by Graham Pierrepoint
The ability to play old videogames from yesteryear has been around for considerable time, thanks to the widespread appeal of emulators and ‘roms’ – image files that contain full games – despite the process still remaining illegal. While console emulation has grown to the point where you are now able to play games in your internet browser window, owning and playing such roms is still considered a breach of copyright. This week, however, it appears that an emulator has been approved by one of the world’s leading gaming providers.
Microsoft’s Xbox One may have come under fire a number of times over the years for various reasons relating to usability, it has been able to grow and evolve into a system that really stands up to the PlayStation 4 – and as more and more software is rolled out for the platform, it will only continue to grow in popularity. Universal Emulator is a multi-format gaming program that enables players to sample the best retro games from years gone by – it’s been developed by NESBox, whose dedicated Nintendo emulator has been available on a number of formats for some time – and while emulators can be used to play free versions of Nintendo and Sega classics of old, it is completely legal for players to create and play their own games for use with the engine. Universal Emulator has passed Microsoft Certification, meaning that it will be available for users to download and run legally via their current-gen console. But how will publishers such as Nintendo view the move? It’s likely that they may not be so keen on such a program being readily made available on a legal basis.
Nintendo have become known in recent years for keeping a tight rein on their intellectual property, with a number of fan games and adaptations having been shut down by the corporation. The company encourages downloading and playing of their old games via their Virtual Console platform, available on both the Wii U and the 3DS – as opposed to gamers taking advantage of online emulators and roms for free.
The emergence of a legal emulator on the Xbox One will likely be met with praise from some gamers but it is not currently known whether or not developers of old games will remain silent on the matter. With Nintendo regularly focusing on its older material to appeal to current gamers, it is unlikely that they will let a legalization of such an emulator slide.