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Microsoft says Xbox emulator shutdown is based on long-standing policy

Rumor does not have it

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There’s been a swirl of info on social media recently about Microsoft cracking down on emulators. Frustration soon gave way to rumor, but Microsoft is clearing the air and saying this has nothing to do with other companies, but its own platform policies.

Xbox Series X|S consoles had become popular tools for retro enthusiasts to run emulators. Users found it relatively easy to download, install, and run emulators that could play both retro and homebrew games. While that functionality seemingly persists in the pay-to-access developer mode, the standard retail mode recently lost access to these features.

As the above user “gamer13” tells Kotaku, the Xbox Series consoles used to allow installs of various emulator frontends like RetroArch. Emulation apps would eventually attract notice and receive takedowns, leading to increasingly restricted measures. Enthusiasts would put apps on private and “whitelist” users, for example. As long as you downloaded the emulators, they ran, until now; even those who had access already seem to have lost this functionality on April 6.

Microsoft responds

Speculation surfaced that other companies may be demanding action over copyrighted games being playable without permission on Xbox consoles. This, however, doesn’t seem to be the case. In statements to both Kotaku and IGN, Microsoft clarifies that this simply reflects a “long standing policy.”

“The information currently circulating on Twitter is not accurate,” reads a Microsoft statement to IGN. “Our actions are based on a long standing policy on content distributed to the Store to ensure alignment with our Microsoft Store Polices. Per 10.13.10, Products that emulate a game system or game platform are not allowed on any device family.”

The stipulation, found here, does state that: “Products that emulate a game system or game platform are not allowed on any device family.”

Though Xbox and Phil Spencer have spoken out on the issue of preservation before, even citing ‘legal emulation’ as a possible path forward, it seems like this popular route is closed off for the time being. Still, some are planning to make their voices heard on the shift.


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Eric Van Allen
Senior Editor - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.