This weekend’s Xbox outage brought Microsoft’s DRM back into the spotlight

Source: Windows Central

Xbox has a uniquely controversial history with digital rights management, otherwise known as DRM. DRM refers to the general practice of verifying the authenticity of a piece of digital content, whether it’s music, movies, or of course games. DRM controversies arise from time to time. I remember the disaster that was in 2013’s SimCity from EA. Mythically awful DRM failed on launch day, leaving thousands unable to access offline play, or even do basic things like save games. It came on the heels of the Xbox One’s DRM debacle, with the revelation that the console will always be online. Microsoft will, of course, backtrack later, but the Internet has a long memory.

Last weekend, Xbox authentication servers were down for millions of gamers around the world, sparking some bad memories for Xbox users. In a statement to us, Microsoft said that the Xbox Live systems that prevented purchases and game launches have stabilized and that it is working to release an update to servers this week to prevent this issue from happening again. However, the specter of the Xbox One’s turbulent launch era reared its head in the speech that followed.

So, what exactly went wrong?

Xbox games and apps

Source: Windows Central

Over the weekend, several users were slapped with messages “The owner of this content needs to sign in,” as Xbox servers failed to validate Xbox users’ ownership of certain content. On Xbox consoles, you basically have two instances of logging in to your account. One is to sign in to Xbox “Home” and the other is to sign in to the cloud. Cloud login is intended to be used on external Xbox consoles, in situations where you might visit a friend, for example, so you can team up and play together. Many users also use this feature to share games with a friend, or with a second console inside their homes.

As someone who shares a library with a family member, it’s often a result that during Xbox Live downtimes, I lose access to my games. This is because to check your license rights to log in to the cloud, of course, you must be able to connect to the cloud.

In theory, users playing on their account’s “main” console shouldn’t have any problems, since DRM check-in for licenses on the main console is more generous. However, many users have been sharing reports that they have not been able to access ownership of their games even on Homepage keyboard. Despite this, it appears that at least some of these scenarios were the result of confusion about how different games interact with DRM.

Sign in to Xbox

Source: Windows Central

A scenario may arise where you cannot access an offline game even on your main console when you try to play a game that you did not receive your initial license offline, for any particular reason. In a conversation with Ashley McKissick, Xbox CVP for Gaming Experiences and Platforms, I found out more about how game licenses work on the console. In order to obtain an offline license for a digital game (which lasts forever on Xbox consoles once downloaded), You must have launched the game at least once. In the case of disc-based games, McKissick confirmed that those games pull the license from the disc itself. However, some users may have found that playing back-compatible Xbox One games on Xbox Series X | S may still fail to boot from disk during this outage, since they need to pull some compatibility settings on first load.

It certainly wasn’t the case that Microsoft intentionally tried to withdraw access to offline games on your home consoles. And for conspiracy theorists, she also asserted that it wasn’t the Fortnite hit of Xbox Cloud games that brought servers down, either.

Regardless, the confusion around these systems and the inconsistencies that might arise became a major talking point in the Xbox community over the weekend. All of this highlights the scenarios where authentication servers may be inaccessible for any reason.

This spotlighted Xbox DRM again

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S

Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central

Without DRM, an Xbox owner would theoretically be able to download hundreds of games on Xbox Game Pass and EA Play with a $1 trial, unplug their console, and have it forever without paying for it, for example. DRM obviously has some advantages for checking digital ownership and file integrity, but there is clearly a point where DRM negatively impacts the experience of a motivated user, as we saw last weekend.

Digital rights management generally remains a controversial topic. With regards to the Xbox, you have the fact that consoles need an initial online connection to set up. Then there’s the fact that many discs only have a license to the game in the post-Steam era, lacking the files to run the game entirely without the internet.

Opponents of DRM criticize the fact that licensing servers have been shut down in the far theoretical future, and all this content will become inaccessible. Personally, I am of the opinion that Microsoft’s global Azure server array will not only outlast any local set of disks, but also potentially outlast every human alive today. Having said that, I’m also an advocate for anyone who wants to have a physical Those discs and content, without an internet connection. Indeed, any scenario where offline games on your main console, digital or disc-based, can do so. Start It has become inaccessible due to DRM, which is unacceptable in my view. Indeed, I was assured that the inability to play games offline on the main console was not intentional, and was merely a result of server issues that Microsoft is working to correct.

