Microsoft’s Bill Stillwell discusses challenges Xbox One Backward Compatibility must overcome


14, 2017

Bill Stillwell is an Xbox Platform Lead and works on backward compatibility. This month has been somewhat low on backward compatibility reveals with no fan-favorite announcements for many weeks. Stillwell clarified the difficulty Microsoft faces not only when it comes to optimizing Xbox 360 games for Xbox One, but also renegotiating contacts with developers and publishers for their old titles.

Stillwell started off by reaffirming Microsoft’s commitment to the program and said he expects “big releases in the near future.” However, he stopped short of revealing which games were coming to the program because it’s not his place to communicate plans for third-party properties. Releasing a popular game through backward compatibility is quite the production because publishers want to target certain dates which coincide with sales or other events to make the most of the backward compatibility announcement. It can take months for certain titles to be revealed because that’s when a publisher thinks they’ll get the best returns.

There are other problems that Microsoft faces too. Some companies don’t want to make their games backward compatible and may stop working with Microsoft if they keep pushing for their release. Stillwell added, “We also have long-term business relationships, and want them to continue to deliver great new games to the console…It makes no sense to jeopardize that business relationship for a short-term boost.” Acquiescing to a publisher’s refusal to release a much-requested game on backward compatibility preserves cooperation.

A publisher’s refusal to release a backward compatible game isn’t the only issue the team faces when making these decisions. Every game has licensed technology, music and other integral parts which may be more than a decade old. Microsoft must negotiate with a multitude of other parties to renew and even change old contracts. These discussions can take a lot of time.

Lastly, just like Xbox One owners, the Backward Compatibility Team also wants to release every Xbox 360 game on Xbox One despite how impossible the task sounds. Stillwell ended his statement by saying his “team will continue to move towards making that a reality” for as long as they can. Customers just need to have a little patience.

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