What you need to know
- Xbox Series X|S consoles support Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) for app development.
- This allows independent devs to build tools fairly easily for Xbox in some cases, with third-party apps appearing in the past for YouTube, Discord, and others.
- To that end, Xenia has arrived on Xbox Series X|S consoles in the form of a UWP app, potentially opening up the console to a broader backward compatibility library than officially available.
Update (Feb 7, 2023): Xenia has just released a new canary version of its UWP app, potentially fixing many problems with the first iteration.
The homebrew community continues to impress.
Xenia is a powerful emulation project from the same developer who ported Dolphin to Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Dolphin is a popular emulator which allows you to play Nintendo Wii and Gamecube games on a Windows PC, and to that end, Xenia achieves similar ends for Xbox 360 games you may own. There are already videos showing Xenia running on platforms like PC, Linux, and Steam Deck hardware, but another frontier has been opened in the war for game preservation.
Xenia has now been tentatively ported to UWP, and thus, compatible modern Xbox consoles. While the compatibility list is limited right now, as Xenia UWP improves, it could eventually allow you to play a far larger library of Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S console — far bigger than the official list of backward compatible Xbox 360 games on Xbox One and Series X|S.
Xenia is available via the official research project page and its Github. The website states that the project initially began when the developer purchased some region-locked games in Japan, and found that he was unable to play them on their home console. As is often the case with arbitrary restrictions by license holders, the homebrew scene will often come through and offer an alternative solution. All the footage in the above video was reportedly captured on an Xbox Series X, and represents titles that aren't available via traditional backward compatibility.
The project announcement comes quite hot on the heels of a mix-up from Microsoft, who stated last week their intent to remove some digital Xbox 360 games from sale. Right after, Microsoft "erroneously," said that it planned to shut down the Xbox 360 marketplace in its entirety as soon as May 2023. Microsoft retracted that note, and said it was made in error. Still, you have to assume that one day the Xbox 360 marketplace most likely will shut down, rendering you unable to download Xbox 360 games that aren't available on Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S consoles via backward compatibility. Due to licensing issues, there are many games that are only available to play on modern Xbox consoles via a disc, if indeed they're available at all. Even games Microsoft "owns," like MechAssault, have never been ported to modern systems owing to apocryphal legal issues that will never fully come to light.
As Xbox 360 consoles die off due to wear and tear, increasingly, it will fall on the homebrew scene with ROMs and emulators of dubious legality in some territories to ensure these pieces of art are preserved for the future. Without this work, many of the best Xbox games of all time could end up lost forever.
If you're interested in trying out Xenia for yourself, head over to Xenia's Github and be sure to read the FAQ. The project is a work in progress, and as always with apps and services like this, check your local laws with regard to version-shifting content you may already own in a different format.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!