Xbox S

Source: Matt Brown | Windows CentralTransparency about digital property rights is becoming more important in a world where only digital consoles like the Xbox Series S will become popular.

Microsoft’s support pages describe how to play games offline, after all. There has undoubtedly been confusion and inconsistency about how some games present licenses, and you will likely get stuck in an unverified state. Hacking the conflicting reports and licensing models that could create these situations has been a complex matter, to say the least. Quite obviously, I think there’s room for simplification here, and it’s becoming important to do so in a world where digital-only consoles like the Xbox Series S are becoming more and more popular.

Microsoft is one of the few owners of large platforms that seems to be actively interested in maintaining software. Just last week, they unlocked 3D Movie Maker from Windows 95, and did more to deliver and enhance past-generation games than any other company. Windows itself is the ultimate engine for backward compatibility, with the ability to run games decades old from the 80s or even earlier, without issues. However, it makes sense to be skeptical of any giant company, when many of them have shown that they are more than willing to reduce the user experience in the name of profit.

Microsoft could go a little further to provide clarity and transparency about licenses for games on the console itself.

There is no guarantee that future Microsoft will be interested in preserving the games or even the gameplay. Excessive uncertainty in the technology industry inhibits confidence. Rival giant Apple has come under fire for removing iOS games for the crime of “not receiving an update for two years”. While I’m confident Microsoft wouldn’t act this way, the idea of ​​a technical entity deciding on a whim to remove access to content is certainly not without precedent.

Whether you trust the platform holders or not, DRM on consoles is ready for a bit of an update. Steam already allows up to 10 users across 10 authorized computers to share the library system-wide, which is done by far Much more user-friendly than what console platforms offer today, although that comes at the cost of being able to resell any of those games. Ironically, Microsoft was planning to offer this functionality with the release of the Xbox One launch in 2013, along with the ability to resell games at “participating retailers.” Consumers generally rejected it because the simplicity of physical ownership is so integral to the console tradition. Nearly a decade later, console platforms are eschewing that strange mixture of licensing and double entitlement provisions that is getting increasingly confusing in a digital, primarily subscription-based world. Can’t we improve it somehow?

More clarity can’t hurt

Xbox Series X controller.

Source: Matt Brown | Windows Central

DRM is a dirty word, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for game developers to verify that users have actually paid for the content they receive. Either way, the systems we have today are clearly opaque. When all things work as they should, Xbox DRM tests are something that happens in the background without any user knowledge, and contains only a few bytes of data. When things it’s not Working as it should, we seem to end up in a world where we don’t know what games we’ll actually be able to access, as rare as the disruption that could happen on Microsoft’s end. At the very least, it would be nice for Xbox consoles to provide some of this information to users at the OS level in the future. It would also be nice if the license came with the initial download, without the need to run.

It’s funny that the Xbox engineer at ResetEra said a year ago that Microsoft could do a little more on its end to clear up confusion when these situations arise.

“…we (Xbox) need to improve our error messages on the console; it is clear that generic and unclear error messages add confusion and can lead to mistrust in the system. There is already an internal effort to regenerate licensing-related error messages, and I will make sure that Hear these comments internally to continue to lead this effort.”

Some bug wording has changed, but it may not have been enough yet.

I’d like to know what policies Microsoft might enact in a far-reaching, far-future scenario where Xbox is shut down by CTO Cyborg quintillionaire (I mean incredibly). Or, what if some kind of asteroid shower wiped out the Earth’s surface (and the Azores), forcing us all to live underground with only offline consoles? Although in this case, I fear we will all have more urgent matters to consider. Fortunately, there are many great Xbox survival games that you can play offline – or at least, I suspect Could you. Are these games fully playable on Xbox Series X | S of disk? Does it require DRM checks or configuration patches at launch? Does this game have expiring licenses? Will you release without a patch one day?

Which The way Microsoft can reduce the need for games to ping servers has to be the best. The fact that we can never be sure how modern Xbox games work in offline situations can be confusing — to say the least. Can’t we improve it somehow?

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