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Xbox Boss Calls for Emulation to Preserve Games

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has offered emulation as an answer for video game preservation.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has offered emulation as an answer for video game preservation. / Photo courtesy of Xbox

Xbox boss Phil Spencer says the gaming industry should collaborate to keep older games available to play through software emulation.

"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,” he told Axios Gaming on Wednesday.

Spencer said it was important to preserve older games for modern players and designers because they serve as reminders of the journey the medium has taken thus far.

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

Emulation remains a hot button issue in gaming. Although it's by far the easiest way to play games whose original release hardware is no longer widely accessible — basically any console older than the Xbox 360 — it has a bad reputation among major gaming companies, as it's often used to play illegally obtained copies of those games.

The Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 both sport native backward compatibility for games from the previous generation of consoles, anything older than that is already being lost to time. Even games that are preserved via something like Sony's cloud gaming platform PlayStation Now can fall victim to shuttered multiplayer servers.

A concerted effort by Microsoft to push emulation could turn things around for the practice, but for now gaming's history remains in a precarious state.