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Xbox 2 compatibility with Xbox

Apparently Xbox 2 won't be back-compatible with Xbox- unlike PS3 to PS2.

Isn't that something really stupid to do (although it cuts tons of problems from (re)start)?

Cristian Cheran
Sunday, March 28, 2004

not sure if it is stupid.

I am not aware of the buying patterns of the typical gamer..so this might sound stupid, but what is the % of people buying a PS3 when they already have PS2 and the time frame is less than 3 years since they bought their PS2?

thoughts?

Prakash S
Sunday, March 28, 2004

There is a rumour that Microsoft are thinking about integrating Virtual PC into the Xbox2 in order to solve that problem. This could also be an explanation for why the PowerPC (Mac) version of Virtual PC 7 is still under development (fall this year is what I heard as release date).

Assuming Microsoft integrated as much as possible of the emulated environment natively on the PowerPC architecture and allows for direct access to the video hardware (for the emulator), this might very well be fast enough.

Leauki (Andrew J. Brehm)
Sunday, March 28, 2004

Many of the design decisions about the XBox2 are bizarre.

3 3.5GHz G5 processors?  No HD? ATI graphics chip which can read directly from the CPU cache?

Architecturally, it's more like I would expect a GameCube2 to look like rather than an XBox2

And it's kinda humorous to see Microsoft shipping Apple Power Mac G5 as XBox2 devkits. 

If backwards compatibility were to be a feature, it would have to be via some sort of run-time.  Integrating Virtual PC into the XBox2 would seem to make a lot of sense.

Immature programmer
Sunday, March 28, 2004

"Architecturally, it's more like I would expect a GameCube2 to look like rather than an XBox2"

Guess Microsoft decided they didn't want to make a pirate's paradise platform after all...

Chris Nahr
Sunday, March 28, 2004

It depends...  if XBox 2 is a lot more innovative than the current version and integrates some of the big media center features like dvr, mp3 playing and photo viewing etc... no one will care.  If it's closer to the PS2 which was just a better game system (vs the PS1) I think it's a mistake.

chris
Sunday, March 28, 2004

A new console that plays your old library of games is always a good thing.  Microsoft has utterly failed with the Xbox and will have to crap a golden egg with xbox2.  Watch for a different model all together.

They can't beat Sony by making a better console.  I think they will try to make a bunch of stuff current consoles don't do easy to do with the xbox.  Microsoft tends to do best when they are the only product in the market.  So they will try to invent technology and shape the market around that rather than making a better game console as consoles exist today.

Mike
Sunday, March 28, 2004

By refusing the backward compatibility with Xbox, they will enrage the current Xbox owners which are the first customers they would get otherwise. Why? Not only they already adhered to the MS product (and stuffed lots of money into various titles) but they happen to be early adopters that are also friendly to Microsoft.

Hopefully this Virtual PC thing will be the solution. Another element that frightens me is the lack of HDD. Huh? How in the world will they actually do an economically feasible PVR without a HDD? Will they sell an external USB2.0 HDD? Will they rely upon user's PCs HDD?

Cristian Cheran
Sunday, March 28, 2004

One more point that keeps coming up in my mind...

As Joel said in one of his articles, "smart companies try to commoditize their products' complements". Since Microsoft are a very smart company, it must mean (or has to) that Microsoft are trying to do exactly that.

The commodity in question here is, of course, the CPU. Microsoft used to have it good, what with Intel, AMD, and others (Cyrix?) producing interchangeable CPUs for Windows to run on. But Cyrix seem to have been left behind and Intel and AMD CPUs are no longer as interchangeable as they used to be.

So Microsoft added a new third CPU to the mix, if only for their game console, in order to show Intel and AMD that it is Microsoft, not Intel or AMD, who float on the top. When the Xbox2 becomes an established platform, Microsoft will have a third hardware platform to move to, just in case.

