Game consoles have traditionally been defined by being rigid, closed platforms. You’re only allowed to run specific approved software, and the hardware never changes very much. Sure, you might see a new A/V connector or a die shrink pop up, but the horsepower stays the same until it’s replaced completely. Going forward, Microsoft wants to change that by making the Xbox One a lot more like the PC.
Microsoft is in the process of shifting everything to Universal Windows Applications — a “write once, run anywhere” solution for devices using the various flavors of Windows 10,The Guardian reports. Provided that Microsoft goes through with this cross-platform unification, it’s possible we’ll see future Xbox One games run on PCs right out of the gate.
While this PC-Xbox lovefest is big news by itself, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer also revealed that this path allows his team to continually refresh the Xbox One‘s hardware. Eventually, that means shedding much of the meaningful distinction between the Xbox One and a Windows 10 PC.
Much like we see with PCs, smartphones, and tablets, Spencer wants to keep the Xbox One’s hardware up to date year after year while maintaining backwards compatibility with older software. He wants a world in which you can play Halo 7 in 4K on your third generation Xbox One while still enjoying Halo 5 on the very same hardware.
While these interconnected ideas are certainly exciting on the surface, we remain skeptical until Microsoft delivers the goods. Infamously, the Games for Windows Live system was a nightmare from start to finish, and similar promises of strong PC supportwere broken as well. And as far as the updated console hardware goes, that could potentially lead to some serious issues down the road.
Up ’til now, developers have been able to target console hardware knowing that everyone is running on the exact same machine. Everyone experiences the same quirks, and everybody has the same limitations. When you start changing the hardware in a console, that’s no longer true. A game that works seamlessly on first-gen hardware might face a really ugly issue on fourth-gen hardware. There’s no perfect way around that.
Spencer talks a good game about how wonderful it is being able to run old games like Doom and Quake on modern PCs, but that process isn’t always a walk in the park. Compatibility issues frequently pop up when you try to run older games, and they often require either custom modifications or emulators like DOSBox to get things running smoothly again.
Do you think each and every developer will be willing to patch their affected games after a hardware refresh? I don’t — not for one second. And unless Microsoft opens up the Xbox One’s Windows 10-based OS to allow for modding groups to do the work for free, we’ll likely end up in a situation in which swaths of the back catalog function poorly on newer hardware. We certainly don’t envy the mess the 2026 Xbox One support team will be left with.