for 48 hours, millions of players deprived of their purchased games

A major Xbox network outage this weekend sheds light on Microsoft’s DRM management problem. Millions of gamers have been deprived of their purchased games without any valid reason.

Xbox Series S and its controller // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

This is called being cut off in one’s momentum. While Microsoft is just restarting its communication in video games with the announcement of its Xbox & Bethesda Showcase in June, and its Xbox Everywhere strategy to dominate the video gamethe firm faced this weekend a huge outage of the Xbox network.

A breakdown for more than 48 hours

On the evening of Friday May 6th through Saturday May 7th, gamers started noticing a significant issue on the Xbox network. The symptoms of the failure are numerous: impossible to access the Xbox Cloud Gaming, impossible to buy games, and especially impossible to launch local games that we own.

We’re aware that some users may be unable to launch games on Xbox consoles and through Cloud gaming, and our teams are investigating. We’ll update here and on our status page when we have more information to share.

— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport) May 6, 2022

Among the repercussions of this outage was the inability to launch games for the 25 million subscribers au Xbox Game Pass, but also for games purchased digitally on the Xbox Store. We are not talking here about downloading a game from the Xbox Store that could be unavailable during the outage, but only about launching it, even offline. We’re talking about the wider Xbox network here, so the issue was also affecting Windows 10 players and Windows 11 who use Microsoft Store or PC Game Pass games. The Xbox Support Twitter account also indicates that users could no longer use streaming applications like Netflix and Disney+ on the platform.

This Monday, May 9, 2022 in the morning, the site dedicated to Xbox outages indicates that the network is now fully functional. It therefore took a whole weekend to repair this fault. Fortunately, this is still a rare event of this magnitude on the Microsoft network.

A DRM issue unique to Xbox

This outage brings to light a problem unique to the Xbox ecosystem that does not exist at PlayStation and Nintendo. The latter two are also entitled to their share of network outages each year, but whether on Switch or PlayStation 4 et 5, it is possible to launch digitally purchased games without a network connection. We cannot imagine a Nintendo Switch mandatory request a connection as soon as it needs to launch a game, it would not make sense.

Literally 99.9% of purchased Nintendo and PlayStation 4/5 single player games NEVER have to be connected again once downloaded / installed. This issue is sadly extremely linked to Xbox.

— Does it play? (@DoesItPlay1) May 8, 2022

We are talking here about titles playable with a single player, without an online mode, which should be accessible offline, even on Xbox. Microsoft’s problems in the field may have their origins partly in the disastrous launch of the Xbox One, where Microsoft envisioned an all-online future. Since then, the firm has made many changes in its strategy, but the operation of the Xbox system and the network has remained the same.

Where PlayStation and Nintendo Switch can be set up without a network, Xbox still requires a mandatory connection to be set up on first use. Beyond a simple network outage that ends up being corrected, this raises the question of the sustainability of video games on Xbox, when Microsoft could decide to close the servers.

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