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Xbox has reportedly started issuing temporary suspensions to players who use emulators in retail mode.
Previously, users were able to download emulators as applications directly from the Microsoft store, which would allow them to play retro game ROMs on any retail Xbox Series console.
Microsoft then later disabled the loophole that would let these applications run on the retail mode of the system (though users could still run the applications in developer mode).
Earlier this month, a group claimed to have found another way to get emulators running on retail mode, and started a Patreon account asking for $2 / £2 per month for access to their new method.
It would appear this didn’t last long, as Microsoft has now started cracking down on all retail emulation, and those who use it.
As reported by YouTuber Hikikomori Media, who regularly reports on emulation on consoles, Microsoft has started handing out 15-day suspensions to players running emulators on their Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One consoles in retail mode.
Hikikomori Media cites a Discord server called the Xbox Emulation Hub, which is dedicated to the running of emulators on Xbox consoles.
VGC joined the server to corroborate the claims, and found an announcement posted on Thursday from staff member GoldenSky – who specialises in creating retail access to the RetroArch emulator – informing users that “retail mode is dead”, and that the Discord server’s retail mode channel will be deleted within a week.
“Effective immediately, we are halting any and all retail mode emulation, permanently,” GoldenSky writes. “This channel will be deleted within the week, and this announcement will be moved to [the server announcements channel] for preservation purposes.
“A significant amount of users have been receiving 15-day suspensions as a warning shot from Xbox,” they add, including photos from users as proof. “We STRONGLY recommend removing any and all emulator apps from your console in retail mode immediately (dev mode is unaffected). We apologise to anyone who got a 15-day suspension, we know it sucks.”
GoldenSky also warns that users who have been re-uploaded emulators to retail mode are getting outright console bans, rather than 15-day suspensions.
“Please take my advice and do not begin trying to upload retail mode emulators,” they write. “Microsoft are console banning people caught uploading retail mode emulators, don’t take that risk for yourself, and don’t put others at risk either. It’s not worth it anymore, just use dev mode.”
Players can still install emulators to their console in developer mode, but access to this mode costs a one-off fee to activate and players have to manually switch between developer mode and retail mode – while in developer mode, they can’t play retail games or enjoy features like Quick Resume.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has expressed his support for emulation in the past, as long as it’s done through legal and authorised routes.
In 2021, he told Axios that he advocated software emulation as a solution to game preservation.
“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 said.
He added: “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.”