Xbox head Phil Spencer on Xbox 360 emulator for Windows 10: 'Never say never'

The Xbox One's backward compatibility emulator for the Xbox 360 is one of the console's key differentiators against the competition, but what if it could be even more?

In an exchange on Twitter, Xbox head Phil Spencer said "never say never" with regards to getting Xbox 360 games running on Windows 10 via emulation.

Spencer noted that it would be difficult to get backward compatibility running reliably across all the different types of PC hardware configurations out there, but closed with some degree of optimism.

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The idea of getting the Xbox 360 emulator running on Windows 10 certainly fits in with Microsoft's "Play Anywhere" vision, by which your digital library of content travels with you, regardless of the device you're using. Naturally, the technical hurdles to get this running reliably would be significant, but the Xbox software engineering team seem to enjoy a challenge.

Whether we see X360 games on Windows 10 or not, Xbox is set to have a tremendous year with the upcoming Creators Update, various headline games including Halo Wars 2, State of Decay 2, and Sea of Thieves, and of course, the next Xbox, Project Scorpio.

Phil Spencer hailed this year's Xbox One line-up, saying that they're aiming to ship more first-party IP than in 2016.

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Would you want to see your Xbox 360 digital library on Windows 10? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

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!

  • This is clearly going to be a part of what the Windows 10 overall gaming landscape is going to be like in the Scorpio era. If Scorpio is basically going to be the culmination of the adoption of Windows 10 in the Xbox ecosystem, and it's going to run old Xbox games, then PCs should also be able to run them, both Xbox One and 360. The concept as I see it is basically that Windows 10 gaming is going to become one.
  • So hard to make an emulator run the same speed on so much varied hardware as he says.  Would be a neat party trick though.  I'd imagine if it only ran on high performance rigs and then purposefully limited itself, that would be easier to make consistent. Looking forward to 2017 on the Xbox front.
  • That's exactly what I was thinking. Just like how the store lets you know the minimum specs to run a game, the emulator could have set minimum specs for 30 or 60 fps and then just limit itself there for consistency in higher end hardware
  • Seems like more trouble than it's worth when most of these games already have PC releases at low prices.
  • Not all of them, though.
  • And of the 360 games ported to the PC, how many were flat-out horrible ports? Even if the game is good, the porting can destroy the experience. It would be nifty if they could make this emulation, and gave a good platform for developers to make games easier that work on PC.
  • Make Halo 3 playable on a PC and I'll be happy. (Though my ultra-low confidence on MS' direction on the mobile arena remains.) 
  • There are quite a few 360 games I would love to play on PC. I imagine Xbox One games don't need emulation since they're already running on x86 based hardware.
  • Xbox 360 on Windows 10 mobile, that would be amazing?...but would never see the day and light of the concept...
  • Why would anyone want an inferior ~720p versions of the games? Most of those BC games are already available on PC, and those games that available only on 360 are very limited. Gears 2,3, Red Dead Redemption, Lost Odyssey and what else?
  • Halo Reach would be a big one
  • Forza, Halo 4, ODST, splinter Cell Cinviction, Shadow Complex, Blue Dragon, Tales Of Vesperia, among many more. And why pay for them again when you could play your versions you bought free? And 80% of PC gamers don't have a PC that runs better than a 360 for games in 2016 anyway according to Steam.
  • its about those few games only which we want to play......we want them on pc anyhow !! :) 
  • You mean, like what else apart from the collection of digital 360 games I already own, or the stack of games I already own on disc ?
  • I think it would be worth it for the people who already own the games on Xbox. It drives more Xbox customers to the Windows store and drastically increases the catalog of Xbox Play Anywhere titles.
  • cloud sync? don't have to buy it twice?
  • *PC elitist spotted* Damn I didn't know 720p for an older game was such a turn off for ya. There are still lots of 360 games not on PC..And on top of that lots of games that received a port already run terribly on PC.
  • Why not start with bringing Xbox One games like the Master Chief Collection and Halo 5 campaign to PC?
  • The article implies that Xbox One emulation on PC is more or less a given, within the paradigm of Win 10 based Scorpio gaming.
  • I thought they've pretty much given up on 1P new IP development...
  • Their mobile devices should come with an emulator for the two generation old systems. For example, we should be playing and buying emulated Xbox original games with some sort of snap in controller device. These clowns are to short sighted. All this should be happening right through the Xbox app on our phones. I'm sure they will hear this idea and implement it for iOS.
  • I'd love to play the first Forza Horizon game on my 2in1 on the go :D I'd play it on the bus on my way to work instead of NFS Most Wanted 2005 (which is an amazing game, and I'm pretty embarrassed I didn't ever finish it yet :D But thanks to OneDrive, I was able to pick up where I left off on my old laptop before :D )
  • I mean... If it works then Yeah! Right now the streaming is a little glitchy. Getting lesser games to run on my SP3 would be great.
  • Maybe narrow it down to MS only hardwares? Suppose it'd be much easier. I'd love to have a Portable Xbox 360 tho (Surface Phone).
  • There may be a cert oems have to meet and they get the x360 compat logo hehe
  • Would be pretty sick if they were able to pull this off I have a book case full of Xbox 360 games. It would be nice to be able to play them on my laptop while I'm away from home. Then my games and music would all be accessible from outside my home. And being that you can find some good 360 titles at your local game stop for under $5 you can build up quite a game collection.
  • I'd love this. While they'd still be a long ways behind Steam in terms of sheer content getting those games on the Windows 10 Store would still provide a massively compelling catalogue. 
  • Sounds interesting if they implement it in the future :D
  • This is exactly the kind of thing that the "xbox is doomed because console war" crowd seem woefully ignorant about. The console war is nearly over. Sony just doesn't know it yet. Well... that is IF Microsoft stays on course... When your gaming platform jumps from 26 million to several hundred million in course of a few software updates... that's not the sort of thing that Sony has an answer for.
  • Nice! There's already unofficial emulators out there, making an official one will be very welcome...