Console makers have a love-hate relationship with emulators. On the one hand, they hate the piracy it empowers. But on the other hand, some of them have actually used them to power their own mini retro consoles. While Microsoft has no such “Xbox Classic” (yet), its very own Xbox One might have just become the next big emulation darling. Simply because it makes it almost too easy to run the RetroArch emulator on it, no jailbreaking required.
RetroArch and the Libretro team have gained fame in the emulation scene not because of how it emulates a single console or platform but exactly because it emulates almost all of them. RetroArch itself is a frontend using the libretro platform that can use different “cores” to emulate almost anything and everything (that’s supported). In other words, it’s a powerful one-stop shop for emulating machine, so to speak.
Of course, RetroArch is just the software and it needs hardware to run on. Another strength of the software is that it can almost run on anything, including consoles. But there’s a catch. Most of those consoles have to be jailbroken first before RetroArch can work its magic. That’s what makes the team’s recent announcement a bit special. You don’t need those hacks on the Xbox One!
Although Microsoft officially bans any emulator from popping up on its app and game store, it is, somewhat ironically, less restrictive about other means to install such software. Specifically, Developer Mode, which is an official mode, can be used to install such software, which the libretro team just confirmed. None of the major consoles have something similar, making the Xbox One a one-stop emulation machine. Unofficially, of course.
It’s not all perfect though. While Developer Mode won’t require you to jailbreak your console, you do have to pay at least $19 for a Microsoft Dev Center account. You will also have to factory reset your console if you ever want to get out of Developer Mode. And while it’s definitely an exciting development, libretro still recommends PCs with beefier CPUs and GPUs for the best emulation experience.