Microsoft have a history of supporting several hardware platforms whenever the future is not quite clear. When the 486 was to be replaced, Microsoft bet on the Pentium, MIPS, PowerPC, and Alpha architectures with NT 3.5 and NT 4. Now, with the Opteron, Itanium, and G5 (and the other 64 bit CPUs still there), Microsoft seem to go with at least three of them again. This secures Microsoft not only a selection of more or less interchangeable CPUs for their software platform but also an exit strategy should one or more of the architectures fail to produce faster CPUs at some point.

I am sure Microsoft maintained their non-x86 ports of Windows NT internally for all these years. The NT port used in the XDK and, presumably, on the Xbox2 when it is available, is very probably a continuation of their original 32 bit NT port for the PowerPC architecture back in 1994.

As for Virtual PC, maybe the Mac version will be able to run Win32/x86 games, just to eliminate one more reason to make games portable.

Leauki (Andrew J. Brehm)
Sunday, March 28, 2004

Historically not many consoles have been backwards-compatible. None of the Nintendo systems were (except Gameboy). PS1->PS2 was surprising.

Dan Maas
Monday, March 29, 2004

Microsoft will beat the hell out of Sony.

Why?

Because they will make the new SDKs which will allow developers to distribute games easily on PCs and XBOX2.

Thus the costs of releasing a game on both platforms will be lower.

If MS plays this right for a couple of years, XBOX consoles will sell a lot more than the Sony consoles.

MX
Monday, March 29, 2004

The PS1 & PS2 compatibility was a *huge* selling point for the console.  Who wants to buy a console if they'll have to replace all their games.

With full backwards compatibility you know you only have to buy 1 game with your console, and all your earlier ones will still keep you entertained until your next excursion.

It also enables trade in offers.  Trade in your PSOne and get 200 off a PS2. 

It's the reason I bought one.

Koz
Monday, March 29, 2004

If a company can develop a title and run it on two platforms: XBOX 2 and PC, then a lot more companies are going to write games for XBOX 2 because of the reduced cost.

I think that Microsoft learned a lot from the XBOX 1 release, and is now starting to play really tough.

MX
Monday, March 29, 2004

So the tradeoff that we have now is:

XNA (unified game development for Xbox and PC)
vs.
Xbox back-compatibility

Well, it might work; but they will certainly have a hard time when they will enrage 10M users, most of them gamers and/or early adopters.

And the missing HDD thing remains weird anyway. I personally wouldn't love to be involved in this Xbox project. I am not saying that MS is doing obvious mistakes (like Nokia with N-Gage) only that these moves are too bold for my taste.

Cristian Cheran
Monday, March 29, 2004

Wht is NGage a mistake?

I would love to have one!

Not for the games, but for the absolutely fantastic features: radio, MP3 player, e-mail, etc.

I think I shall settle for a Nokia 6820, tough. A full QWERTY keyboard in such a small package is hard to beat.

The Nokia 9500 Communicator is also fantastic, but a bit too big for my taste.

MX
Monday, March 29, 2004

Who cares if Xbox2 doesn't play xbox1 games.  2 kinds of people will buy Xbox2:
A: People who own xbox1.
B: People who don't.
Type A people aren't throwing out their xbox1.  Type B people are buying xbox2 to play the latest and greatest games not old ones.  I own an Xbox and I care about playing the latest games, not the old and busted ones.

K
Monday, March 29, 2004

"Wht is NGage a mistake? I would love to have one!"

Really?  http://www.sidetalkin.com/

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 29, 2004

"I own an Xbox and I care about playing the latest games, not the old and busted ones."

I do not own an XBOX, but I find myself playing "old and wonderful" games on my PC all the time.  I still play X-COM, Master of Orion, Transport Tycoon, Warcraft 2, as well as "new" games like Civ3.  I play Descent for Playstation on my PS2, even though I never owned a PS1.  Compatibility with the original Playstation was a major reason I bought the PS2: there is a vast library of games: I can go to the discount rack of the game store and buy a game for $5 that provides hours upon hours of enjoyment, as well as the latest and greatest (Grand Theft Auto, Gran Turismo, and the like).

