Microsoft has lifted a DRM hurdle for disc games on Xbox

Image of Xbox Series X, showing its power button and air vent.
Insert a disc and play. | Photo by Vjeran Pavic / MovieBeat

Microsoft is making it easier to play games on your Xbox Series X, even if it’s offline – starting with update 2208 released earlier this month, you won’t be required to do an online compatibility check to play to a game from an Xbox One disc (through Windows Central). Instead, you can just insert the disc, install the game, and play. no internet connection required.

The change, which is not listed as a feature of update 2208 on Microsoft’s site, was confirmed by Xbox Engineering Manager Eden Marie, who tweeted that verification was removed because it was not needed “in the vast majority of cases” when playing a cross-gen game on Series X.

YouTuber Hikikomori Media has a good breakdown of the situation before, but the TL; DR is that there’s kind of a mixed bag when you buy Xbox games on disc. Some will be marked as Xbox One games, which obviously contain the version of the game intended for Microsoft’s latest generation consoles. Other games, however, are marked as working with both Xbox Series X and Xbox One (Xbox Series S doesn’t have an optical disc drive to insert games) – but sometimes the version of the game on the disc is for the Xbox One. Prior to the update, you had to be online to complete the installation of these games, so your Xbox could download information to allow them to work with the new console.

Now, you will be able to install the Xbox One version of the game directly from the Xbox One or cross-gen disc and start playing it. Of course, if you want to download updates or enhancement packs for the Series X, you’ll still need to log in. You will also need to go online to play games that do not have all of the installation data available on disk. Those caveats mean it’s not a complete victory for game preservation, but in theory, if Microsoft shuts down its servers, you should still at least be able to play the version of the game you have on disc.

According to a new video from Hikikomori Media, the situation for Xbox Series X exclusive game discs and games downloaded from the store is the same as before the update – you can play them completely offline (although if you want to do this for the latter, you’ll need to be on your primary Xbox). If you insert an Xbox 360 or original Xbox disc, you still won’t be able to play it without logging in first; Mary says this is because the data on these disks “cannot be used directly”.

Microsoft has worked to make it easier to launch and play games on Xbox overall. It recently began testing badges on the console’s home screen that clearly indicate at a glance if a game is currently playable.

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