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It’s been exceedingly difficult to pick up a current-gen game console for the last few years, unless you don’t mind paying inflated prices to resellers. The situation is so bad that many gamers have settled for the cheaper diskless versions of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S. Now, Microsoft is reportedly considering ways to make disc-only games available on its cheaper console, and a newly revealed patent filing shows how it might work.
Microsoft filed for this patent in 2020, but it was only just released by the US patent office. While it’s not yet approved, it probably has as good a chance as any other vague technology patent these days. It describes a system by which you can use a device that does have an optical drive to augment your diskless game console. Microsoft offers various methods to validate and provide content, some of which actually sound like genuinely useful features.
The gist is that if you have a physical game disc, you could slot it into an older Xbox console or possibly even a computer with an optical drive. Microsoft’s servers can validate that you own the game, thus unlocking it for your Xbox Series S. These devices could be on the same local network or simply both connected to an online service like Xbox Live. In some incarnations, you’d have to keep the disc in the drive with both machines online, but Microsoft might also allow the disc to authenticate the content for some period of time.
Getting that game on your diskless console is where things get interesting. For some titles, you might be able to download a digital version of the game from Game Pass or stream it from Xbox Cloud Gaming, but not all titles will be available. In those cases, Microsoft envisions a system for “streaming and/or downloading content from local network devices.” So, one device would stream the game to another, saving you a ton of internet bandwidth. This would be a fantastic standalone feature.
Microsoft also acknowledges in the patent that such a system could address the increasing prevalence of diskless game consoles. It would have been unthinkable to ditch the discs in previous generations, but there may come a time in the near future when there’s no optical drive option at all. People who have large libraries of games, either because they like collecting them or just prefer local media for technical reasons, should not miss out on great gaming experiences. Whether or not Microsoft will follow through and turn this into a real service is impossible to say, but this could be a selling point over Sony’s consoles.