Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox Gaming, said in a Eurogamer interview that preserving Xbox 360 games that will be lost once the console’s digital store shuts down forever in 2024 is at the “front and center” of the company’s mind.
Speaking to Eurogamer during Gamescom on August 23, Spencer said that because the company’s backward compatibility efforts are “world class” and the folks playing Xbox 360 games is “a pretty small community,” it felt time for Microsoft to abandon old hardware and focus on where players are. While he believes PC is “the best ecosystem for game preservation,” since games launched there aren’t tied to one single piece of hardware, he’s aware of a couple hundred non-backward compatible games that need to be figured out.
“There’s a list of, what, 220 games that are not back compat, and I have that list and I’ve got it stapled on my forehead, and like, how can we make sure [you can play them still?],” Spencer asked. “How many of those are on PC? That’s one thing, because it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be able to play it on the existing hardware that you bought 15 years ago, but preservation is front and center when all these decisions are made.”
Spencer was referencing a list of some 220 games VGC found as being unplayable on current Xbox hardware via backward compatibility. While the gaming publication noted that some of the games on the list are available to purchase digitally on the Xbox One and Series X/S stores, and many of the games are still playable through other means (such as physical discs), most—if not all—of them will disappear from the digital world forever when the Xbox 360 marketplace comes to a close on July 29, 2024.
Some of the Xbox 360 games that will be left unplayable on modern Xboxes include Bastion, Batman: The Telltale Series, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Burnout Crash!, Call of Duty Classic, Child of Light, Duke Nukem 3D, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus, Life is Strange, Mark of the Ninja, Mortal Kombat Arcade, Resident Evil 0, Skulls of the Shogun, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Tales from the Borderlands, Trials Fusion, Valiant Hearts: The Great War, The Wolf Among Us, and Zeno Clash 2, among many others.
Spencer noted that game preservation is “critical” to Microsoft, specifying that the company launches all its games on PC because not limiting titles to one piece of hardware helps ensure games don’t get lost to time forever. It’s a bummer that the Xbox 360 marketplace will shut down next year, but Spencer said that’s why the company gave everyone a year’s notice: to prepare for the end while Microsoft works on game preservation solutions.
“I will say for us that preservation that’s linked to only one piece of hardware is a challenge,” Spencer said. “Because there can be hardware love as well—people who love and want this device to do this forever—but mechanical things will break over time. But that’s why we gave people with this decision a year. Let’s say, ‘Hey, if you want to go buy things in the [Xbox 360 digital store], we’re going to give you a year head start, and you can go get those things.’ And just know that the list of the 220 games is something that we see, and we would love to find solutions for those games to continue to play.”
Kotaku reached out to Microsoft for comment.
This all comes as a July 2023 study by the Video Game History Foundation, in partnership with the Software Preservation Network, found that 87 percent of classic games—think of stuff like Yakuza on the PlayStation 2, or RPGs on TurboGrafx-16—are being lost to time. Game preservation is an important issue, particularly as this history helps not only shape the next generation of developers and gamers, but also direct where the medium will go in the future.