Xbox CEO Phil Spencer sees a bright future for game emulation

Xbox CEO Phil Spencer sees a bright future for game emulation

Points Highlighted:

  • These words could be music to the ears of people who run emulators, and those who believe that game emulation is the key to preserving older games for future generations.

  • “My aim (and I believe I have to put it that way for the time being) is that as an industry, we would work on legal emulation that would allow modern hardware to run any (within reason) earlier executable, allowing everyone to play any game.”

However, Spencer’s proclamation also seemingly contradicts a recent announcement made by Microsoft.

The 76 games added to the lineup were mostly Xbox 360 and OG Xbox titles, which players can now enjoy on the more modern Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles.

In an article by Eurogamer, Microsoft stressed the fact that the 76 total games added to Xbox’s Backwards Compatibility program as part of the franchise’s 20th anniversary will be the last.

Spencer’s comments, however, seem to be more in line with previous stances he’s made public in the past. The current head of Xbox has expressed worry about potential loss of video game history in an article by PCGamer last July.

His concerns, as per the report, had him call on the industry to preserve everything that’s gotten gaming to where it is today.

Current State Of Emulation On Xbox

In the case of Xbox, their current-generation consoles are actually very powerful game emulators in their own right. Not a lot of people know that the Xbox Backwards Compatibility program basically makes modern consoles work as emulators. According to Pocket-Lint, the Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles can play select OG Xbox and Xbox 360 games because an emulation software makes it “think” that it’s an older console, thereby allowing for classic games to run on the system.

And it’s not just old Xbox games that can be played. As per numerous tests, it has been shown that the Series X and the Series S are also able to play PS1, PS2, PSP, GameCube, and even N64 games with the right emulator installed. Numerous videos tackling the game emulation capability of modern Xbox consoles are out and about on the web. Here’s one from the YouTuber ETA PRIME.

Emulators Remain A (Legal) Moot Point Phil Spencer’s statements specifically call for the “legal” emulation of older video games. That’s because emulators themselves remain a legal point of contention to this day. The limiting factor, according to Ars Technica, was never the hardware, but legal rights.

As per Jason Ronald, who serves as Xbox’s Director of Program Management, it can be hard to obtain permission to emulate old games (specifically the oldest ones) because the original developers or publishers might not exist anymore. If you can’t find the people who made the game in the first place to ask for their permission, you have no legal right to run their games on anything other than the original consoles they were made for.

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