One of the questions surrounding the launch of Xbox 360 is backward compatibility. Todd Holmdahl, the Corporate Vice President of the Xbox Product Group gives the answers.
Todd confirmed that more than 200 titles including games like Halo and Halo 2; Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic I and II (LucasArts); Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden Black (Tecmo); and Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar Games), will be backward compatible. A complete list of the compatible games is available at Xbox.com/games
Microsoft initially focused on making backward compatible the games that have sold the best and the ones with a large Xbox Live following. They worked on games thry knew were important titles for this holidaylike Half-Life 2 (Valve), Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (Activision, Inc.), and Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (Konami Digital Entertainment). However, many other games worked due to similarities in their technology.
Backward compatibility on Xbox 360 is done through software, which emulates the Xbox hardware including the Xbox CPU and GPU. According to Todd, Microsoft has solved the technical challenge and the emulator is working, and is curently certifying each original Xbox title by hand to run on Xbox 360.
Users should download the emulation software for free from Xbox Live or burn a CD from xbox.com or sign up on Xbox.com for a CD that can be delivered to their home at a nominal shipping and handling fee. However, in order to play older games the Xbox 360 should be equipped with a hard disk drive. The Xbox 360 comes standard with a 20GB hard drive accessory, but those who choose to buy an Xbox 360 Core System will have to purchase a hard drive. The hard drive is an essential for backward compatibility since procedures and functions of the original Xbox should be created and stored on the hard drive.
Playing original Xbox games on the Xbox 360 console will be in high definition. Every original Xbox game will be upscaled to 720p and 1080i, and will take advantage of Xbox 360's anti-aliasing capabilities.
On the other hand, the current Xbox Live Arcade games will not be compatible with Xbox 360.
Todd also promised that the future game releases for the Xbox 360 will run on the original Xbox. Last but not least, he said that all games will be region encoded and can only be played in their native regions.
Xbox 360 Instruction manual
For all those who can't wait for the console's official launch, check out its instruction manual here