When Microsoft announced the Xbox 360, it ushered in a new era of gaming. Between native online capabilities and the digital games marketplace, it was a new way of thinking about the console. Since then, online gaming and digital distribution have become the norm across the industry, but the console that made it all popular is about to lose one of its original features: the games marketplace.
The Xbox 360 Era
The Xbox 360 changed a lot about how we think about game consoles. With the introduction of Xbox Live, players around the world were able to play against each other online. It also introduced a digital games marketplace where players could purchase digital versions of their favorite games from Microsoft and third-party developers. This made it easier for gamers to access games without needing physical copies.
In addition, the Xbox 360 allowed users to download demos and add-ons for their games, as well as rent and purchase movies. Plus, it brought a new focus to other media consumption, such as Netflix. It was a revolutionary concept that made gaming easier, more convenient, and more accessible, and it was to be the center of the living room.
The End of an Era
However, the Xbox 360 era is coming to an end with the shuttering of the online marketplace. Announced by a blog post, as of July 29, 2024, all sales of digital goods will become unavailable on the Xbox 360 consoles. This means that if there is a game you want for the older consoles, you'll need to find a physical disc of the game at a used game store.
But, it's not all bad news. Not all of the Xbox 360 online services are being shuttered with the marketplace. In fact, not all of the marketplace is going away. While you won't be able to make new purchases for the console, you will still have access to your previous purchases for the foreseeable future. This is an important aspect of the shutdown because the Xbox 360 did not have a huge amount of storage. So, being able to remove and re-download games is going to ensure that the console's lifespan continues beyond July 2024.
Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said about video content purchased on the console. While TV and movies purchase through the store will remain in the user's library, it will no longer be available to play on the console. It is unclear if content that already resides on the console will still play after the shutdown. With the DRM built into the store, it is still possible that local content will fail to retrieve DRM authorization and will fail to play.
In addition, the remaining Xbox Live features will continue to operate. So, online games that are currently operating will see no immediate changes. Of course, the game publishers themselves might shut down their own backends over time, but for now, Microsoft will remain business as usual. This also includes features such as voice chat and cloud saves.