Digital Foundry is probably best known for putting brand-new console releases through their paces, but recently it uploaded a new video that caught our attention.
In the video, the Digital Foundry member Alex Battaglia managed to get Windows 98 running on his Xbox Series X, letting him experience some of the platform's greatest hits like RollerCoaster Tycoon, Turok, and Half-Life.
"What devilry is this?", you may ask, grabbing your pitchforks and distributing them to the mob. But, you need not worry at all, as there's nothing supernatural about it. As Digital Foundry explains on its YouTube channel, it is all a matter of emulation. To start, the team installed Retro Arch on an Xbox Series X, using Archades Games tutorial, and then loaded Windows 98 onto DosBox Pure. This is possible as the latter is simply emulating PC hardware, allowing software to be installed onto it.
Case in point, Battaglia actually managed to install a copy of Microsoft Word onto his Xbox Series X, which he used to write the script for the video.
Battaglia admits that there are some shortcomings to emulating Windows 98 games in this manner. As the games don't load from disk on Retro Arch for Xbox, but rather disk ISOs, he had to create his own ISOs of the software on CD-RW and then load them up, as opposed to simply placing his old games directly into the machine. He also found that plugging a mouse into his Xbox Series X didn't exactly work as intended, meaning he had to use an Xbox controller instead.
Nevertheless, he managed to get almost all the games he wanted working (except Diablo II) with DosBox Pure even coming with a Voodoo graphics accelerator. This accelerator worked fine for earlier 3D titles like Turok and WipeOut 2097, but struggled with more advanced 3D games like Unreal, with Battaglia arguing the chip was likely hindered by the way emulation is handled.
According to Battaglia, during emulation the Xbox CPU is responsible for a "huge sandwich of emulation and abstraction", having to emulate the hardware, the OS, the API driver layer, and the rendering of pixels, which is all too much for it to handle without taking a knock to performance.
As he points out, to use this accelerator, you, therefore, need to have the mindset of a person who is using a lower-end card back in the mid-'90s, in order to get the best out of the experience.
All in all, it doesn't necessarily seem like the most ideal way to play if you still have the original hardware at hand. But, as a novelty, it's super cool to see Windows 98 running on a Microsoft machine all these years later. For many, Windows 98 was the definitive era of PC gaming, so to see it brought back, even with a few caveats here and there is a total burst of nostalgia.
It's also got us wondering – what would be the first game you'd want to play on Xbox? Let us know in the comments below!