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Microsoft gaming chief calls for industry-wide game preservation


Hyperstrike
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https://www.axios.com/microsoft-old-games-preserve-emulation-748793a7-f559-4933-babf-81f34adc7cf6.html

 

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Microsoft’s vice president of gaming, Phil Spencer, wants the gaming industry to work toward a common goal of keeping older games available to modern audiences through emulation, he tells Axios.

Why it matters: The industry has big problems preserving its past, as older games routinely become unavailable.

  • Many games remain locked to older hardware standards, including consoles that are no longer supported.
  • “I think we can learn from the history of how we got here through the creative,” Spencer said, of being able to go back to past works of art. “I love it in music. I love it in movies and TV, and there's positive reasons for gaming to want to follow.”

The details: Spencer is advocating for an approach Microsoft already uses: software emulation.

  • Emulation allows modern hardware to simulate the functions of older hardware and run game files, or executables.
  • “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,” he wrote in a direct message.
  • Microsoft’s newer consoles — the Xbox Series and Xbox One — run huge libraries of older Xbox 360 and original Xbox games using this technique.

The big picture: Emulators are most commonly used worldwide by fans, preservationists and pirates. They run games from the original Nintendo era to more recent PlayStations, but there is no consistent use of them by the industry.

  • Even more problematic, the files needed to run games in emulators generally run afoul of copyright issues, as game-makers don’t support marketplaces for older gaming executables.
  • An example of how this plays out: an Android phone user can easily download an emulator that will run old Game Boy games, but Nintendo isn’t selling that, nor do they sell the files needed to play old Pokémon games in them.

Yes, but: Rights holders need to buy in.

  • Microsoft itself just announced that the addition of 70 more games to its catalog of emulated old Xbox games is likely to be its last, given rights and technical limitations.
  • An official industry emulation approach would require long-term online support to offer game files and to possibly check if the user has the right to access them.
  • Spencer, whose own platform has some of these issues, still sees a path forward. “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.”

The bottom line: Emulation isn’t the only way to preserve gaming’s past, but it might be the best.

  • “Emulation is the path of least resistance for re-releasing games originally written for dead platforms,” gaming historian Frank Cifaldi told Axios. “There just isn't a better way that is commercially viable.”

 

Edited by Hyperstrike
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Now if only Phil could convince microsoft to respect that kind of backwards compatibility with the non-game software that was included in past versions of Windows . . . 

Anyone else ever notice how features that were standard in old versions of Windows, particularly 3.1 and XP, were gutted in later versions of the OS?  Like being able to modify audio recordings in the old version of the built-in Sound Recorder, or being able to configure the original free Outlook with more than just one account.

 

Anyway.  I am always suspicious of how the games industry plan to inflict DRM or cloud-based limitations in these cases, but more support toward preservation, including through emulation, is a net positive at the moment.

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*IF* and this is a HUGE IF microsoft does lead the way to do this, it could open up the floodgates to other game producers to take emulation and preservation of older games more seriously.

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If Microsoft actually does this, or leads a group of companies to do this, they'll find a way to **** it up and/or overly monetize it.

 

I know, I know. But it's early. Just let me have my Captain Obvious moment, ok?

Being constantly offended doesn't mean you're right, it just means you're too narcissistic to tolerate opinions different than your own.

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46 minutes ago, PeregrineFalcon said:

If Microsoft actually does this, or leads a group of companies to do this, they'll find a way to **** it up and/or overly monetize it.

 

I know, I know. But it's early. Just let me have my Captain Obvious moment, ok?


Nothing to be sorry about.

This is just the intelligent outlook on this.

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Now if they can find a way to give me access to that Halo Series X (for purchase)...as opposed to the scalpers. Some of us work for a living and can't time ourselves to fight the bots.

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17 hours ago, WanderingAries said:

Now if they can find a way to give me access to that Halo Series X (for purchase)...as opposed to the scalpers. Some of us work for a living and can't time ourselves to fight the bots.

I could make a list of games I'd love to see available for play that aren't scalped, or illegally emulated, many of them are multiplayer or early mmorpgs. (*coughs* dungeonrunners anyone?*coughs*) But we genuinely can't say if this'll be a positive to the gaming industry or not. I would like to think they are advocating for the possibility of gaming archaeology (Which is a thing, I know a couple that specialize in early games from the telnet era of internet history.) as well as promoting video gaming museums. 

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Not surprised at all - look at what one of their big cash cows is: Game Pass - basically a Netflix of games. And what do streaming services need to keep their subscribers? Content! I fully expect more companies to keep patching their games for much longer to keep them working on modern systems - maybe even more "remasters".

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