for 48 hours, millions of players lost their purchased games

A major Xbox network outage this weekend sheds light on Microsoft’s DRM management issue. Millions of gamers have been stripped of their purchased games for no good reason.

Xbox Series S and its controller // Source: Arno Gelino – Frandroid

It’s called being cut off in your momentum. While Microsoft is just getting back together in video games with the announcement of its Xbox & Bethesda Showcase in June and its Xbox Everywhere strategy to dominate video games, the firm has experienced a massive outage to the Xbox network this weekend.

Breakdown over 48 hours

From the evening of Friday, May 6 to Saturday, May 7, gamers began to notice a serious problem on the Xbox network. The symptoms of the failure are numerous: unable to access Xbox Cloud Gaming, unable to purchase games, and especially unable to run local games we own.

We are aware that some users are unable to run games on Xbox consoles and cloud gaming, and our teams are investigating. We will update here and on our status page when we have more information to share.

— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport) May 6, 2022

Among the effects of this outage was the inability to launch games for the 25 million Xbox Game Pass subscribers, as well as games purchased in dematerialized form from the Xbox Store. This is not about downloading a game from the Xbox Store that might not be available at the time of the crash, but only about launching it, even offline. We’re talking about the wider Xbox network here, so the issue has also affected Windows 10 and Windows 11 players who use Microsoft Store or PC Game Pass games. The Xbox Support Twitter account also indicates that users can no longer use streaming apps like Netflix and Disney+ on the platform.

This Monday morning, May 9, 2022, the Xbox crash site indicates that the network is now fully functional. Therefore, it took a whole weekend to eliminate this malfunction. Thankfully, this is still a rare event of this magnitude on the Microsoft network.

DRM issue unique to Xbox

This crash exposes an issue unique to the Xbox ecosystem that does not exist on PlayStation and Nintendo. The latter two are also entitled to their share of network outages every year, but whether it’s on the Switch or the PlayStation 4 and 5, it’s possible to run digitally purchased games without a network connection. We can’t imagine a Nintendo Switch requiring a connection as soon as it needs to launch a game, it wouldn’t make sense.

Literally 99.9% of purchased single player games for Nintendo and PlayStation 4/5 NEVER need to be connected again after download/installation. This problem is unfortunately extremely Xbox related.

— Plays? (@DoesItPlay1) May 8, 2022

We are talking here about games that can be played with a single player, without an online mode that should be available offline, even on Xbox. Microsoft’s troubles in this area may in part stem from the disastrous launch of Xbox One, where Microsoft envisioned an all-online future. Since then, the firm has made many changes to its strategy, but the operation of the Xbox system and network has remained the same.

Where the PlayStation and Nintendo Switch can be set up offline, the Xbox still requires a connection on first use. Aside from a simple network outage that is eventually fixed, this raises questions about the resilience of video games on Xbox when Microsoft may decide to shut down servers.

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