Xbox Quietly Dumps Controversial DRM Feature, Older Games Finally Playable Offline

Microsoft says it has removed an older, controversial DRM feature of 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 to the console’s internal storage, you still needed an internet connection to launch the game.

Series S consoles are obviously exempt from this because they don’t have a disc drive and, as such, cannot play disc-based games.

As of last month, however, your console no longer needs to perform this online check before booting any disc-based games. As spotted by Games Radar, Xbox One games on a retail disc can now, finally, be played offline.

“This is true since the 2206 update,” read a tweet from Xbox engineering lead Eden Marie (though Marie would later confirm she was referring to update 2208, not 2206). “We examined data since Series X|S launch and determined the online compatibility check isn’t needed in the vast majority of cases for Xbox One discs. Some games may still need to be updated online after install to ensure the best experience.”

The 2208 update was released in August, though its release notes don’t mention the removal of the DRM at all.

To be completely clear, Xbox Series X discs could already be played without an internet connection. The DRM that has been disabled here is a holdover from the Xbox One’s troubled launch era when an always-on connection was a mandatory component in the console’s operation. Where this DRM became a problem was in relation to Smart Delivery. Smart Delivery is Xbox’s one-size-fits-all content delivery system, the idea being that one purchase gets you a copy of your game on every Xbox platform. The system then determines which console you’re currently on and downloads the appropriate version for you. The thing is, most Smart Delivery enabled games ship 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 performed, you couldn’t actually 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 around Microsoft’s view on borrowed games. It may be hard to believe so many years removed from it, but Microsoft really was planning to crack down on people lending games to their friends. Kind of insane to think about now.

There are still parts of the Xbox system that require an internet connection — the initial setup phase springs readily to mind. OG Xbox and Xbox 360 games still require an internet connection too, because the system has to download them in full, even when you insert a disc.

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