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Xbox DRM policies cause confusion following major Xbox Live outage

Over the weekend, the Xbox Live network saw repeated outages, leading to outcry from players across all supported platforms over DRM policies. Due to the outage, a lot of players were unable to access their digital games, including offline, single-player titles. Now, we have some clarification over how Xbox DRM works.

One of the error messages that users encountered over the weekend included; “The owner of this content needs to sign in”. This message would pop up in even for those signed in with the correct Xbox Live account, but due to authentication servers being down, users couldn't pass the DRM check and launch their digital games.

This is due to Xbox's dual-authentication system. On Xbox consoles, there are two login states, a ‘Home' Xbox login and a “Cloud” login. If you are signed onto an Xbox that isn't set as your home console, then the cloud login will be used, and you will have to go through an online DRM check in order to launch a game. Once you set an Xbox as your ‘Home' console, you can usually access your digital games while offline, including titles bought through the store, and those downloaded through Xbox Game Pass.

Usually, that's as simple as it gets, and accessing digital games while offline isn't an issue. However, due to the network outages over the weekend, even home console users were having trouble playing certain games. After doing some digging and talking with folks at Xbox, Windows Central has uncovered some lesser-known aspects to Xbox DRM.

For physical games, usually Xbox will pull the license from the disc itself, but in the case of backwards compatible titles, during the first launch, Xbox will contact its servers to pull compatibility settings. Due to the network outage, that meant some users were unable to load some backwards compatible titles even from the disc.

The outage also brought to light some policy inconsistencies that meant digital titles could not load on a Home console. While some games do receive an offline license as soon as the game is installed, other games require a first-time launch to pull an offline license, something that has never really been explicitly stated.

Microsoft has not confirmed the cause of the outages over the weekend, nor has it responded to criticism of its policies yet and vague error messages.

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KitGuru Says: I typically launch games as soon as they've downloaded on my Xbox, so I was able to play the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 and NBA 2K22 over the weekend without much issue. Still, it seems clear that Microsoft needs to be a bit more clear about the DRM system and the requirements to enable offline play. Were any of you unable to play certain games this weekend due to the Xbox Live outage? 

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