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If you owned an Xbox 360, ‘free’ games may be waiting on the Xbox One

Backwards compatibility will only make Xbox better

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The crisp September air! Nature’s reminder to pillage the basement for the leaf blower and that college moving box you’re still using to store fall clothes.

I love this ritual, because every year I leave it a little bit richer. I try on my fall jacket, you know, to make sure my belly hasn’t outgrown it, and inside the front pocket I find a familiar present: a crumpled $10 bill.

I’m being honest when I say that I never purposefully plant the cash, it just sort of happens year after year, a subconscious gift from old me to new me.

Fortuitously enough, a similar thing happened to me this past weekend when I turned on my Xbox One to fulfill my other fall tradition of buying the new Madden. In my Xbox One’s download menu I found 47 games waiting to be added to my hard drive. This is, I admit, far better than a 10-spot.

Most of the 47 games I’d purchased for the Xbox 360 years ago. But thanks to Microsoft’s gradual rollout of backwards compatibility, I can now download and play them on my Xbox One.

In theory, this shouldn’t be a surprise: Microsoft is banking its future on the idea of a universal, persistent software ecosystem, in which the games you buy today will work on the hardware you by tomorrow. I’ve heard the promises. Heck, I wrote a full feature on them.

Spelunky, Red Dead Redemption, and Castle Crashers were waiting to be found

But in practice, having locked my Xbox 360 and its games in a plastic bin in the back of my closet, I’d accepted life without them. They were there if I needed them, but not really, because I would always be too lazy to set up the old system, clean grime off the unused controllers, and pray to the indifferent storage gods that the hard drive still worked.

Unexpectedly finding them in the proverbial pocket of my Xbox One is a wonderful surprise, and also a reminder of how Microsoft rewards Xbox 360 owners who have already or plan to eventually upgrade to the current generation console.

The current list of backwards compatible games is already dense with last-generation classics: Castle Crashers, Just Cause 2, Red Dead Redemption. I’ve already lost a few hours replaying Hydro Thunder Hurricane, Spelunky, and Gunstar Heroes.

Thanks to services like Steam, PC gamers have long enjoyed the benefit of games working on each new piece of hardware. But for consoles, this is type of backwards compatibility — in which games you purchased in the past appear unprompted in the download queue — is an entirely new experience. And it could shape how I purchase games in the future.

I enjoy playing multiplayer games on my PlayStation 4, where most of my friends tend to convene online. But for single-player games, I may be more likely to make purchases on Xbox One. It’s a little investment from current me to future me, who one day will find Forza Horizon 3 waiting to be discovered in Project Scorpio.