For the current generation of consoles, Sony and Microsoft have the same problem on their hands – both the PS4 and the Xbox One are based on the X86 processor architecture, whereas both of their previous products were based on IBM’s PowerPC acrhitecture, which is very different from anything else on the market. Both the PS4 and the Xbox One already have a decent library of titles to choose from, but both brands have an incredible back catalog of games that they could emulate or otherwise offer backwards compatibility for.
While Sony works out the kinks for PS Now and deals with PS1 and PS2 emulation on the PS4, Microsoft is doing its part in the matter and is investigating the chances of emulating Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One.
Speaking to attendees at a lecture held by Microsoft’s Partner and Development Lead for Xbox, Frank Savage at the 2014 Game Developer’s Conference, Savage told the audience that Microsoft was currently investigating a PowerPC emulator for the console and admits that the project is still getting around issues with the emulator and identifying cost-effective solutions.
“We’re not done thinking them through yet, unfortunately,” Savage replied. “It turns out to be hard to emulate the PowerPC stuff on the X86 stuff. So there’s nothing to announce, but I would love to see it myself.”
This is the first indication that Microsoft is looking into the emulation issue. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem for original Xbox games because the original Xbox had a X86-based Intel Pentium III processor and a Nvidia Geforce NV2A graphics chip (equivalent to a Geforce 3 GPU but based on Geforce 2 hardware).
In the past, Microsoft has also said that it would be watching Sony very closely to see how they address the issue and for now, it looks like the way out for the Japanese giant is through their Gaikai streaming services, using modified Playstation 3 hardware to stream games to PS Now subscribers on a range of devices.
It may be the case that Microsoft would have to move in the same direction, using game streaming with customised Xbox 360 hardware to provide backwards compatibility. At least the expanded and upgraded Xbox Live service should be able to handle such a task with ease.