The Xbox Backwards Compatibility program has been one of the most impressive feats of game preservation in recent years. And it's one that is built on emulation. Through emulating hardware it's possible to play original Xbox and Xbox 360 games on an Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S. Not only that but play them as is, with improved performance and visuals depending on the titles.
With consoles and hardware and platforms like DOS and even Window 95 not playing nice with modern computing, emulation has been the only way to experience older titles for gamers.
Of course it gets murky when the fan side of emulation and preservation clash with copyrights and other legalities -- especially when it comes to older consoles from the 1980s and 1990s. But, the fact remains that marketplaces for older titles are few and far between. The recent batch of over 70+ titles added to the backwards compatible library on Xbox
is indicative of this, with the team noting that it has exhausted what rights and licensing it was able to wrangle.
Speaking with Axios
, it should come as no surprise that head of Xbox Phil Spencer is a big supporter of being able to preserve videogame history. "I think we can learn from the history of how we got here through the creative,” Spencer said. “I love it in music. I love it in movies and TV, and there's positive reasons for gaming to want to follow.”
Adding that emulation can be the key to achieve this. "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. 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.”