Microsoft recently published a patent indicating that the company is looking to develop a process for physical game owners to verify ownership and add a downloadable copy of that game to their digital library. If developed further, the patent could spell big changes not only for Xbox Series X|S owners, but possibly PlayStation 5 owners as well.
First reported by GameRant, the patent suggests a future system in which Microsoft can verify a physical game’s owner via a network-connected disc reader, for example, an older system like an Xbox One, and assign access to certain ownership rights and privileges to that owner’s Xbox account.
This would act as a means for Xbox Series S owners, in particular, to gain access to their physical library of games, given the console’s lack of a disc reader. Taken to its conclusion, it’s not hard to imagine this same method being utilised by owners of the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition further down the line – depending on the details of the patent, of course.
At first glance, it’s not hard to imagine this news being received rather positively, especially for owners of digital-only consoles. The patent promises a long-sought feature for console owners of every capacity, as even users who own a physical disc can argue that they don’t enjoy the hassle of having to switch discs every time they want to play a different game. Furthermore, given that PC players have long since migrated to a broadly digital-only environment, this can easily be seen as console gamers merely catching up.
However, there are numerous implications that can be made about the patent and what this means for physical media ownership – the most obvious and onerous of which being our taking one step further into the always-on DRM future that Microsoft received intense backlash for around the release of the original Xbox One. With digital ownership needing to be verified by the console manufacturer, the used games market becomes once more under threat, as owners may easily be forced to prove digital ownership of a second-hand disc to access its contents.
— Idle Sloth💙💛 (@IdleSloth84) May 10, 2022
With digital ownership potentially being required to access on-disc content, simple acts like lending and reselling games become a precarious act that requires Microsoft’s permission to enact. If the digital access licence is currently owned by an unknown previous seller, it becomes all the more difficult to imagine a case where the rights to access that game are easily validated and transferred to a new owner, as there would need to be further checks to prevent cases of theft or piracy.
Of course, it remains to be seen how Microsoft intends to use the patent, and it’s entirely possible that the technology could be implemented in a way that only grants benefits to future consumers – however unlikely. With Microsoft already heavily invested in its Xbox Game Pass streaming service, and Sony following suit with its PS Plus revamp release date on the periphery, its apparent ownership of games has already begun to slide away from console gamers.