Xbox chief Phil Spencer is concerned about the preservation of older video games, many of which are only available as boxed copies on eBay — and some of which don’t even work for a variety of reasons.
Enthusiasts of retro video games struggle to run older games due to their obsolete hardware requirements, which cause them to be incompatible with contemporary PCs, and some games remain locked and unplayable due to discontinued online services.
Speaking to Axios, Microsoft’s vice president of gaming said that he wants the video game industry to work towards properly archiving older titles, and make them available to modern audiences through emulation.
“I think we can learn from the history of how we got here through the creative,” Spencer said, of being able to go back to past works of art. “I love it in music. I love it in movies and TV, and there’s positive reasons for gaming to want to follow.”
Spencer is currently advocating for the industry to use Microsoft’s approach to preserving classic video games, which is to provide software emulation for the older titles. Emulative would effectively simulate obsolete and discontinued hardware to run these titles without issue.
“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 said.
Microsoft’s Xbox Series consoles offer a massive library of older video games dating back to the original Xbox in the 2000s. The consoles offer players the ability to experience some of these titles with better performance, faster loading times, and unlocked framerates.
Absent an official archival service, retro gaming enthusiasts and preservationists have typically resorted to using third party emulation software with pirated, or “cracked” copies of games that use DRM for anti-piracy measures. These efforts have run afoul of copyright law, and these emulators are not permitted on digital marketplaces.
“I think in the end, if we said, ‘Hey, anybody should be able to buy any game, or own any game and continue to play,’ that seems like a great North Star for us as an industry,” said Spencer.