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DF Direct Weekly talks Nintendo's next-gen challenges and the big Xbox gaming outage

Plus: Gotham Knights gameplay reaction and last-gen console cancellation.

We've been talking/warning about it for a long time - usually in the context of game preservation - but the recent Xbox game outage has certainly justified our concerns. Online DRM, the need to have an active internet connection to verify that you're permitted to play the games you own, has been a hot topic for some time now. There'll come a point in the (hopefully) far-flung future that authentication servers won't be available, making today's games unplayable. What we didn't quite expect was a gaming black-out in the here and now.

That's the first discussion point in this week's DF Direct Weekly, where John Linneman and I have quite different perspectives to the online DRM debate. John's looking at Xbox discs with no Series X/S data on them, pondering a time in the future where the vast majority of 'smart delivery' titles won't be accessible. Me? I just can't quite get my head around the concept of consumers spending hundreds of pounds on a console, and a lot more money on the games themselves without a 100 percent guarantee that you can always play them, certainly the single-player ones! Something needs to change but ultimately the solution is surely fairly straightforward, at least in theory: some kind of flexibility on online check-in?

Clocking up its 61st episode, DF Direct Weekly returns with Rich Leadbetter, John Linneman and Tom Morgan at the mics.
  • 00:00:00 Introductions
  • 00:01:04 News 01: Microsoft says it will solve Xbox Live blackouts
  • 00:10:51 News 02: Microsoft patents digital licensing of disc games
  • 00:15:16 News 03: Nintendo concerned about next-gen transition?
  • 00:23:28 News 04: Gotham Knights gameplay reveal + last-gen versions cancelled
  • 00:33:57 News 05: Duke Nukem Forever 2001 build leaked!
  • 00:42:44 DF Content Discussion: FSR 2.0 impressions + Intel Arc delay
  • 00:49:09 DF Content Discussion: DF Retro on 1080p PS3 games
  • 00:56:41 DF Supporter Q1: Thoughts on current-gen being dominated by UE5?
  • 01:03:18 DF Supporter Q2: Upgrade to 3600MHz RAM on Ryzen 3600 worth it?
  • 01:04:32 DF Supporter Q3: Will CPU strength become more relevant at 4K in the future?
  • 01:07:57 DF Supporter Q4: Could there be a market for standalone RT cards?
  • 01:11:07 DF Supporter Q5: Could PS5 VRR become as good as Xbox VRR?
  • 01:13:14 DF Supporter Q6: After the DNF 2001 leak, what other unreleased games should see the light of day?

We also spend some time talking about an intriguing patent that sees Xbox Series S users potentially able to play their back catalogue of Xbox One games by using their legacy consoles. It's a necessity because - of course - Series S has not disc drive, which effectively means that right now at least, anyone upgrading from One S to Series S can't take their games with them. It's worth stressing that any time you see a patent online, you're getting no guarantee that the idea contained therein will actually become reality - but this particular patent, while unwieldy and cumbersome, could actually work.

Could this idea be taken further though? Could physical discs be transformed into digital purchases without physically taking the disc into a shop to be trashed in exchange for a redeem code? Or is there some other way to 'deactivate' a disc and reactivate it as a digital item? Are there any legacy elements still remaining from the aborted, highly controversial Xbox One DRM system? I'd be intrigued to find out.

We also spend some time talking about Nintendo's next-gen worries/concerns. A story emerged last week that Nintendo brass is concerned about how to handle the transition to the new console we know it has brewing. Is backwards compatibility definitely going to happen? How will Nintendo manage to transition between two different Switch generations? Switch has already shipped over 103m consoles and it may well exceed PS4's huge installed base in the fullness of time. Does that mean that there may well be some kind of cross-gen period with games shipping on both Switch systems?

Other discussion points? We're not exactly blown away by Gotham Knights based on the gameplay reveal from last week - but we are at least heartened to hear that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions have been cancelled. It gives the new hardware a little more leeway to stretch their legs, but more than that, it makes the workload on the developer a little less onerous. The jury's still out on this one though - the Arkham roots are there, but to be honest, we still think Batman: Arkham Knight looks like the better game.

As well as discussing FSR 2.0 and Intel's bizarre, faltering launches for its eagerly anticipated Arc GPU line-up, we take a big bunch of questions from backers of the DF Supporter Program. Is the domination of Unreal Engine a good thing? Do Ryzen processors really benefit from faster DDR4 memory? (Spoilers: definitely!) and if we're targeting 4K, are CPUs ever likely to be truly stretched? And another good one: is Xbox VRR really better than PlayStation VRR and could the Sony implementation improve? And finally, an awesome question about unreleased games and which ones we'd like to see emerge into the light of day. And the number one 'must have' has got to be the now-legendary Virtua Fighter 3 for Saturn, right? Right?!

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.