Here's why your favorite Xbox 360 game isn't backward compatible on Xbox Series X

Xbox 360
(Image credit: emodpk/Shutterstock)

Microsoft’s backward compatibility program may have come to an end on November 20, 2021, with more than 70 games being added as part of Xbox’s 20th anniversary, but you may be wondering: "Why hasn’t my favorite Xbox 360 or original Xbox game made the cut?"

Throughout the life of the Xbox backward compatibility program, people have always questioned why more titles haven't been added. Jason Ronald, director of program management at Xbox, explained to TRG that making a game back-compat wasn't as straightforward as people might think.

“A lot of the games in the original Xbox generation or the Xbox 360 generation, at that time, the idea of forward compatibility – and thinking about how these games will live on – was not part of the DNA of the industry,” says Ronald.

“There would be titles that we would be working on, and we would get them technically working. But then all of a sudden, we’d realize all the different approvals that we would need: whether it's a publisher or developer or a license holder.

“And that actually created a lot of work and a lot of challenges,” Ronald goes on to explain. “In some cases, when you think about the consolidation of companies, or IP being purchased, sometimes it's even difficult to figure out who you need approval from!

“But I will say every game is a unique challenge. And that’s one of the harder things to get across to the community. Because people are like, ‘Oh, well, you did this game, you should do that game’. Every game is a unique set of challenges and that's where a lot of the work goes behind actually bringing a game forward.”

So many games, so many hurdles

Xbox 20th anniversary backward compatible games

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Issues with licenses, publishers, and technical quirks mean that there are hundreds of games that Microsoft wanted to add to the Xbox backward compatibility program, but simply couldn't. Some titles, as Ronald shares, have taken years to be added to the program due to the aforementioned issues.

“When we started this last patch [over 70 back-compat titles were added on November 20, 2021], we actually started with a list of hundreds of games that we were going to go try,” says Ronald. “And we didn't know if we were going to get five [titles], if we were going to get 10 [titles], or if we're going to get 20 [titles].

“And to be honest, there are some games in the program that I just never thought we would be able to bring forward. It’s a labor of love and it takes, in some cases, years to be able to bring these forward, but the team has always been really committed to doing everything we can for the fans.”

So there you have it. There’s a number of reasons why certain older titles like Blur, Stranglehold, and Project Gotham Racing 4 aren’t backward compatible on Xbox Series X – and it's not for want of trying. 

Adam Vjestica

Adam was formerly TRG's Hardware Editor. A law graduate with an exceptional track record in content creation and online engagement, Adam has penned scintillating copy for various technology sites and also established his very own award-nominated video games website. He’s previously worked at Nintendo of Europe as a Content Marketing Editor and once played Halo 5: Guardians for over 51 hours for charity. He is now an editor at The Shortcut.