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article imageMicrosoft bans game emulators from the Windows Store

By James Walker     Apr 7, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has banned game emulator apps from its Windows and Xbox stores. The company has notified developers of the popular class of apps that they're no longer allowed, preventing users from playing games originally built for archaic consoles.
The rule change is unlikely to affect many users of the apps. They'll still be available for download from the Internet but won't be offered through the Windows store or on the Xbox One. The rule change aligns Microsoft with Apple's existing "no emulators" policy. Google still allows them in its Play Store.
Microsoft changed course late last month, shortly before launching the Windows 10 Creators Update. A new passage in the Windows Store application rules that developers must accept states that emulators do not meet Microsoft's platform standards. "Apps that emulate a game system are not allowed on any device family," the relevant section of the documentation explains.
Although the statement is clear in banning all emulators, its presence under the gaming section suggests titles that aren't game focused could be allowed to remain. It seems as though the popular DOSbox emulator for Windows mobile devices is still available, presumably because it isn't targeted directly at gamers.
Many of the most popular emulators for Windows 10 are available as direct downloads from the website of their creator. Emulators are frequently used by enthusiast gamers to play obsolete titles that were developed for old operating systems and consoles. Popular apps delisted from the Windows Store this week include emulators for the Nintendo NES and Sega games systems.
With many emulators available online or as desktop utilities, it'll be Xbox console gamers and Windows Phone users who are the most affected by these changes. There isn't a simple workaround here, leaving players without access to the legacy game systems of yesteryear.
With Microsoft no longer allowing emulators into the Windows Store, Android is the only remaining mobile platform where they can be directly installed as apps. Microsoft's decision makes the law around the use of game emulators even murkier than before. It also helps seal the Xbox One away from unofficial software.
The trouble with allowing game emulators into app stores stems from the issues around intellectual property that are created. Microsoft doesn't own the rights to the hardware platforms and games that are being used. It's intending moving to put itself in a clearer legal position by striking them out of the store, an approach Apple has always used.
Microsoft has made the change as it prepares to introduce a new way of distributing games for the Xbox One. The Xbox Live Creators Program will allow small developers to publish their games to Windows 10 and the Xbox for a single $100 one-time fee. Although the program comes with a fairly restrictive set of limitations, it will add more content to the Xbox ecosystem.
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