Microsoft has quietly put restrictions on game emulation on its Xbox Series X|S consoles. Last week, emulation enthusiasts noticed that it was no longer possible to install or launch emulators to play classic PlayStation or Nintendo games on Xbox Series X|S consoles in retail mode.
Twitter user gamr13, who participates in the distribution of the Xbox version of the RetroArch emulator tweeted a picture of the error message that now appears when trying to launch emulators on Xbox Series X|S consoles. Microsoft says that these apps “violate Microsoft Store policy.”
Ladies and gentlemen, it's been a good run.
But now we've no choice but to @Xbox @XboxP3 #LetUsEmulate pic.twitter.com/K9KO1p655K
— 🇮🇪 gamr13 🇮🇪 (@gamr12) April 6, 2023
In a statement shared with Kotaku, a Microsoft spokesperson said that “We continually evolve our mechanisms for reviewing and taking enforcement actions on content distributed to the Store to ensure alignment with our Microsoft Store Policies. Per 10.13.10, Products that emulate a game system or game platform are not allowed on any device family.”
It’s actually still possible to use emulators on Xbox Series X|S consoles running in Developer mode, which requires users to pay a one-time $20 fee in the US. However, Xbox consoles in Dev mode can’t play retail games, so this isn’t exactly convenient when you only have one Xbox console.
Speaking with Kotaku, gamr13 explained that he helped distribute UWP versions for emulators on the Microsoft Store until the Redmond giant noticed and removed them from its digital storefront. “Essentially Microsoft would crack down on my uploads where they used to last months, to weeks, to days, until now,” gamr13 told Kotaku. “So I would simply re-upload the apps whenever they were taken down, to get newcomers and everyone back up and running.”
Emulation is great for game preservation, and Microsoft did great work to make a selection of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games backward compatible with Xbox Series X|S consoles. However, when it comes to emulating games from other platforms, using Dev mode is now the way to go on Xbox consoles, and this definitely isn’t as user-friendly.