Backward compatibility has been a major feature of the Xbox Series X and Series S. Microsoft has emphasized it more than Sony, with an extended effort to make Xbox 360 and Xbox One games playable on the Xbox Series X. (The Xbox 360 version of Prototype is not currently one of those games — boo, hiss.) The company is rolling out a new feature that’s part of its overall backward compatibility toolkit, and while it’ll initially only help a handful of titles, Microsoft is pledging additional support over the long term.
FPS Boost does exactly what it says it does, doubling or quadrupling the frame rates of games that were initially locked at 30fps. According to Microsoft, it partnered with game developers to ensure titles could run well at higher frame rates, though it implies that its techniques might not work with all engines. This could be a reference to games like Fallout 4, where the physics engine is tied to the frame rate (at least, it is on PC), and pushing the frame rate too high can break gameplay. Not all games run well at higher frame rates, and that may limit which games Microsoft can implement this feature for.
The first set of games supported by FPS Boost are: Far Cry 4, New Super Lucky’s Tale, Sniper Elite 4, UFC 4, and Watch Dogs 2. Super Lucky’s Tale now runs up to 120Hz if your TV or monitor supports it, while UFC 4 is specifically said to target 60 fps on the Xbox Series S. Microsoft says it’ll release more details in the spring. As the feature expands, you’ll be able to use the “Manage Game” menu to activate both FPS and the Xbox Series S|X’s “Auto HDR” feature. Games will also tell you if they’re running in FPS Boost mode or not when you hit the Xbox button on your controller.
This feature will not be limited to Xbox Series users who buy games in a conventional manner. Both Super Lucky’s Tale and Sniper Elite 4, currently on Xbox Game Pass, will receive access. One of Microsoft’s ecosystem features this generation is the idea of Xbox Game Pass as a first-class partner. Thus far, Microsoft has made a point of bringing capabilities to the service whenever possible, and it’s continuing that trend with this announcement.
Recent analysis by Ampere shows that the PS5 and Xbox Series are selling roughly as well as their previous-generation counterparts, but not better than. Microsoft is said to have shipped 2.8M units compared with 2.9M for the Xbox One in the same period of time. The Ampere figure measures sell-through, which means sales to actual consumers. Last week, Sony declared it had shipped 4.5M PlayStation 5s to retailers. The PS5 is a hot commodity and Sony appears to be shipping every unit it can manufacture, but sales to retailers aren’t the same as sales to consumers. Consumer sales inevitably lag behind retailer sales, meaning the Microsoft shipment figure is a bit lower than it would otherwise be in an apples-to-apples comparison.
Supply issues are said to have plagued both companies, and analysts expect both would have shipped more consoles if availability was better, but it’s striking that Microsoft remains well behind Sony in early shipments. The PS4 eventually out-shipped the Xbox One and One X by more than 2:1, and the Xbox Series X and Series S seemed as though they might offer Microsoft a chance to redress that situation. If both companies are manufacturing every system they can, it’s possible that Microsoft contracted for fewer units from the beginning.
Either way, it looks as though Sony has continued to dominate the overall console space thus far. Microsoft has not yet demonstrated that the Series X is a definitively faster machine than the PS5, and at least some games show a small but definite tilt towards the PS5, despite the Xbox Series X’s on-paper advantage. Without next-generation games, it’s difficult to make an assessment even though the next-generation consoles launched months ago. The Xbox Series S|X has been vastly better received than the Xbox One, but they haven’t demonstrated better sales performance — though that may be for reasons out of Microsoft’s control.