MS will pay Nvidia, allowing Xbox 360 to emulate Xbox games



NVIDIA tech licensed for Xbox 360 backward compatibility

Rob Fahey 12:27 16/06/2005
Deal will allow Xbox 360 to run Xbox titles, but tinkering with software is
still needed

Microsoft has signed a deal with NVIDIA to license the company's technology
in order to enable backwards compatibility in the Xbox 360, which uses an
ATI graphics chipset that isn't natively compatible with Xbox titles.

The question of how to get Xbox 360 - which uses a radically different
architecture to the Xbox - to play Xbox titles has been a major problem for
Microsoft, and it's rumoured that backwards compatibility wasn't actually
part of the original specification of the console.

Indeed, it wasn't even confirmed that the system would be able to play Xbox
games until E3 this year, when Microsoft announced that "best-selling" Xbox
titles would work on the Xbox 360 - a curious piece of double-speak which
the software giant refused to clarify fully.

Following the announcement, sources close to the company indicated that a
form of recompilation (known as "transcompilation") would be required to
make Xbox games work on the 360, with the resulting patched executables
being shipped on the system's hard drive for certain popular games, and
patched versions of other games gradually being added over the Xbox Live

Speaking to at the time, Microsoft Xbox PR manager Michael
Wolf denied that games would need to be recompiled, and assured us that the
company had no intention of charging for updates to the backward
compatibility service. However, he refused to answer further questions about
how the process will work.

Now a report on US website 1up confirms that Microsoft has in fact licensed
parts of NVIDIA's technology from the Xbox to allow it to emulate the
chipset in Xbox 360, a deal which will see Microsoft continuing to make
payments to NVIDIA for several years.

The company apparently plans to emulate the Xbox' Intel CPU on the 360's
multiple IBM PowerPC cores, and will now be able to emulate the NVIDIA chip
to some extent on the ATI graphics chip in the 360 - but it would appear
that many games will still not work without some modification.

Patches for some popular games - or "emulation profiles" - will ship on the
Xbox hard drive, and those games will as a result work out of the box.
Microsoft is expected to work to get emulation working for other games over
time, and will distribute further emulation profiles over the Xbox Live

What's not clear is how users without Xbox Live access - around 90 per cent
of users on the current generation Xbox, for reference - will be able to
update those profiles, and whether Microsoft will ever get the full range of
Xbox software working on the new console.

Wolf declined to answer the first of those questions when we put it to him
last month, but was more positive on the second issue, telling us that "our
goal is to make ALL Xbox games play on Xbox 360, and at launch we'll have a
selection of the top selling that will be tested and confirmed to work."


Nvidia Licenses Xbox Tech. for BC
To achieve backwards compatibility, Microsoft strikes deal.
by Patrick Klepek, 06/14/2005

78.00 of 86 users recommended this story.
Microsoft and Nvidia currently have a license agreement for Nvidia-related
technologies for use in the Xbox 360 in order to achieve backwards
compatibility with Xbox, learned today. The original Xbox was
engineered with an Nvidia-developed GPU, whereas Xbox 360 utilizes a new ATI
GPU, which has proven problematic in coming up with an easy solution for
backwards compatibility.

Nvidia confirmed the existence of a licensing agreement for Nvidia-related
technologies to, but would not enter into specifics. According to
the agreement, Microsoft will make payments to Nvidia over several years.
Unfortunately, Microsoft is keeping quiet on the subject. "We have no
further announcements on backwards compatibility at this time," said an
official Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft has been investigating the feasibility of backwards compatibility
for around eight months now, said a source close to the project, and signed
the deal with Nvidia about five months ago.

Last week, ATI European Developer Relations Manager Richard Huddy provided
the first hint in an interview with Bit-Tech. "Emulating the CPU [of the
original Xbox] isn't really a difficult task. They have three 3GHz cores, so
emulating one 733MHz chip is pretty easy," he said. "The real bottlenecks in
the emulation are GPU calls - calls made specifically by games to the Nvidia
hardware in a certain way."

In order to overcome the problem of games calling upon chip specific
features within the Nvidia hardware, Microsoft needed to emulate the Xbox's
GPU. Without an official agreement with Nvidia, however, Microsoft would
have to reverse engineer the technology, which would have been a "legal
nightmare" for the company, said our source.

Stay tuned to for the latest on Microsoft's progress on
incorporating backwards compatibility into their next-generation hardware.

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