Licensing and Xbox Live Marketplace content


Over the past few months, forumers have reported issues with certain content items functioning improperly. Prevalent among these issues was the report that their purchased content was no longer being recognized as “purchased” by their boxes. The reason people seem to be having issues with these items is because of licensing.


When an item is purchased and subsequently downloaded for the first time, licenses to use the downloaded content are created and passed out to two separate locations. First, a license is created and issued to the console. This license enables all accounts to use this content freely, as long as the content is being accessed from said console – any profile being used on the console will be able to use the content while on the console.


Second, a license is created and issued to the profile used to purchase the item. This license is different in that it allows the profile to use the content on whichever console it currently resides on, but only if it is connected to live. Only the signed-in account can use the paid-for content – a license would have to be purchased on that console for everyone to be able to play. This seems to be where some people are getting tripped up – bringing a profile with a license on it to another console will not give the second console a license as well.


Example Scenario:


Say we have Consoles A and B, and profiles Player1, Player2, Player3.


Player 1 purchases the full version of Geometry Wars on Console A.  Console A now has a license for Geometry Wars, and anybody can play the full version of the game on that console. Player2 and Player3 are both able to enjoy the game as well on console A, as the console is licensed.


If Player1 moves to console B, he can still play the full version of Geometry Wars while he is signed into Live, as his profile has the license for the game. Player2 and Player3 would both be able to play the full version on console B, as well, as long as Player1 is connected to live on the same console. Once Player1 disconnects, however, Player2 and Player3, can only play the trial version, because they do not have the license, and nor does Console B. The only way Console B can be licensed is if another profile (Player2 or Player3) purchases the content on the new console.


Hopefully, this helps to clarify some of the issues you folks have been having. I’ll do my best to keep actively reading the forums, and will try to help out in any way I can.


Millael (Ben Salem)

Comments (68)

  1. CrystalHawk says:


    Thanks for this – it’s how I thought it was working.

    Problem I have – what do I do if the console I bought the content on was faulty and I now have a new console?

    I want my kids to be able to play the games I bought on their own accounts to get their achievements etc.

    Is there a way Microsoft can reset this?


    CrystalHawk (Shane).

  2. Drugs for Sale says:

    Too bad Console A and B died, and I’m on console C…which means even though I’m Player 1 and originally bought the Arcade Games, I cannot play them when I take my 360 to the (offline) cottage….

  3. faded515 says:

    Cool, I was wondering how it worked.

  4. Nice post from Ben Salem at the Xbox Dev Team blog.  Helps explain why some things seem to work…

  5. Mattias says:

    Yeah, that’s a very nice explanation. However, this is something the readers of the thread Cant play full versions of Arcade Games: already are fully aware of, to say the least.

    Microsoft must not have been ready for the problems occurring with their Xboxes. Because those who’ve had their boxes replaced, now find themselves in the second scenario, as you’ve written about here.

    So after having my Xbox 360 replaced, my brother can now no longer play arcade games on my box. The solution is to either buy it again(!). Or to try and get the support to add points to an additional silver account. Now, if the helpdesk had actually been informed of this procedure!

    It strikes me though, that surely there must be a better solution than handing out points to bogus silver accounts. Surely there must be a way of validating the new console, which has been replaced by Microsoft itself mind you?

    I have been fighting, yes fighting, with the support for months now. 1st; they don’t know what the hell I’m talking about when mentioning this issue. 2nd; I have to repeat the problem every single time I call, because there doesn’t seem to be a proper work instruction for logging calls at the helpdesk.

    I’ve filed a complaint, which led to nothing.

    So here’s what I suggest. Someone at Microsoft needs to go into a room with lots of coffee, and think out a better solution to this mess. We who have had our boxes replaced because of the three red rings or what have you, should not suffer when our boxes are replaced.

    Other than this, I love my Xbox 360. But whenever I read about this issue, my anger rises to the temperature of a volcano. And when I get stupid cut & paste answers from the support, I get even more angry.

  6. ashram says:

    this makes sense, but there is a 3rd scenario….what if your console gets replaced due to defect? this is where most users i know have problems. according to tech support, i have to create a new account to enable offline play on a new console after my original died. for this scenario, the license should be reset to allow use on the new console, while removing the ability to use the same license on the old console.

  7. Joshua LaForge says:

    Is there anyway to move the license from Console A to Console B?  

