The folks over at GamesIndustry.biz are reporting that officials within Microsoft are confirming that the Xbox 2 will not be backwards compatable with the original Xbox:
Speculation about the backwards compatibility functionality has been rife since it emerged that Xbox 2 – codenamed Xenon – will have radically different hardware to the original system, with a non-x86 processor, no hard drive and an ATI, rather than NVIDIA, graphics chipset, all of which would make running Xbox titles on the platform very difficult.
It was widely believed, however, that Microsoft had retained a team of hardware emulation experts to work on the problem – although concerns over the viability of such an endeavour were voiced by some experts, especially regarding the company’s ability to emulate the functions of the graphics unit in the Xbox without violating NVIDIA’s intellectual property rights.
GamesIndustry.biz has now learned that Microsoft does not plan to provide any backwards compatibility in the next-generation Xenon platform – and indeed, that senior executives at the company don’t believe backwards compatibility to be an important feature for consoles.
According to the rest of the article the folks at Microsoft studied the numbers and concluded that backwards compatability was only a concern for about 10% of the people who bought a PS2. The truth is that backwards compatability is more of a PR bonus than a real advantage for the console as it helps kids sell the platform to their parents with the simple argument that not only will it play the new games, but all the old games as well which seems to work on some people. In the time that I’ve owned my PS2 I think there’s perhaps four titles from my collection of PS1 games that I’ve bothered to play using the backwards compatability of my PS2. Come to think of it, I should probably dig through all my old PS1 titles and sort out the handful I’d actually probably still play on occasion and trade the rest in for store credit someplace.
Considering the radically different hardware, the choice not to make Xbox 2 backwards compatable not only makes sense, but is probably the only real choice they have. The bigger issue will be the lack of a hard drive which was a big selling point for a lot of Xbox fans.