Microsoft Imagines System Giving Disc-less Consoles Access to Physical Games

A new Microsoft patent reveals that Microsoft is thinking about a solution for making physical games accessible on disc-less consoles, such as the company’s Xbox Series S. If digital video game sales now outnumber physical sales, Microsoft is apparently still thinking about gamers who still own a big collection of physical games.

Discovered earlier this week by Gamerant, the patent describes pretty well the emotional attachment some gamers can feel towards physical games. “These owners simply appreciate the “feel” of handling the physical video game media and/or the nostalgia associated with the physical video game media. Moreover, many of these owners view their libraries of physical video game media and paraphernalia as valuable collections, similarly to rare coins collections, baseball cards collections, etc,” the patent reads.

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Titled “Software ownership validation of optical discs using secondary device,” the new Microsoft patent describes a system where a disc-less console would access content from a physical disc by connecting to another device that has a disc drive. In the patent description, the disc-less console and the other device that can read physical discs could be on the same local network, but the system would also work across different networks as well as the Internet.

The patent also suggests that a previous generation console could be used to read the content of the optical disc. I’ll spare you the technical details, but the main idea behind this patent is “facilitating access to physical media on devices lacking physical media reading components.” The patent description also mentions “sharing software content ownership validation among multiple user devices, and providing options/setting for enabling software content ownership validation on one or more user devices.”

This patent was originally filed in November 2020, which is right when Microsoft released its Xbox Series X and Series S consoles. A month earlier, Xbox head Phil Spencer told Kotaku that he expected the disc-less Series S to end up outselling the Series X during this new console generation. What sounded pretty crazy at the time could actually happen given the fact that Microsoft’s Xbox Series S is easier to manufacture than the more expensive Series X, which remains very hard to find due to the ongoing chip shortages.

In some way, this new patent is reminiscent of the ‘disc-to-digital’ program that Microsoft was reportedly working on ahead of the launch of its Xbox One S All Digital console back in 2019. Microsoft was said to be working on a system that would allow Xbox gamers to trade in their physical discs at participating retailers to get a digital download code, but the program never materialized. Anyway, the software giant may now have opted for a different approach to make disc-less consoles more attractive, though as is often the case with patents, this idea may well never see the light of day.

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Conversation 6 comments

  • Thretosix

    13 May, 2022 - 3:26 pm

    <p>Interesting, my biggest problem with licensing is having to buy the same game over and over on different platforms. To me if you buy the game you should be able to play the game wherever it’s available. At least with Microsoft Anywhere titles as long as you buy them on the Microsoft Store you can access on both the Xbox and PC.</p>

  • MoopMeep

    13 May, 2022 - 8:08 pm

    <p>I like physical media because i feel like they cant take away the game. At some point microsoft will go out of buisness. Even if they survive the next couple hundred years, they probably wont support their digital libraries after x number of years. Thing like PT for the playstation worry me about digital too, where they can just take away stuff</p>

    • Brazbit

      16 May, 2022 - 12:05 pm

      <p>The problem with the concept many users have of retaining physical media of modern games is that after the 360/PS3 generation of consoles most discs are useless without online services. In addition to that many discs these days do not contain complete copies of the games and require massive updates to even get to the title screen the first time. Other discs simply contain a single file that downloads the digital version on first run. So while you have a physical disc to have and to hold and to name him George you do not have the equivalent of the old game cartridges or early discs, they can not be used without millions of lines of code running on a remote system somewhere.</p><p><br></p><p>Some early online games have been resurrected from the dead by reverse engineering the authentication systems or even the entire server base such as Star Wars Galaxies. But as we progress, not only are there far to many games that will require the same treatment for the available pool of talented enough individuals to recreate, the complexity of that code is fast becoming beyond the scope of any likely volunteer effort to recreate without a major backer or overwhelming fan base with a tone deaf publisher that won’t produce a new version of the game.</p><p><br></p><p>I love the idea of a physical to digital authentication system and have been begging for someone to figure this out since the PSPgo first appeared in 2009. That console solved so many of the earlier generation’s issues but with no way to convert my existing library to work on the all digital handheld I could not justify the purchase. </p>

  • waethorn

    15 May, 2022 - 1:31 am

    <p>Is it really that difficult? Just attach a digital license to the Microsoft Account used on the old console where the disc was inserted and the game installed. Done.</p><p><br></p><p>What is wrong with just using unique serial numbers anyway? Serial numbers can be tied to a user account and deactivated if the game is resold. They could sell them digitally, but they could also put them in physical copies and still require them no matter how they’re installed (by disc or download), unless there’s no Internet access, and then you just require the original disc inserted for launch as normal. Why overthink it?</p>

  • ontariopundit

    15 May, 2022 - 7:41 am

    <p>This seems like an obvious use of the existing technology without anything patentable.</p><p><br></p><p>I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find prior art to invalidate it.</p>

  • GetEdumated

    16 May, 2022 - 2:14 pm

    <p>I’m not sure I understand. Does this mean you have to have two running machines? So if I want to play a physical 360 game on a newer generation console I still have to run the 360? Why not just switch inputs and play directly on the 360 and save power?</p><p><br></p><p>What I’m looking to do is get rid of my 360 but I have games on it that aren’t available on newer consoles. My motivation is different since I just want to get rid of clutter in my house.</p>

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