There are some XBOX games I like, but I'm not going to buy one when the Xbox2, which may not play the current games, is right around the corner.  I also don't want to have to manage three or four consoles, when two will suffice.

joev
Monday, March 29, 2004

I'm extremely skeptical of everything I've read about Xbox 2 except from official Microsoft press releases -- and I wouldn't be surprised if the latter have been misleading. The rumors are way too bizarre; I wouldn't be at all surprised if the console Microsoft actually launches has a hard drive, one x86 CPU (a single, single-core CPU gets the best performance/$ in client systems), and is backward-compatible with the Xbox.

Dave Rothgery
Monday, March 29, 2004

"Microsoft actually launches has a hard drive, one x86 CPU (a single, single-core CPU gets the best performance/$ in client systems), and is backward-compatible with the Xbox."

Microsoft has released the preliminary XBox2 SDK on Apple G5 systems, so I think the x86 CPU is out.

A company has already announced that it will be supplying the flash memory chip that will replace the harddrive for the XBox2.

These two facts alone pretty much point to the Xbox2 not being compatible with the original Xbox.  Compatibily between system versions is a relatively new concept (only the gameboy and the playstation have had it) and Microsoft might simply be willing to take the chance. 

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 29, 2004

"These two facts alone pretty much point to the Xbox2 not being compatible with the original Xbox."

Not really.  It's not like the PS2 CPU was simply a newer version of the PS1.  In fact I'm pretty sure that the way the PS2 achieved backwards compatibility was to essentially embed a version of the PS1 in the system.  It is certainly possible that MS will try to achieve backwards compatibility via emulation of some sort.

However, I'm not sure that it is really all that important for them to do so, in the long run.  Backwards compatibility is a plus when the system is first released and doesn't have a large library of games on its own, but after a while it becomes less and less important.

It is hard to use PS2 as an example of backwards compatibility being a big success, because it had a number of other advantages, not the least of which was being released a year or two before the GameCube or XBox

MikeMcNertney
Monday, March 29, 2004

"In fact I'm pretty sure that the way the PS2 achieved backwards compatibility was to essentially embed a version of the PS1 in the system."

The audio processor of the PS2 is essentially all the PS1 hardware.  So yes, the PS1 is embedded in the PS2.

The Xbox is a bit more difficult.  They can't embed an NVidia graphics core, an x86 chip, and a harddrive in the same box as an ATI core and a PowerPC chip and expect to make it affordable.

And because console games are (mostly) written directly to the hardware, emulation (at any level of performance) is going to be impossible.  They would have to emulate the Nvidia graphics core (not just the x86 CPU) to make it doable.

I wonder if the PS3 will be backwards compatible with the PS2?  To achieve that, they'll have to embed the whole PS2 into the PS3 -- depending on the cost factor that might not be possible either.

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 29, 2004

"And because console games are (mostly) written directly to the hardware, emulation (at any level of performance) is going to be impossible.  They would have to emulate the Nvidia graphics core (not just the x86 CPU) to make it doable."

Are they? I thought Microsoft tried to convince game vendors to use DirectX? Certainly DirectX calls can be routed through an emulator? And maybe the video card won't have to be emulated, maybe they use a compatible video card?

I can only imagine that Microsoft chose the G5 for a reason, and given that they have almost two years to develop Virtual PC for the G5 (from early last year to late this year) I am positive they are at least trying to make the Xbox2 backwards compatible.

Leauki (Andrew J. Brehm)
Monday, March 29, 2004

"I thought Microsoft tried to convince game vendors to use DirectX?"

The original purpose of providing DirectX support was to facilitate easy porting of PC games.  I'm sure that lots of game developers use it but I imagine the more complex and graphically intensive the game is, the less likely they are going through directX. 

"Certainly DirectX calls can be routed through an emulator?"

Certainly.

