Once upon a time, if you wanted to play multiplayer on a game console, you had to do it with a common television and multiple controllers. This worked plenty well, if you had the right setup — I spent more than a few nights at college slugging it out against friends in Mario Kart — but local multiplayer on a common screen has been superseded by remote multiplayer across multiple consoles in many titles.
Whether one option or the other is “better” is a topic best evaluated on a game-by-game basis, but plenty of gamers have wished for more cooperative or split-screen options when playing. Now, according to Microsoft’s E3 show, some of those options are coming back to the Xbox One. Marketing director head Alex Penello confirmed in a tweet that these options would be available across all four Xbox platforms (the first Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One / One S, and the upcoming Xbox One X).
Your original Xbox discs will work. Digital licenses will carry over. AND you can system-link play across all three generations.
— Albert Penello (@albertpenello) June 12, 2017
Of course, just because you can cross-play across all four products doesn’t mean this will be the smoothest or best way to experience any given game. The Xbox 360 emulation in the Xbox One sometimes produces results that are superior to the Xbox 360’s own native performance. Now, stretch that back a further generation, to the original Xbox, and you’ve got a system that can easily be emulated on a modern platform. The 2001 console had a single-core Pentium III clocked at 733MHz, just 64MB of DDR RAM, and 6.4GB/s of memory bandwidth. The GPU was a GeForce 2 MX (budget GeForce 2) GPU clocked at 233MHz — all of which is to say, you could more or less emulate the original Xbox on your average toaster.
According to Penello, all configuration options will be supported. “You can actually system link an OG Xbox, an Xbox 360, an Xbox One, and an Xbox One X, and do four-player system-link LAN play with all original disks across three generations of consoles,” he said on IGN’s live show.
Penello also implied that some Xbox games could get a graphical upgrade when they are updated and ported to the newly backwards-compatible Xbox One. “If you saw Crimson Skies on the screen today, it looks great,” he said. “We’re not talking in detail right now, but the team has some tricks up their sleeve, and I think when the OG Xbox games show up, people are going to be very impressed.”
Microsoft has previously offered some details on how the Xbox One X could deliver improved visuals on existing Xbox One games at 1080p, including better antialiasing support via supersampling. Trying to update 16 year-old games to look like their best selves would be a tall order, however. Not only will these games be running at much higher resolutions and on much larger screens than they were designed for, the Xbox launched at a time when CRTs, not LCDs, were still the primary screen technology available on the consumer market.
Microsoft is absolutely capable of tweaking game presentation and assets to improve the final output compared with what we saw in 2001. But it’s not clear if the company will simply do this via some filter presets, or if it’ll actually update game assets to improve how games look and feel.
The Xbox One X is scheduled to go on sale on November 7, for $ 499.
Now read: The best free games on the Xbox One