Xbox quietly dumps controversial DRM feature, older games finally playable offline

Microsoft says it has removed an older, controversial DRM feature from its Xbox Series X consoles, allowing users to once again play disc-based Xbox One games on their consoles without an active internet connection.

The Xbox Series X, like the Xbox One before it, previously required a live internet connection to play Xbox One titles on a disc. It didn’t matter if you installed the contents of the disc into the console’s internal storage, you still needed an internet connection to start the game.

Series S consoles are of course exempt from this because they do not have a disc drive and as such cannot play games on disc.

However, as of last month, your console no longer needs to perform this online check before launching games on disc. As noted by Games Radar, Xbox One games on a retail disc can now finally be played offline.

“This has been true since the 2206 update,” read a tweet from Xbox engineering leader Eden Marie (though Marie would later confirm) she referred to update 2208, not 2206). “We’ve examined data since the launch of Series X|S and found that the online compatibility checker is not required for Xbox One discs in the vast majority of cases. Some games may need to be updated online after installation to ensure the best experience.”

The 2208 update was released in August, although the release notes make no mention of the removal of the DRM at all.

To be clear, Xbox Series X discs could already be played without an internet connection. The DRM disabled here is a holdover from the Xbox One’s difficult launch era when an always-on connection was a mandatory part of the console’s operation. Where this DRM became an issue was in relation to Smart Delivery. Smart Delivery is Xbox’s one-size-fits-all content delivery system, where the idea is that with one purchase, you get a copy of your game on any Xbox platform. The system will then determine which console you are currently on and download the correct version for you. The thing is, most games with Smart Delivery come with the Xbox One version on the disc and then download a separate Series X upgrade once the disc is inserted. Until this upgrade is done, you won’t be able to play any of these games without an always-on connection.

The DRM was controversial at the time of the Xbox One’s launch, tied up in anger over Microsoft’s views on borrowed games. It might be hard to believe that so many years have passed, but Microsoft really wanted to crack down on people who lent games to their friends. Kind of crazy to think about now.

There are still parts of the Xbox system that require an internet connection – the initial setup phase easily comes to mind. OG Xbox and Xbox 360 games also still require an internet connection, as the system has to download them in full, even if you insert a disc.

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