"And maybe the video card won't have to be emulated, maybe they use a compatible video card?"

They cannot.  NVidia isn't going to give up any of its valuable IP to ATI so they can make a compatible graphics core.

The problem is, the emulation will have to be 100% or not at all.  If games don't run, have graphics glitches, or crash then it's not acceptable.  Virtual PC is used for emulating applications that play nice.  Games do strange things like directly access hardware!

"I can only imagine that Microsoft chose the G5 for a reason"

The reason is because the XBox2 will run on a POWER based chip from IBM.  And the G5 is a POWER based chip from IBM.

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 29, 2004

I recently purchased an X-Box (after it dropped to $179) and have a handful of games.  With XB2 close on the horizon and if rumours of backwards incomapatability are true it makes me hesitant to buy any more games at $50/ea.

True, a lot of the older ones are now at $20 levels -- but why would I buy Halo 2 at $50 when XB2 will be out less than a year later?

MR
Monday, March 29, 2004

"I recently purchased an X-Box (after it dropped to $179) and have a handful of games."

When the X-Box2 is released will your X-Box spontaneously combust?!?

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 29, 2004

I hope not -- but it'll mean that XB1 will receive no further development and means that I will be disinclined to purchase XB2.  From a strategic standpoint I guess they're willing to make that trade off from the cost of back-porting to the cost of lost sales.

...

Who am I kidding -- I'm going to buy XB2 when it comes out anyway.  I just wanted to not have to hook two systems up, because my TV can't handle it.  :)

MR
Monday, March 29, 2004

" I just wanted to not have to hook two systems up, because my TV can't handle it.  :)"

Maybe Microsoft will include a pass-thru connector for the original X-box on the X-box2..  ;)

I have a Gamecube...  so this is all purely academic to me!

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 29, 2004

"but it'll mean that XB1 will receive no further development"

So you're hesitant to buy a game _now_, because you're scared there will be fewer games to buy in the future?

You've already bought the hardware - why on earth would you not buy games for it?

You shouldn't care about backwards [in]compatibility - you already have an Xbox 1.

a
Monday, March 29, 2004

When I bought my PS-2 it was nice to choose from the larger selection and variety of PS-1 games. PS-2 games are generally funner, but at the beginning there weren't as many.

If I had a choice between Xbox2 and PS-3 I would want the PS-3 (assuming it also handles ps2 stuff). I'm not shelling out another $300 just for the new fighting/racing/illegal racing/snowboarding/military/fps/etc... games. When my friends stop by everyone has their favorite type of game. So I would want to keep all available. And I'm not plugging in 2 consoles to my TV either. That's just wasted space and a big hassle.

If neither one is compatible I'll just wait for Xbox3 or PS-4. I don't play enough games to care.

NathanJ
Monday, March 29, 2004

As near as I can tell, the source for "no hard drive" is an interview with the flash memory company's CEO for an obscure magazine, and the Power Mac G5 dev kit stories all seem to be rehashes from The Inquirer. Maybe it's just me, but I just don't have much trust in that kind of story, when it defies all common sense.

Dave Rothgery
Monday, March 29, 2004

"Maybe it's just me, but I just don't have much trust in that kind of story, when it defies all common sense."

Good sources:

Next Xbox to skip hard drive?
http://news.com.com/2100-1043-5164992.html?

Microsoft to use IBM chips in next Xbox
http://news.com.com/2100-1043-5101146.html

There are more...  takes a few seconds to google.

Almost Anonymous
Monday, March 29, 2004

They (MS) are probably going to try the same thing they've done with other products ... drop support and stop selling the old in order to coerce people into buying the new.  That means when the Xbox2 arrives, they will stop selling the original Xbox and stop giving Xbox development licenses to game companies.

Unfortunately for them, their lack of a monopoly in this arena may mean such tactics won't be effective.

T. Norman
Monday, March 29, 2004

DirectX is a hardware abstraction layer.  I don't anything anyone's been directly manipulating video hardware registers since DirectX came out. 

