As legal issues prevent more Xbox background-compatible games, Phil Spencer calls for “legal emulation”

Xbox boss Phil Spencer wants to see the gaming industry work toward a legitimate game emulation solution to better preserve legacy software, he said.

Retention has become an increasingly important topic in the gaming industry in recent years as older games have been phased out due to outdated hardware or closed online services.

Speaking to Axios, the Xbox exec Spencer advocated software emulation as a solution for preserving games.

Emulators that allow modern devices to simulate older devices and run games are widely used by fans and storage, but are currently not widely supported in the industry.

The Xbox Series X | S uses older Xbox games using its own emulation. However, in the absence of an industry-accepted standard, it must still secure the rights of game manufacturers for each title, rather than running games directly from old discs.

And this week, the company claimed that the 76 new games added back to its compatibility library would be the last because of these legal and technical limitations. Presumably, an industry-wide emulator standard would solve such problems.

“I think we can learn from history how we got here through creativity,” Spencer said. “I love it in music. I love it in movies and on TV, and there are positive reasons to watch it.

“My hope (and I think I have to present it at the moment) is that we’re working in the industry on legal emulation, which allows modern hardware to use any (out of order) older executable file, allowing anyone to play any game.”

He added: “I think after all, if we said, ‘Hey, anyone should be able to buy any game or own any game and keep playing,’ it looks like a great North Star to the industry.”

Compared to console competitors Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft has historically advocated maintaining the importance of its consoles.

As legal issues prevent more Xbox background-compatible games, Phil Spencer insists

Backward compatibility has long been a key feature of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X / S marketing efforts, and the company has promoted the ability of consoles to play a wide range of original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games.

Many games take advantage of the new console’s “look and play better” features than originally, and others support features such as FPS Boost, which nearly doubles the original frame rate, and Auto HDR, which adds HDR enhancements to games that are only delivered in the standard dynamic range.

And earlier this year, Microsoft brought back compatible titles for Xbox cloud gaming for the first time, offering a host of classic games for mobile users of Rare, Bethesda and other games with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription.