Microsoft made the decision Thursday to disable classic game emulation on the Xbox Series X/S, a move that has sparked a passionate response from the retro gaming community.
The Xbox Series X/S has set itself apart from its competitors by allowing users to easily emulate older games. Upon its launch in 2020, users quickly discovered they could install emulators capable of playing classic Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Nintendo’s GameCube games on the console.
Microsoft has now restricted access to this feature in standard retail mode, limiting it only to paid access to the console’s developer mode. This move has effectively locked out users from downloading and running emulators for dozens of old consoles, with an error code citing a violation of Microsoft Store policy. The company had cracked down on the loophole allowing users to download and playing on older consoles.
“Per 10.13.10, Products that emulate a game system or game platform are not allowed on any device family,” Microsoft says in a company statement.
This news has sent shock waves through the retro gaming community, particularly archivists and preservationists who relied on the console as a means of preserving classic games.
For example, John Linneman, a retro game enthusiast, tweeted: “I’m pretty angry about it, to be honest. This was one of the system’s best features even if unofficial.”
“Not just emulators either but tons of home brew. This is how I most used the system, and now it’s just gone. Really frustrated right now,” said Linneman in a tweet.
The timing of the decision has raised eyebrows, leading some to speculate it could be related to the ongoing dispute between Sony and Microsoft over the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
Nevertheless, an email allegedly from an unnamed Microsoft employee on the Xbox Quality Assurance team sheds some light on the issue. According to the email and reports from Essentially Sports, the decision to block emulators was primarily due to legal issues with Nintendo, one of the companies with which Microsoft recently made a 10-year Call of Duty deal.
“The primary reason for the ban is related to legal issues with Nintendo,” the email reportedly says. Nintendo owns the copyright on some of the games being played on Xbox through emulators, so the company could file for copyright infringement claims against Microsoft.
“Thanks for getting in touch with us about the recent ban on emulators on the Xbox storefront. We appreciate your interest and concerns,” said Alyanna McKenna in a tweet.
Moreover, the email also mentioned a potential security risk as a factor in the decision. Many players save their banking information on their Xbox for purchases, and third-party emulators could gain access to this sensitive data, potentially leading to exploitation and data breaches.
Produced in association with Benzinga