The DirectX API works with a device driver to write to the video card.  If the device driver doesn't provide some feature, DirectX will attempt to emulate it using its HEL (hardware emulation layer).  Of course, emulation only works for bad cards that don't provide certain easy-to-implement features.

The point is that you can easily exchange the NVidia chip for an ATI.  Hardware independence is the point of DirectX.

The exception is that both ATI and NVidia sort of have their own assembly languages now for hardware transform and lighting.  These probably aren't compatible, but it should be possible to rewire one to the other.


Monday, March 29, 2004

"DirectX is a hardware abstraction layer.  I don't anything anyone's been directly manipulating video hardware registers since DirectX came out."

On consoles, they do it all the time.  On PC's you can't do that because every video card is different -- hence the need for a HAL.

Almost Anonymous
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"Because they will make the new SDKs which will allow developers to distribute games easily on PCs and XBOX2."

Irrelevant.  Development difficulty has never been related to market success.

"Thus the costs of releasing a game on both platforms will be lower."

Irrelevant.  90% of game development costs are in content creation, which is platform independent.

Junkster
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"And because console games are (mostly) written directly to the hardware, emulation (at any level of performance) is going to be impossible.  They would have to emulate the Nvidia graphics core (not just the x86 CPU) to make it doable."

Are you kidding?  There are console emulators all over the place.  Now, they aren't generally for the latest consoles for a couple reasons (mainly the lack of power to emulate them, and the time it takes for a hobbyist to develop an emulator).  The newer hardware is more complicated, but it also probably provides some higher level APIs.  I wouldn't doubt the ability of the XBox2 team to emulate the XBox.  Whether the new system will have the power to do so, or whether they think this is important enough to dedicate the time on, I can't say

Someone mentioned the thing about xbox <-> PC porting.  That whole thing ended up being a sham.  The fact is that ports between consoles and PC require a lot of work to do right, no matter what the architecture of the systems.  Sure maybe XBox was slightly easier than PS2, but it was still a lot of work, so what you ended up with mostly was PC games that sucked because they were designed for a console.  Meanwhile you have groups like the Prince of Persia team proving that they can develop a good game for 4 platforms simultaneously despite drastic differences between the 4.

MikeMcNertney
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"Are you kidding?  There are console emulators all over the place.  Now, they aren't generally for the latest consoles for a couple reasons (mainly the lack of power to emulate them, and the time it takes for a hobbyist to develop an emulator)."

The question is...  will the Xbox2 be powerful enough to fully emulate an Xbox (and all hardware it contains).  Furthermore, can Microsoft do the emulation without trampling on Nvidia IP (perhaps they have deal)?

The early reports say the Microsoft will attempt emulation -- so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Almost Anonymous
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"By refusing the backward compatibility with Xbox, they will enrage the current Xbox owners which are the first customers they would get otherwise."

Erm... wouldn't "current Xbox owners"... already HAVE an XBox1?  So why do they need their XBox 2's to play Xbox1 games?

I don't understand why game consoles need to be backwards-compatible.  If I'm buying a shiny new system, I want to play shiny new games, not ones from 3 years ago.  From an engineering standpoint, the more time they spend on backwards compatibility, the less time they can spend on new functionality- and it generally means design compromises and/or an increase in part counts, which translates into higher costs.

Other successful consumer electronics innovations have never been compatible.  CD players didn't play vinyl.  DVD players don't play VHS tapes.  My 2001 Honda Prelude won't accept parts from a 1979 Honda Civic.

I'm not saying it's useles- heck, it WOULD be nice to have one box in front of my TV that plays everrrrything.  But of all the successful game consoles in history, only one has been backwards-compatible, and that's the PS2. 

John Rose
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

> Erm... wouldn't "current Xbox owners"...
> already HAVE an XBox1? 
> So why do they need their XBox 2's to play Xbox1
> games?