    For example I unknowingly purchased Geometry Wars under my profile (I brought my HDD over) on my father’s console (Console A).  The problem I have though is that my father lives 1300 km away from me and I want my console (Console B) to be licensed so that I can use Geometry Wars when I am not connected to Xbox Live.  Is there a way to do that?

  8. PrismSub7 says:

    Are there plans to change the licensing? aka when you redownload the content it loses the old ‘console license’ and it is transferred to the new console. (he; maybe even manually unregister the license from the old console and after unregistering it ties to the next console you sign in)

  9. Dobie says:

    Its too bad that the licenses cannot be moved to a new console… I’ve had to replace my Xbox twice now, and the only way the games I purchased on the previous two consoles will work is if I’m connected to Live.  Unfortunate, since I take my console places where I’m not always able to access the internet, therby rendering nearly all of my arcade games unuseable, though I purchased them legitimately.

    I understand this is to protect the IP, and prevent piracy, which I wholeheartedly support.  But we need a way to change the license between consoles, sorta like iTunes does with their music downloads.  I can "deauthorize" a given machine, and give the license to a new one.  Problem solved.  Not easy, I’m sure, especially since it wasn’t implemented from the start, but a necessary one, given the problems people have been having.

  10. Andy says:

    A while ago the hard drive on my 360 died (it was replaced with a new HDD via warranty).

    What happens to the console version of the license in that case? Is it bound to the specific console or bound to the specific console’s hard drive?

  11. Balaco says:

    So what happens if someone has to get a new console because their other one broke?

  12. Sounds like a very fair system.  

    I particuarly like the idea that so long as the content purchaser is signed in on the console anyone can use another pad to play the game. (as I understand it)  So they can still get the achievements.

    Its a shame Xbox Live doesnt operate the same way where so long as I am signed in anyone else on the console can share my gold account!

  13. DansWrath says:

    Yeah, but what if my XBox 360 was defective and I was sent a replacement by Microsoft?  Now my kids can’t play those games under their own profile, only mine.  They want to be able to earn their own achievements.  I don’t want to have to pay for the content again.


  14. Eastbeast314 says:

    Always great to here about the things under the hood. Perhaps this should be more obvious in the 360’s interface.

  15. Techni says:

    Your DRM seems quite fair actually.

    The simplest solution would be an allow migration to new XBOX feature. Limit it to so many XBOXes per year, or only when they call tech support

  16. Adama says:

    Sounds like the only thing missing is a way to transfer the license from Console A to another Console B, in case Console A is broken, stolen, fire, etc..

    Hopefully Microsoft realizes that this is a problem and will address it in one of the updates.

  17. Dragon says:

    The one thing that isn’t accounted for, what happens when MS ‘repairs’ your console, and you get a new one, and thus no license for the console itself anymore?

  18. Adama says:

    Sounds like the only thing missing is a way to transfer the license from Console A to another Console B, in case Console A is broken, stolen, fire, etc..

    Hopefully Microsoft realizes that this is a problem and will address it in one of the updates.

  19. Someone says:

    Wish I knew about this yesterday, before I took my account around my friends and purchased content there. Now I have to ask him to buy the same content on my xbox … great.

    If only there was a way of using the profile that purchased the game to change which console was licensed to run it (give it say 3 times to change it before it’s permanently locked, a little like the region changing on DVD drives)

    At the very least, it should give more warning that content is locked to the console, and that you need to use that profile when connected to live on another to use it.

  20. Tommy says:

    So what do we do when we have to send our console in for repairs after we purchased content?  Now my arcade games only work if my console is connected to live which a lot of the time it can’t be.

  21. foehammer88 says:

    This doesnt work for me because when I sign out of my live account, which bought UNO, It is shown as a trial game. But then agian I had to get a repair so I got a different console. So the people who get repairs after they purchase content on the broken consoles, can’t use the premium content on their new console?? That sucks. Hope you guys can address this issue.

  22. Funkquito says:

    Man this sux, no  wonder why my games were not working. I had just sent my 360 to get reapired, and it got replaced instead and Its annoying how i have to be connected to live to play arcade games. Is there anything i can do to fix this?

  23. Int says:

    Would I be correct in saying that the only way to transfer the profile license to Console B is to use the office memory unit? Thxs.

