Restrictions on Xbox development mode could be related to the use of emulators

Restrictions on Xbox development mode could be related to the use of emulators

Microsoft has issued a statement amid reports that it is cracking down on people who use dev mode for emulation. Following what appears to be a crackdown on people using Xbox dev mode to imitate games, a Microsoft official said there are “no plans to delete or disable” dev mode on the Xbox. A number of Xbox customers were surprised to receive an email from Microsoft earlier today informing them that their access to Xbox dev mode has been cancelled owing to inactivity.

Restrictions on Xbox development mode could be related to the use of emulators

“We have no plans to remove or disable Developer Mode on Xbox consoles,” Ronald said in a series of tweets shared Wednesday afternoon. “We continue to believe in and support a healthy independent app and game development community on Xbox.” Ronald goes on to explain that the accounts that lost access to dev mode were deactivated “inadvertently” during a routine sweep of inactive accounts. “We are actively working on identifying and reenabling these accounts as soon as possible,” Ronald added. “Once an account has been reactivated, users will be able to reenable Developer Mode on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles.”

It was never explicitly stated that the move was intended to curb the increasing popularity of using dev mode to turn Xbox Series S/X consoles into emulators, but it was a very popular theory on the GBAtemp community forums. Now, Xbox director of program management Jason Ronald has apparently responded to reports suggesting as much, promising Xbox dev mode is here to stay.

Curiously, the statement never directly addresses the common concern that Microsoft could indeed be cracking down on the practice of using Xbox dev mode to emulate games, sometimes from its direct competitor, PlayStation. It’s entirely possible that there were some accounts that were intentionally deactivated and others that were shuttered mistakenly. We’ve reached out to Microsoft for clarification and will update this article if we hear back. It looks like Microsoft is revoking Xbox dev mode access to a large number of users, possibly in response to the feature’s common usage for running emulators.

While it’s intended to let developers use standard retail consoles as development kits for making their own games and apps, enabling and entering dev mode on an Xbox One or Xbox Series X or S also allows users to install popular emulators such as RetroArch. From there you can use your Xbox console as an emulation machine for 4K upscaled PlayStation games and beyond, all without needing to hack or otherwise modify your console.

Users posting on the GBAtemp community forums noticed the recent change in policy, which came in the form of Microsoft revoking access to Partner Center accounts to users who have not uploaded anything to the store in the last 90 days. The notifications sent to users reference the developer code of conduct, “which says that an active presence in the Store must be maintained.”

YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer points to this potential for emulation as the likely impetus for Microsoft clamping down on access to dev mode on consoles, calling it a “very disappointing move” – especially since getting access to dev mode in the first place does require paying a small fee. We’ll have to wait and see if Microsoft softens or reverses course on this decision, or if it’s just going to be that much more selective regarding who gets to use Xbox dev mode from now on.

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