Do you keep your old PC after you buy a new one? Then: aren't there tons of consumer electronics boxes already, do you need another one? Maybe you want to sell it or to donate to somebody else?


> I don't understand why game consoles need to be
> backwards-compatible. 
> If I'm buying a shiny new system, I want to play shiny
> new games, not ones from 3 years ago

That might be true 3 years after you launch Xbox2. But when it's just launched and there aren't enough titles on the market, what do you do?

Also: keep in mind that players are after big titles most of the time (surprise: just like in software and computers). I might want to play the huge success Counter-Strike: but no, too bad, the Xbox2 version is not ready and I have to gear up the old box after I paid $300 (alleged price of Xbox2).


> Other successful consumer electronics innovations
> have never been compatible

We're talking of a hybrid between the convergence of consumer electronics with computers: a game console. Somehow the "computers" part of it may bring some rules from this culture (see the "old software/killer games" comments above)


> But of all the successful game consoles in history,
> only one has been backwards-compatible, and that's the PS2.

Not accidentally the one product that (re)invented the console and certainly invented the market as we know it.


<In the end: "I started to love Big Brother" ;)>

Given all my comments, I must say that in the latest days I started to buy their non-compatibility vision. After all, they have just 13M users to annoy (unlike 70M of PS2's), most of them won't be that upset anyway and there is historic precedent to that (so they would defend when accused by public voices).

Between having backwards comp. and releasing the cross-platfrom XNA SDK (for PC and Xbox 2) I would go with the latter. Especially if I would have some billions cash in bank :)

So: congratulations, Microsoft! I deeply, deeply love Big Brother!

Disclaimer: I am no implying that MS is spying on us or something really Big-Brotherish, I am referring to surrendering your opinions to almighties, like in the end of the "1984" novel.

Cristian Cheran
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"That might be true 3 years after you launch Xbox2. But when it's just launched and there aren't enough titles on the market, what do you do?"

I play my Xbox 1 games.  On my Xbox 1.  If there aren't enough titles that you want on the market for Xbox 2, then (and here's the tricky part), don't buy an Xbox 2.

"Also: keep in mind that players are after big titles most of the time (surprise: just like in software and computers). I might want to play the huge success Counter-Strike: but no, too bad, the Xbox2 version is not ready and I have to gear up the old box after I paid $300 (alleged price of Xbox2)."

WTF?  Are people really that lazy or space constrained that they cannot have two consoles plugged into one television?

Microsoft should just do a Xbox 2 launch promotion where if you buy both consoles (Xbox 2 & Xbox 1) you get the Xbox 1 50% off.  It's really the same thing.

Maybe it's something that I'm just not understanding, but people who state they will not buy console x because it is not backwards compatible with console x-1 just don't make sense to me.  They must be the ones who buy those TVs that have VCRs built into them.

a
Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I don't get it either. Backwards compatibility was a huge argument for PS2 and GBA because there was a gigantic library of popular titles for their respective predecessors.

The Xbox just isn't that popular, and its library is comparatively tiny. On top of that, its handful of classics are available on the PC, so people without the first Xbox could still play them. Putting in backwards compatibility in that situation would be like Nintendo making the Gamecube compatible with the N64. It's just not worth the effort.

Then again, the Xbox is the console for people who hate consoles -- people who hadn't touched a console ever, or not since Atari or NES days, now went out and bought a console because it was made by Microsoft.

Perhaps these first-time console users carry over expectations from the Windows PC world (upgradeable, endlessly backwards compatible...) that are simply unrealistic in the console world. Like one poster who said he bought an Xbox on the _expectation_ that games would be published. Well, that's just the wrong thing to do in the console world.

You buy consoles for their _existing_ titles only, precisely because you can't upgrade them, the successor is likely to be incompatible, and they are closed systems that might be discontinued without warning, at which point _nobody_ will be able to publish another game for them (you need the system maker's permission and duplication technology for that).

Chris Nahr
Thursday, April 01, 2004

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