Microsoft Restricts Use of Emulators on Xbox Series Consoles

Microsoft has made it more difficult for players to use popular emulation software that has hitherto allowed them to enjoy classic games on Xbox Series consoles. The practice of emulating games is divisive since it has long been associated with piracy, but it also allows players to enjoy old favorites that they legally own.

Up until now, Microsoft consoles have been a haven of sorts for emulation. Gaming consoles don’t last forever and are typically only supported for several years before manufacturers release new hardware, so many collectors and archivists increasingly turn to emulation to play older games. The original Xbox has been successfully emulated on Steam Deck, for example.


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There has been no official word from Microsoft on the matter, but many people have taken to social media to air their grievances about the move to disable emulation on Xbox Series consoles. When attempting to open emulators like Dolphin and RetroArch, players are now greeted with a message stating that the software violates the Microsoft Store policy. This is a massive blow to archivists and preservationists who have looked to the Xbox platform as a saving grace thanks to the multitude of emulators that were available on it. While it is unclear exactly why this has happened, the timing has raised suspicions that it could have something to do with the dispute between Sony and Microsoft over the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

In the wake of the move to block emulators on Retail Mode Xbox consoles, there has been an email doing the rounds that is from an unnamed Microsoft employee on the Xbox QA team. According to the email, emulators have been blocked primarily due to legal issues with Nintendo, which happens to be one of the companies Microsoft has made a 10-year Call of Duty deal with.

Those with access to the Xbox Series console’s Developer Mode are reportedly still able to run the affected software. A Microsoft Partner Center account is required to access Developer Mode. Getting one is easy enough, requiring only a $20 sign-up fee, but it is likely that Microsoft has made this extra step necessary in order to better control the situation. Microsoft Partner Center accounts are treated as legal business entities, which may be enough to dissuade the would-be pirate from creating one.

As Microsoft closes out its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, it seems like an exhaustive effort is being made to avoid making any further waves in the industry for the time being. The company has had an amicable relationship with Nintendo in recent years, starkly contrasting the bitter rivalry with Sony. The unnamed Microsoft employee goes on to acknowledge that, while emulation is not illegal, it could be used to play games that are still under copyright protection.

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Source: Alyanna McKenna/Twitter

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