Beyond celebrating the Xbox’s anniversary recently, Xbox Gaming Chief Phil Spencer talked game preservation with Axios. Specifically, he was referring to the industry-wide need for better preservation of older games. He says the industry as a whole should work toward making older games more available to new generations. The easiest pathway is of course via emulation.
Unlike movies and TV, enjoying older games can be very difficult. They may be tied to outdated hardware, with no way to run them on modern devices. Getting the files needed to run older games on emulators also treads into legal and copyright issues, especially if you don’t own the original game in the first place. In many cases, it may not even be possible to obtain a legal copy of an old game, as they are often no longer being sold.
“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”, Phil Spencer said.
Of course, emulation is not the only way older games can be preserved. You’ve no doubt noticed the many remasters on the market nowadays, from the Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes to the GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition.
While the industry as a whole is not embracing emulation, there are examples of it being used, like the Contra or Castlevania Anniversary Collections. Another example is Nintendo’s Switch Online retro library, which was recently expanded with some controversy among fans. Some love it while others have raised complaints about pricing or emulation quality. Xbox’s Gaming Chief Phil Spencer also commented on what a possible industry-wide goal of game preservation might look like:
“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.”