Microsoft Is Removing Emulators From Your Xbox

Microsoft is preventing the Xbox Series X/S console from running emulation software.

By Jason Collins
| Published

microsoft Xbox

Microsoft is removing emulators from your Xbox Series X/S console, thus preventing you from running emulation software. Those close to the Xbox QA teams have stated that certain legal issues with Nintendo were to blame, and following our previous reports on Nintendo going after everyone messing with their IPs, including a popular YouTuber, we were inclined to believe the rumors. However, things aren’t always as they seem, and apparently, Nintendo had nothing to do with the emulator ban—they didn’t even sue Valve for the Nintendo Switch emulator on Steam Deck.

According to Ars Technica, the reason for the ban is the usual corporate greed coated in various policies preventing users from running emulation software. And Microsoft Xbox has all rights to ban emulation software from its platform. In fact, in section 10.13.10 of their official Store Policy, Microsoft clearly prohibits the emulation of any gaming system or gaming platform, or any device in the Xbox device family. But before we dive into the duplicity of Microsoft’s action, let’s discuss how we got here in the first place.

Though sale figures demonstrate the gaming community’s preference for PlayStation 5 as their console of choice, Xbox Series X is a perfect machine in terms of raw computational power. The difference is marginal, but it still exists. The console’s younger brother, the Xbox Series S, while admittedly not as strong, still retains the core architecture of Xbox Series consoles, which is similar to the PC, making third-party software development—such as emulators—for said Microsoft Xbox consoles easier.  

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This gave rise to a massive number of emulators for Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S consoles, which were capable of running older titles from other platforms, including the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo GameCube, and some Xbox 360 titles which aren’t supported by Microsoft’s official backward compatibility feature. Now, emulation itself isn’t illegal, but owning ROMs of intellectual property that’s still protected under copyright laws is, especially if you haven’t bought the game through official channels or run the game on the platform it was intended to run on.

Xbox gamers could previously run titles from the aforementioned platforms ever sing the latest Microsoft Xbox consoles launched. Microsoft admittedly tried to enforce this policy, but the enforcement was only at the level of its own Store, meaning that users could still run emulators they downloaded from other sources. Well, that’s not possible anymore since Microsoft cracked down on emulation software, preventing anyone from running “unsigned” software on their console.

It’s quite easy to accuse Nintendo of the crackdown, given the company’s history of ruthless prosecution of anyone infringing on their IP even in the slightest manner. The Japanese gaming giant is known for removing its most popular games from or even shutting down its biggest tournaments for these very reasons. But Microsoft openly stated that Nintendo had nothing to do with the emulation crackdown. They reaffirmed that they’re only enforcing their policy, considering that emulation has been banned from the beginning.

And this is where the double standards come in. You can’t run any emulation software on your Microsoft Xbox console, even if you’re a paying Xbox Game Pass customer, with your console in retail mode. However, if you switch your console into Developer Mode, for a one-time payment of $20, you can run any “unsigned” software on your console. So, Microsoft is actually pretty chill about emulation as long as they get a piece of the pie for running their competitor’s titles on their native hardware.

We vaguely remember joking about playing God of War on Xbox after PlayStation decided to port the reboot, resulting in God of War coming to PC. As it turns out, you still can; you just need to pay a one-time $20 fee for access to the Microsoft Xbox Dev Mode.


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