Xbox, internet connectivity and DRM: how game access works | Xbox One

The shutdown of Xbox Live last weekend affected a number of people and raised the DRM issue on Xbox again. While Microsoft has indicated that the update will improve things, we now know more about how DRM works on the Xbox and how it caused game access issues.

What was the problem ?

For those who haven’t been following, the problem was that in the event of a network outage on Xbox Live, some people simply couldn’t launch their game even when their console wasn’t connected to the internet.

Specifically, a message appeared on the screen stating that the user must connect so that Microsoft’s servers can check if they have the content or game they are trying to access. When Xbox Live is down, this verification inevitably becomes impossible.

In the growing discussions about connectivity issues, some suggested setting up the primary console as the Xbox console we have at home. But some users were still unable to access their games with this configuration.

How does access to online and offline games work on Xbox?

We found explanations of how DRM works on Xbox on the Resetera forums, where OscarK, an Xbox mod developer, was able to provide some clarification last year. First, the company already acknowledged last year that error messages displayed in the Xbox interface can be confusing and distrustful of the system. He explained that internal efforts were underway to reorganize licensing-related error messages and said he would make sure those comments were heard internally in order to continue this work.

Here’s what he had to say about how different types of games work and how to install them when you’re online or offline:

  • Games for Xbox and Xbox 360 Internet connection is required for installation. the disk contains only a key that allows you to download the game and the emulator (like on Xbox One).
  • Xbox One games an internet connection is required once during installation in order to download certain configuration files (separate from actual game patches).
  • For smart game delivery, it depends on what data is actually on the disk. If the Xbox Series X|S version is on disc, it can be installed offline, but if it’s only a part, then the Smart Delivery part is available as an update to download. A hybrid installation is then created using data from the disc and data downloaded from the Xbox Live network.
  • Games for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S native can be installed offline.

Another setting comes into play, which determines which console is the “Primary Xbox”. This is an important setting, for example, for sharing your Xbox account.

Explanation for Xbox Home

The developer explains that unlike Sony with the PS5, the Xbox teams chose not to change this setting when a new Xbox is purchased and activated by the customer. So if you buy a PS5 today, it will automatically become your primary console, even if you already own a primary PS4. If you buy an Xbox Series X and have your Xbox One set up as your primary Xbox, it will remain so until you change this setting.

In theory, setting the Xbox as your primary console should allow access to your games, including offline. However, some users were still unable to do so while Xbox Live was disabled. The reason is simple: when you first install a game on your Xbox console, there is a registration step. This is a multi-step process that includes decrypting the package header, downloading the metadata, and providing the extra storage the game needs for temporary files. Basically, this is a test that requires Internet access.

When a digital game is downloaded to the console, this registration step is also performed as part of the download. However, if you installed the content on an external hard drive and moved it to another console, that console will also need to complete this registration step. On first start. “I strongly suspect that the content that failed to launch despite the ‘Primary Xbox’ configuration was on an external hard drive that was downloaded to another console.”he is finishing.

While questions still remain unanswered, these explanations provided by developer Microsoft give us more information on how DRM works and how to access games on Xbox. Hopefully, in the future, Microsoft will be able to share more details on how DRM works in all possible configurations.