Microsoft Xbox Series X to apply 4K, HDR, and faster frame rates to older games

Microsoft said Thursday that its upcoming Xbox Series X will implement performance boosts for older games that weren’t even designed for them, including 4K upscaling, automatic HDR, and even framerate doubling to up to 120Hz.

The company is using these new features to try and establish the Xbox Series X as the “most compatible” console, widening the number of available titles at launch to include those that might have debuted on earlier Xbox platforms.

“As gamers, we also know how important it is to preserve and respect our gaming legacies,” Jason Ronald, director of program management for the Xbox Series X, wrote in a blog post. “Your favorite games and franchises, your progression and achievements, and the friendships and communities you create through gaming should all move with you across generations. Not only that, your favorite gaming accessories and peripherals should also move forward with you as well.

“Our goal has always been to empower gamers to play the best versions of games from across four generations of Xbox at the launch of Xbox Series X,” Ronald wrote.

Microsoft drew back the curtain on the Xbox Series X specifications in March, revealing that it’s a powerful, Ryzen-propelled beast that will challenge gaming PCs. But Microsoft also began hinting that it would offer visual improvements in games beyond just improved silicon. Ronald wrote Thursday that the first of these improvements will essentially reconstruct high dynamic range effects where none existed previously, even on Xbox 360 and Xbox titles that were written before the advent of HDR. 

“As this technique is handled by the platform itself, it allows us to enable HDR with zero impact to the game’s performance and we can also apply it to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles developed almost 20 years ago, well before the existence of HDR,” Ronald wrote. 

Neither the automatic application of HDR nor Quick Resume, a feature that Microsoft has described previously, will require re-coding the game or applying a patch. (Quick Resume saves the state of multiple games, significantly decreasing or even eliminating loading times.) Instead, these new features will be part of the Xbox Series X platform.

Other improvements, however, will require some interaction with the developers, Ronald wrote. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X will apply the “Heutchy method,” which enables titles to render with increased resolutions up to 4K, plus anisotropic filtering to older games. But they’ll only be applied to a “hand-curated list” of titles, none of which was disclosed.

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