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Xbox Series X will run all Xbox One games — but there's a catch

Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Xbox)

For months, Microsoft has stated that anything that runs on Xbox One will also work with Xbox Series X. It turns out that’s not quite true — though bluntly, you’re unlikely to care too much about the omissions.

The slight reposition was buried away in a blog post by Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Head of Xbox. “It’s our intent for all Xbox One games that do not require Kinect to play on Xbox Series X at the launch of the console,” he wrote, before adding that “most of your favorite games will load faster and look and perform many times better on the new console.” 

Two things stand out from that statement. First, the word “intent” could be doing an awful lot of heavy lifting here. It’s my intent to run a marathon some day, but one look at me will tell you that ambition is at best optimistic and at worst deluded. Still, I suspect that’s a pretty harmless caveat to protect against strange use cases — maybe the plastic instruments for Rock Band 4 won’t work out of the box, say.  

More finite is the mention of Kinect. Does this mean anything requiring Kinect to run won’t work with Xbox Series X? I’m afraid so. “There’s no way for Kinect to work,” Spencer later confirmed to The Verge.

That’s not too surprising on one level. Kinect, though originally pitched as a core part of the Xbox One experience, has been increasingly sidelined, and the dedicated port for it was removed altogether with the arrival of the Xbox One X. If Microsoft has no plans to make a third-generation of Kinect for Xbox Series X, then why would it bother increasing its hardware costs with support for the last generation? 

By Reddit’s count, there were only 44 Xbox One games that supported Kinect, and even fewer where it was essential (FIFA’s implementation, for example, was limited to tactical changes via the microphone.)  Unless you’re a huge fan of dancing games — which represent an eyebrow raising 20% of the list — or absolutely love Kinect Sports, then you’re unlikely to be too disappointed.

On the other hand, it’s a slight shame that this makes Xbox Series X’s backwards compatibility imperfect. Microsoft has made a big deal about compatibility between generations, even going as far as ensuring that the Xbox Elite and Adaptive controllers work with the next generation of consoles. “We believe that your investments in gaming should move with you into the next generation,” the company wrote.

That may be true — but it will ring a little hollow if you’re in the minority that once believed Kinect to be the future of gaming and invested accordingly.