During a recent interview with Inside Xbox, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer stated that any game that players had bought digitally over the years could be played on Project Scarlett. It was news that confused many people, as his messaging elsewhere seemed to suggest otherwise, and it seems like that might have been a bit of a premature statement. In an interview with Giant Bomb, he once again moved to clarify the new console's stance on Backward Compatibility, and it doesn't involve every digital game:
I think about it both short term and long term. In the long term, I want people to feel like they can buy their games the way they want to buy them from us, and if they choose to buy digital, I want to show the respect for the purchase that they've made over multiple generations. And we haven't always done that — Games for Windows Live, and we've shut down things, people couldn't play their games. I'm not saying our track record's perfect in this area, but when I had some say in what we were doing, I said if you bought digital games from us, or frankly if you bought physical games if we can make that work, I want us to be able to respect those purchases and have them run on the current generation. The team is like a bunch of wizards and what they come up with is they actually run better on the current hardware, which is awesome.
When we started on the Project Scarlett plan, I want it to do the same thing. I want to respect the OG Xbox games that are Back Compat, I want to respect the 360 games that are Back Compat, I want to respect your Xbox One games that are Back Compat. The idea of what generation did this game come from, I want to go away. At the same time, I want developers to be able to make the best use of the hardware that's there so they can build amazing looking games.
Instead, it seems like the Backward Compatible titles will be restricted to those that are already Backward Compatible and those that they can license in the future for the service, because it's licensing that is the major hurdle Microsoft has to overcome:
It's definitely true that the licensing deals that were done, it's impacting the way we're doing licensing deals now and going forward because [of] music and other things (there's time based or platform based that are built in). It's not just can it work, it's actually you've got to go find the creator and relicense, and it's difficult.While Microsoft is aiming to make thousands of games work on Project Scarlett, it's turning into quite a challenge, so much so that Spencer clearly stated he "can't make the promise that any disc that you've ever owned [will work] backwards". With delistings happening all the time due to licensing issues and studio closures, the latest being Tales from the Borderlands on Xbox One and Xbox 360, the chances of every game being relicensed for play on Project Scarlett seems increasingly unlikely. However, with the Backward Compatibility team now entirely focused on making the feature work on the upcoming console, hopefully the library will be much larger than the one currently found on Xbox One.