Microsoft is not building an Xbox 360 emulator, and we don’t need them to.

A lot of people are talking about news that Microsoft wants to build an official Xbox 360 emulator for the PC.

This post made the rounds on Reddit, and plenty of other sites were quick to report the same news. Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, mentioned in an interview with Gizmodo Brazil that it’s something he would love to see.

“I would love to have the ability to play Xbox 360 on PC at some point too, so have different things we have to think when we plan these things”.

You can find the full interview here. But as popular as this quote is becoming, we shouldn’t expect to see Xbox 360 games on the PC anytime soon.

He also said, in the same interview, that he would love to see the Mario Kart franchise on the Xbox One.

I’d take Mario Kart. You can play online, we have Xbox Live, I think I might have a good connection between Mario Kart and what we do.

It’s easy to take things out of context. There’s obviously nothing here in terms of news, but I’m surprised more people aren’t asking this question:

Would having an Microsoft emulator would be a good thing in the first place?

Would it be possible?

It’s technically possible for Microsoft to do this. I’m not sure it would even be that difficult.

Xbox One is receiving backwards compatibility support, and according to The Verge, Microsoft’s official statement is that this is possible by way of an Xbox 360 Emulator.

“Xbox One Backward Compatibility is an Xbox 360 emulator that runs on Xbox One and is used to play Xbox 360 games”

We know that Windows 10 is coming to the Xbox One soon, and the Xbox One has an x86 processor, so it’s not a huge leap to think they might port their emulator to Windows 10 for the PC. Along with the Xbox app on Windows 10, this could mean an easy marketplace for Microsoft to sell Xbox 360 games to PC gamers.

So while it might not be high on their priority list, it’s definitely possible.

Do we need an official Microsoft emulator?

One of the articles I read about this had some bad things to say about Xbox 360 emulation.

There are some community-based efforts to bring Xbox 360 emulation to the PC platform, but right now things aren’t progressing all that well due to the complex hardware architecture used by the old console.

This isn’t true at all. Work on Xenia is actually progressing nicely. Their game compatibility page now lists 200 games. Many of them crash, but a lot of them are listed as “gameplay” or “playable”. Back in June, the same page listed only 50 titles. You can see for yourself how things are progressing. It’s not exactly ready for prime time yet, but it’s advancing fast.


What would the downsides be?

In the meantime, an open source emulator will have benefits that an official one would not have.

For example, we wont have to worry about DRM. Publishers can pull titles from the Xbox marketplace, or preventing them from appearing at all. This is going to be a limitation to the Xbox 360 compatibility on Xbox One, but it wont be a problem with Xenia. All you will need is the original disc to play.

I also expect that as emulators get more mature, we’ll see games that perform better on the PC than on the original console. This has been the case with other emulators. For example, Dolphin can play Gamecube and Wii games at full 1080p. I’m not sure Microsoft would go the extra mile to take advantage of the better hardware the game would be running on.


I’m not saying it would be a bad thing if Microsoft released an official emulator. I would probably buy a copy myself. I’m only saying that it’s not something we need to rely on – we’ll get there with or without Microsoft’s help. We might even be better off with an open source emulator – whether Microsoft releases an official one or not.

What do you think? Would you be excited to see an official Microsoft produced emulator? Or would you rather hold out for emulators like Xenia to mature? Leave a comment below.


Michael Day is a web engineer, javascript junkie, video game enthusiast, and blogger. Hating how the big console makers were taking advantage of gamers, he made the switch to PC and set it upon himself to make a machine that did everything the more popular consoles wouldn't.