bit overboard with the speed of the thing.

        Any multiplatform games using some 3rd party engine will probably never have to worry about the difference. They’ll ask the engine to load some data, and that takes care of it on both platforms. PC versions may end up suffering from a general lack of SSD speeds.

        Same with the fancy 3d audio. Both consoles will do it, and someone else will have taken care of the differences. All the devs have to do is tell their preferred engine “play this bit of audio over there”. The engine then takes care of sending that audio to the PS5 which does it’s magic with it’s silly named audio engine, or the Series X does it however it does it.

        Both consoles have both the fancy 3D audio and the SSD, so there’s no reason not to use them. Except possibly for PC ports. The audio at least should neatly fall back on more traditional methods.

        They don’t really need to target each system individually if they both do the same things. Well, someone needs to do it, at least once. Probably abstracting it all away in Unreal or whatever other engine they might want to use.

        If we follow the logic of “developers are lazy” (which is a reasonable assumption), the main issue could be the GPU. If it’s got to run on both platforms, will the Series X end up with 16 of it’s 52 CUs doing nothing because they’re not there on the PS5? And the 36 used on the PS5 running faster than the ones on the Series X.

        The SSD and audio are probably simple for devs to work with across both platforms. If Sony and MS have done a good enough job of all the APIs needed to access them. The names will be different, but they’ll do the same thing. The GPU has a much bigger difference that could make things complicated.

        I agree with you on the One X and PS4 not necessarily taking full advantage of various features only the 1 platform has. That may be more down to a limited audience. Who wants to add a feature that only works on one Sony headset?

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