Xbox Head Phil Spencer Hopes The Industry Will Protect Old Games From Extinction

Backwards compatibility has been a key factor in Microsoft’s gaming strategy, as its current generation of Xbox Series X|S consoles are compatible with a wide range of original Xbox and Xbox 360 games, as well as the entire Xbox One library. Some other companies have a very different approach to games preservation, something which Xbox head Phil Spencer wants to change.

“I do worry a little bit about losing our artform and the history of it,” Spencer said on this week’s Kinda Funny Gamescast, where he also spoke about potential future acquisitions for Xbox. “When I think about old ROMs and MAME and these things of where these old games are going to go as the hardware that’s capable of running those games. I really wish as an industry we’d come together to help preserve the history of what gaming is about, so we don’t lose the ability to go back.”

Spencer believes that major platform stakeholders need to come together and archive older games or risk losing access to the titles that helped shape the industry.

As for Microsoft’s ongoing efforts, Spencer noted games that required the Kinect would be harder to bring to Xbox since the original peripheral is no longer supported. For other games though, Spencer added that cloud-based gaming could be an ideal solution.

“On preservation, one of the things that the cloud does offer us is the ability to throw more hardware at some of the emulation scenarios, to make it possible to really emulate,” Spencer said. “When we’re in the cloud, we don’t have to worry about the local compute capability to emulate those old systems. It’s one of the reasons why we look at the cloud and we continue on some of our backward compatibility work, which we are still working on, because I want those games to still be playable.”

Microsoft’s work hasn’t just made its older games playable; it has improved on them as well with 4K upgrades, auto HDR, and FPS Boost. As for Sony, PS4 games are backwards compatible with the newer PS5, but you’ll need to track down the original console hardware if you’re looking to try out some PS3 or PS Vita games. Fortunately, the digital stores for those consoles still remain open for now.

Other initiatives do exist to archive games, such as the non-profit Video Game History Foundation that built a dedicated research library that preserves all manner of items from the industry. This week also saw the Museum of Play track down a rare copy of Id Software’s port of Super Mario Bros. 3 for MS-DOS, which Nintendo rejected at the time as it simply wasn’t interested in the PC market.

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