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Xbox One Always-on DRM – Your questions answered

Andrew Williams


Xbox One
Xbox One

The Xbox One is the next-gen Microsoft games console. In some ways it’s pretty traditional, but the way it operates online is quite different to the Xbox 360.

Does it have to be connected all the time to operate? And will it let you use pre-owned games? We answer some of the Xbox One’s most common queries below.

Do I need the disc to play a game?

Xbox One games are installed to the console’s 500GB as standard, after which the assets are streamed off the hard drive, rather than the Blu-ray disc. This will reduce load times and noise, as a hard disk spinning is much quieter than an optical drive’s spin.

Installing games is common in the current generation of consoles. What’s different this time around is that you won’t need to have the disc inserted to play a game – the presence of a disc is currently used a layer of copy protection. Not so in the Xbox One.

Can I carry over my current Xbox Live Gold subscription to the Xbox One?

As happened with the transition from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360, any Xbox Live Gold subscription you have when the Xbox One lands can be used on the new console. You’ll use the same Live account, so there’s really no difference between using Gold on either console.

What’s new with the Xbox One is that an Xbox Live Gold subscription can be shared among any users of the same console. If one member of the family has Gold, all of them do – assuming they are all using the same console, anyway.

Does an Xbox One always need to be connected to the internet?

One of the most contentious issues of the Xbox One pre-launch was whether it would have to be connected to the internet all the time when playing. The good news – it doesn’t.

The bad news is that it does have to connect to the internet around once a day, as part of the console’s piracy protection regime. If your internet goes down for several days, it sounds likely you will not be able to play games or Blu-rays, or watch TV through your Xbox. We’re still waiting for some clarification on exactly how this online check-in works.

Will pre-owned games work with an Xbox One?

Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox One will support pre-owned games. However, there’s plenty of discussion about how they’ll work exactly.

The issue is that the mechanics of the Xbox One’s copy protection have not been discussed by Microsoft fully. It seems highly unlikely that game discs could be unique, mandating the use or some form of registration code for each game – commonly used in current-gen games to access online bonuses (used to dissuade people from buying pre-owned games.)

It’s rumoured that pre-owned games will come with an activation fee – which comes into play when this initial registration code has already been used. We’ll be looking to clear up this issue as soon as more information is available.

Can games be shared with friends?

Wired wrote an article claiming that if a game disc is used by another person – after the game has already been installed by the owner – they’ll be asked to pay an extra fee. This introduces a whole host of murky problems. If the game is tied to an Xbox Live account, does that mean each different Xbox account on a single console will have to pay a fee?

Update: Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb (a.k.a. Major Nelson) has spoken out on the issue, saying “Another piece of clarification around playing games at a friend’s house – should you choose to play your game at your friend’s house, there is no fee to play that game while you are signed in to your profile.”

Will the Xbox One let me play my old Xbox 360 games?

The backwards compatibility issue isn’t so much one of copy protection as a fundamental technological problem. The Xbox One has a completely different architecture to the Xbox 360 – its core processing units work in a completely different way.

To get Xbox 360 games working on an Xbox One, Microsoft would have to develop an emulator or port games individually. And neither would be worth the investment, especially given the performance cost involved in using an emulator.

How many friends can I have on Xbox Live?

Your Xbox One Live account is limited to 1000 friends. This is much greater than the current limit on the Xbox 360, which limits you to a paltry 100.

Do you have any other questions on how the Xbox One works? Drop us a line in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer.

Next, read about how the PS4 compares to the Xbox One...

Spike Black

May 22, 2013, 3:23 pm

With the current Xbox I can move downloads and installs I've bought but only twice a year. Seeing that games come with a DRM to link to my live account does this mean the restriction will be removed and I can run it on any and as many Xbox Ones I like provided I login as Larry Hyrb has suggested?

Although this does kill the lend a game to a friend and the rental market.


May 24, 2013, 8:05 am

I imagine that this won't kill the Xbox at all as Sony are rumoured to be doing the same - it'll just be the way that it is...OR there will be a big backlash and they'll back down.

Spike Black

May 24, 2013, 9:20 am

If it's tied to a single person then it's a massive issue for some. Is this the same thing EA had with Spore where they were initially saying everyone who wanted play it had to buy it even though their account was on the same PC i.e. it was linked to the person not the machine.
I guess their focus groups have told them it's not an issue.

I had a feeling something like this would eventually turn up on consoles as PC's have lived with it for over a decade and they want a share of the money from pre-owned games.

But what happens if their verification servers go down. What happens if Live is down which has happened in the past, it effectively locks down consoles in the affected region if it's over 24 hours.


Already got posts saying it's been down in the UK today.


May 24, 2013, 10:15 am

Well Wii U sales skyrocketed over 700% after Xbone reveal, which even price cuts couldn't manage to achieve.


May 24, 2013, 12:36 pm

Don't like not being able to lend a game to a friend, really don't think it's a road they should be going down. It'll be interesting to hear, in full detail, how it'll all work.

Nolan Alexander

May 24, 2013, 7:09 pm

i switched to the consoles becuase i DONT want to wait for a huge download before i can play my game, that is the most annoying thing about PC is you have to download to play. I want to be able to just pop a new game in and start playing!

Actionable Steps

May 24, 2013, 11:09 pm

So my friends can't borrow my games...
If they had done this with PS1 I would never have played Final Fantasy, my favourite game series of all time... Microsoft really wet the bed with this, no gameplay, just restrictions and problems...

Actionable Steps

May 24, 2013, 11:09 pm



May 25, 2013, 11:24 am

I would like to know, before I think about purchasing an xbox one, is whether it will offer up something like xbmc, where it can catalogue and stream your TV shows and movies from a NAS.

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