There’s many reasons why we want to be able to play old games on new hardware. Video games have been around since the early 1970s. In those five decades, an untold number of games have been lost to time.
Recently Microsoft’s Vice President of Gaming, Phil Spencer told Axios that he wants the gaming industry to work on a common goal of keeping older games for the modern audience through emulation.
Emulation could make modern hardware run old game files or executables.
He said that this is important because many games are dependent on the platform they are made for, they can’t be played without the original hardware.
I think we can learn from the history of how we got here through the creative.
I love it in music. I love it in movies and TV, and there’s positive reasons for gaming to want to follow.Phil Spencer when asked about going back to past art.
Today, all three major gaming console platforms supports backwards compatibility at some level with Nintendo and Xbox being the most aggressive.
Nintendo has made NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis games accessible through the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service.
Microsoft recently made Xbox Series X|S backward compatible with 76 more titles from it’s Xbox 360 and original Xbox library during their 20 Years Of Xbox Celebration.
Right now emulators are routinely used by fans and gaming preservationists. But what Spencer is advocating for is the gaming industry to make it more accessible.
The effort could prevent incidents like Nintendo suing a ROM website for RM8.78 million for copyright infringement from happening again.
However, what makes the endeavor difficult is copyright. Some games or parts of it will never see the light of day again, because rights holders won’t allow it. So it might never be legal to preserve these games outside of its original format.
Take the recently re-released Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy for example. Despite being published by Rockstar Games, it is missing a few songs from the original because of copyright issues.
A long term approach is to make it legal and get the whole industry on emulating their game catalogue and have online support for the games.
Spencer also stated some issues with this movement but believes it is the way forward.
Emulation may not be the only way to preserve games, but it is the path of least resistance according to gaming historian Frank Cifaldi. He continued, there is not a commercially viable way except for emulation.