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Emulation should be used to preserve older games, Xbox chief Phil Spencer suggests

Super Xbox Entertainment System.

Microsoft's vice president of gaming Phil Spencer wants the games industry to preserve older games through emulation.

In an interview with Axios, the Xbox chief said "My hope (and I think I have to present it that way as of now) is as an industry we'd work on legal emulation that allowed modern hardware to run any (within reason) older executable allowing someone to play any game".

On game preservation specifically, Spencer said "I think we can learn from the history of how we got here through the creative... I love it in movies and TV, and there's positive reasons for gaming to want to follow."

Games preservation remains problematic in the industry. While the latest generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony feature backwards compatibility with the previous generation natively, it falters when it comes to compatibility going any further back.

Sony does support PS3 games through its cloud gaming platform PlayStation Now, while Microsoft has been working hard to port over and enhance Xbox 360 titles to the latest consoles. Yet the library on both platforms remains limited, and online services in older games can be shut down at a moment's notice as fans of Skate 2 have unfortunately discovered.

But the biggest hurdle is a legal one. Emulators remain a legal grey area as they can run afoul of copyright laws. It is up to rights holders to allow the emulation scene to flourish. One can hope a push from Microsoft is the step in the right direction.

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Ishraq Subhan avatar

Ishraq Subhan


Ishraq is a freelance games journalist. His first ever console was the PlayStation, where he found his love of games through Ridge Racer. He likes to think he’s really into story-driven games, but spends most of his time on the latest yearly Call of Duty release.