Back in 2020, it was reported that emulator developers were exploiting a hole in the Xbox Store’s app distribution system to circumvent Microsoft’s long-standing ban on emulators running on Xbox consoles. . But this week, many of the emulators distributed with that workaround stopped working, apparently falling victim to another crackdown by Microsoft.
Xbox emulator makers and users aren’t immune to warning. The “Games and Xbox” section of Microsoft’s official store policies clearly states at section 10.13.10, “Products that emulate gaming systems or platforms are not permitted on any device family.” .
Microsoft’s enforcement of this provision has historically focused on removing emulators published to the Xbox Store as “private” UWP apps. These apps may be distributed to whitelisted users via direct links accessed in the system’s Edge browser, bypassing the normal approval process for public listings on the store.
Previously, users who downloaded one of these “hidden” emulator listings prior to Microsoft’s inevitable removal could run that emulator indefinitely on unmodified retail systems. No longer. When I try to launch a download version of an emulator such as Xenia or Retrospection on my Xbox console, I get the message “This game or app cannot be launched. The game or app you are trying to launch violates Microsoft Store policies and is not supported. ‘ is now generated.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it was a good run.” I have written Twitter user gamr13 is helping distribute the Xbox version of the RetroArch emulator front end. “For the past two years we’ve been promoting legal emulation on popular platforms that people genuinely enjoy. It’s really disappointing to see Xbox crack down on emulation. This is a head-to-head shot is.”
Despite the crackdown, another method of installing an Xbox emulator using the system’s paid-access developer mode still seems to work. There have also been reports that consoles that remain completely offline and haven’t downloaded any recent system updates may still be able to use previously downloaded emulators.
In a statement to Kotaku, Microsoft said, “We are continually evolving our mechanisms to review and take enforcement action on content distributed to the Microsoft Store to ensure alignment with Microsoft Store policies.
It’s not clear if there’s a specific reason Microsoft has decided to roll out these “evolved mechanics” emulator enforcement now. ‘s Xbox compatible port was seen. This version allows his latest Xbox console to run various Xbox 360 games that Microsoft still sells directly in its store, as well as Xbox 360 titles that are not supported by Microsoft’s official backwards compatibility feature.
There are also unconfirmed reports that the January beta release of Wii/GameCube emulator Dolphin on Xbox may have angered Nintendo. That company has a history of taking legal action against ROM distribution sites, even though the emulator itself is probably legally protected.
Meanwhile, in the PC space, the Dolphin emulator is currently slated for launch on Steam, joining RetroArch’s collection of emulation cores and EmuDeck’s collection of less official Steam Deck compatible emulators.