  24. Doug Smalley says:

    I have found this license scheme an excellent way to track downloaded premium content with one serious annoyance.  For all those who have had to get a 360 replaced after a hardware failure (I am on my fourth one), it wrecks complete havoc on a household with three or more registered Live users as your "machine" license goes up in smoke the moment the Red Ring of Light begins.  

    Premium content should still be accessible to all local machine users so long as a license holding profile is *present* on the system.  As profiles can only be moved – never copied – any given user profile should only exist in one location at a time anyways.  This would alleviate enormous headaches when consoles go in for service (an unfortunate right of passage).

    Thank you and don’t stop for a minute on the hard work!

  25. Niobium says:

    Here’s the problem that Microsoft needs to work on.


    I have 4 profiles on my 360.  One for me (the adult) and 2 for my children.  My account has an Xbox Live password on it so that the kids don’t use my account online or use my unrestriced access to games.  Thier accounts use the parental controls so they can’t play Mature rated games.  I have purchased several Xbox live arcade games that the kids like to play.  Frogger, Bejeweled, etc.  As it sits, everyone can play the games I purchased when I’m not at home or online.  

    My Xbox suddenly dies.  3 quadrants red on the Circle of life.. It’s dead.  I send it to Microsoft for my extended warranty to cover the repairs.   A week or so passes and I get my replacement Xbox.  I can still play the games that I purchased.  My kids can not.

    A solution needs to be found.  I should be able to call customer service, and while on the phone with them, delete my downloads of the arcade game, have them reset something on thier end, and re-download the arcade game and have it licensed to my new xbox.  After all.. it’s more than likely not my fault that Microsoft has shipped so many shoddy units.  Why should I, or my kids, suffer for it.

  26. Mike Frisco says:

    So who can we talk to about getting this behavior changed?

    If you send your Xbox360 in to Microsoft for service you’ll receive a new (different) box in return.

    At that point your ‘user license’ is still intact, but the ‘console license’ is apparently LOST FOREVER.  Currently there is no way to revoke a console license from one machine in order to grant it to another – even if that first machine has been surrendered to Microsoft.

    This means that if your 360 ever requires any kind of warranty service, your entire family will no longer be able to play the games *you’ve already purchased* with their user accounts.  They’ll need to login as you in order to play, even though on the old (returned) machine this behavior was allowed.

    This seems pretty retarded, guys.  Is there any advice you can offer to people who find themselves in this situation?

  27. Poopy Pants says:

    Will the console license be reissued after a hard drive format?

  28. GraphiX says:

    i think this is the worst idea any company has ever come up with why are we paying to have everything restrcited?

    it didn’t happen in the times of older consoles and all the companys are still multi-million corporations so why now start screwing users and restricting them on games that they are actually buying?

    this sort of crap makes me totally understand why people pirate games i myself will now stop buyin games.

    everyone who buys games with drm of this type needs their head examining

    ben salem you are nothing only a theif and crook the whole idea you have on DRM is just wrong in so many ways.

    this is just 1 example of how DRM is going wrong now

    and all you can do is defend it you should be ashamed of yourself supporting restrictive technology.

    i’d understand it if the games was totally free but there not

    your actually making users pay money for this crap.

    i hope it fails big time

    last coment of me is i hope you grow some comon sense.

    i wouldn’t put you in charge of a dolls house.

  29. PremierSlayer88 says:

    yes but why can’t they do something about this because for us gamers who had to send our console in for repairs and got a new one back cannot play our games unless connected to live, and the reissuing of points to another gamertag should not be the only solution.

  30. Rock Cod says:

    There’s only one problem with the way licencing works.

    What happens if your xbox dies and you are sent a replacement by Microsoft?

  31. tostada says:

    Only problem with the licensing comes when your 360 goes toes-up. Currently, MS support neither warns the user that all their purchased content will no longer work except for the GT that downloaded it, or offers a way to correct it.

    The only solution is to call support, get bounced around between departments, and demand that you be credited-back MS points in the amount equal to what has already been spent. Once you have the credit, you must repurchase all the content using a new GT account.

  32. SportsUnit says:

    More improvements to the way live accounts are handled is needed.  I still haven’t figured out a way to have two live accounts on my 360 at the same time playing Ghost Recon.  I’m not complaining, but I guess that’s what Dashboard updates are for.  Currently, trying to get two accounts playing the same game or even on the same system is a little too difficult.

