The patent, spotted by GameRant, suggests that players would be able to use an external disc drive, in this case, an Xbox One, in order to verify ownership of a game. The player would then be able to play the digital version on their Xbox Series S, a digital-only console.
It’s unclear if this would allow players a permanent license to use the digital version of the game, or a temporary one that would have to be re-verified. The latter is more likely as if players were able to verify a game once and receive an indefinite digital license, nothing could stop players from buying a physical game, verifying it and then returning it.
Commenting on this story, veteran tech journalist Brad Sams tweeted: “Back in 2018, I wrote about a ‘disc to digital’ for converting your Xbox physical games to digital entitlements. Looks like Microsoft got the patent for it recently.”
Sams then referred to a November 2018 story which first cited the alleged ‘disc to digital’ program. Accordign to the report, this was an internal strategy at Microsoft that would allow players to turn physical games into digital downloads.
“The idea is that you can take your disc to a participating retailer (like the Microsoft store) and trade in your disc for a digital download,” Sams said at the time.
It’s unclear if these plans have changed since the earlier report, but it does appear to align with the patent.
On the surface, the patent could be reminiscent of cancelled pre-launch plans for Xbox One owners to be able to install their disc games as full-digital apps, which before Microsoft u-turned on the idea, would have been watermarked to their owner.
Digital licensing is a sore subject for Microsoft recently as a wave of outages have resulted in some console owners being unable to launch games that they own.
Xbox - May 2022 Games with Gold
While the company has said that it plans to fix this in an upcoming update, it highlights a DRM issue that more and more are facing as more and more players adopt digital purchases.
“We’ve seen significant improvement to the issue that has prevented some users from purchasing and launching games,” it claimed. “We expect full mitigation in the coming days with the roll out of a new update.”
According to Does It Play?, a Twitter account dedicated to testing commercial releases to ensure they work entirely internet free, the majority of Xbox games require an online check before they’ll boot.