    By the way, any news on the 360’s Zune integration???  I’m dying to hear something on this.

  33. agdTinMan says:

    "The reason people seem to be having issues with these items is because of licensing."

    Ahh, DRM.  Once again, getting in between users and the content they paid for.

  34. Retodon8 says:

    Thanks a bunch for the explanation, this clears things up. (Although I have to admit I didn’t do any research yet.)

    Is there really no other way to move the license to another box though?

    A friend of mine doesn’t have a box yet, so he bought some games on mine.

    This means I can play those games as well, which is nice, obviously.

    Microsoft allows other people in the household to play the games, doesn’t make every single individual buy the game, which makes sense.

    Now what if he buys a box himself?

    This means other people in his household are out of luck. 🙁

    It would be nice if there was a way to transfer the license to another box.

    I suppose the others could simply login his account and use their own for playing, but that’s not exactly handy.

    Thanks for any replies!

  35. The problem with this is that when a user has to send in their Xbox for repair (and I know eight different people who have had to, including myself), it seems more often than not they are just sent a replacement unit.

    Bye bye to licensing plan number one. Now ONLY the Live account that paid for the content can access it. The profile of your spouse/children/roommate no longer has access to it. I buy every single Arcade game that comes out. When this happened to me, there were 12 Arcade games I bought that I was told by support that I would have to repurchase for EACH PROFILE if I wanted them to have access to it. All because I happened to buy a faulty Xbox 360 unit. That doesn’t sound too fair. That would have cost me about $300 to repurchase all that content for my wifes account, and the accounts of the two kids. There is no way to just log into my Xbox Live (or Windows Live) account on the Internet, and just change the serial number of the hardware that I want the games to function under. Horrible, horrible move.

    Right now, there is one person who left a comment at Playfeed earlier this morning that is experiencing the exact same thing, but is being given the run-around by Microsoft Xbox support:

  36. That’s all well and good. But what happens if Player 1’s console A breaks and he ends up getting replacement console C. Hypothetically let’s say that player 1 decides to cancel his internet connection at his house (He’s a broke student and needs the money for ramen noodles and pizza instead :D). How is he going to be able to play the content he purchased on console C?

    He can’t. Player 1 is stuck with nothing but trials until he forks out the 40 bucks a month for internet so that he can use his purchased content again.

    May i suggest that when the Player 1’s of the xbox world have to end up replacing defective consoles with new ones, that the licenses are updated to account for the new console’s serial number instead of being permanently locked to a broken console that’s at the MS factory for repairs.

  37. zayden says:

    Thanks Ben, for the post on this. I have this issue as well, except that console A was my original Box that overheated (imagine that) and console B is now my replaced refurbished Box.  It doesn’t seem fair that I’m now much more restricted on my primary xbox does it???


  38. I have a question about this.

    The basic principle is perfectly fair, you cant just let the license wander onto unlimited number of 360s or else nobody would buy the game.  However how about people who sent their 360 in for repair and got sent a replacement?  Is there any way they can get the console license transferred to their new 360?  Surely its only locked the serial number so in "theory" it could be done, but is there any mechanism in place that would allow xbox customer support to do it? (as I presume it would need your license changing on xbox live)

    Hopefully I will never need to find out for myself and it wouldnt be too bad anyway, I can always remain signed in on the second pad for my friends to play.  However enquiring minds want to know and it would certainly be easier than having to be signed in.  The whole signin procedure on the 360 with multiple pads seems a bit quirky as the dashboard login doesnt correspond to a specific pad, it seems to be entirely seperate.

  39. Brett says:

    Are there any plans to allow for the "console affiliation" to be changed from one console to another?  I bought my 360 on day 1, but I had to have it replaced a few months ago due to overheating issues.  While I have no problems playing games that I purchased before the console swap (using my personal profile), my family members (who have their own profiles) can no longer play those games.  I am using the original hard drive to which the games were purchased and downloaded.  I think this is going to be an ongoing growing pain for the digital distribution model as ownership rights are considerably less tangible than physical media.

  40. Gkaruk says:

    Nice post and very informative.  

    Only problem I see with this is if you 360 dies and you have to buy a new one.  You can re-download your paid for Live Arcade title but it wont give you a license on the machine (or have I mis-understood)?

  41. MS must be crazy.. They’ve lost 100’s from me since Jan, because they still haven’t sorted out my call since Jan. I’m infact, getting so fed up that I’m tempted to cancel, let my 360 collect dust and switch to PS3 and Wii… All I see are thoughts and ideas, I don’t see any solutions to this unfair system..

    After MS are the ones who screwed up but providing me with a faulty xbox 360 in the first place.

  42. Earn your Keep says:

    Same situation here, bought content, sent 360 in for repairs and now i can’t access my content offline.

    Just fraking great, Ms should have given this some thought before this sort of thing started happening.

    I will definitely not buy anymore content from now on, that is until they fix this in some of the ways already mentioned.

    As it stand now i’m waiting for MS to go through a big old process of refunding my gamerpoints in order to re-dl my content.

  43. FIXTHIS!!!!!!!!! says:

    How about on this update you do somethign about this DRM bullshit.

  44. Colin says:

    Ok I’m living this right now.

    My 360 died, got it replaced an dnow after I re-download all my previously purchased content, I can’t play it offline, I have to be online.

    MS tells me that they’ll give me back the points, but I have to create a new silver member gamertag and the points will go to that. I am confused.

    Will I now have 2 gamertags on my system?

    WillI have to always login under that new gamertag to access the content?

    What about my original achievements and hig scores, what happens now?

    Can anyone shed some light on this or MS can you explain.

    Calls to the support desk are greeted with differen responses every time.

    I think Major Nelson should discuss this on one of his blogs so people know what they have to deal with when they have to replace their XBOX.

    I know it’s all DRM and what not, but why as a legitimate 360 owner do I have to go through this?

  45. Yakumo says:

    My friend has a launch 360, it’s not been replaced, he bought geometry wars on day1, he doesn’t swap games or saves or anything with anyone.

    It has, in the past correctly been opened for all accounts on the machine. And it once failed and locked out all the others (despite still listing achievements and highscores of other accounts within their account). he complained to MS and they said it was an issue that would be solved, you’d have thought permenantly. (this was many months ago)

    now it’s done it again! 🙁

  46. someguy says:

    now what did we learn here people? forget downloading them off of live, just buy the retail versions (the arcade packs)

    i myself have done neither, but i’d be super pissed if i had to go through this garbage. why is it that Microsoft keeps making retarded decisions for the 360. the first thing they screwed up was BC, now this

  47. someguy says:

    now what did we learn here people? forget downloading them off of live, just buy the retail versions (the arcade packs)

    i myself have done neither, but i’d be super pissed if i had to go through this garbage. why is it that Microsoft keeps making retarded decisions for the 360. the first thing they screwed up was BC, now this

  48. Ed says:

    BULLSHIT!   This isn’t fair at all, given console break or the fact people BUY multiple consoles.

    Also, this article is misleading to make it sound more flexible:

    "Player2 and Player3 would both be able to play the full version on console B, as well, as long as Player1 is connected to live on the same console."

    So you’re saying you can play a game downloaded to another console if Player2 uses Player1’s gamertag.  (This is because multiple people can not be logged in at once to XBOX live).   No-one will ever want to do this.

    The last thing I want is for someone to trash talk under my login, spend my MSFT points, modify my profile, gain achievements for me, etc. etc.

    Clearly, MSFT didn’t think out the DRM for multiple consoles.  You should be able to move the console license to a new console.

    And because of such issues, people will always work around DRM until it is done fairly.

  49. SikkOne says:

    This also doesnt take into account those of us who have multiple consoles in the same household.  I have 2 360’s, one of which all of my Live arcade games are downloaded onto.  If my GF or daughter want to play on the other 360 (which doesnt have the license) then they can’t do it on their own Live account and earn achievement points.  

  50. r clarke says:

    My first xbox died, I got a second one. I t died 2 weeks later. Now I’m on console 3 and I cannot use any of my content without Live being connected. That is such BS!!. When they reregister my replacement it should also link the dlc, so I just have to log on to live once to reconnect all my dlc to the new console.

  51. Puhgete says:

    I’m going through this bull also.

    I can only get broadband access at my brothers once a month and now that my 1st 360 died I can’t play these games on my replacement.

    I can understand trying to keep people from taking advantage of the setup but there has to be a better way of handling this.

    With stories of people being on their 3-5 360s I can see this happening to me again in the future. If this DRM issue isn’t fixed, I can’t see my self buying any more marketplace content.

  52. phulano says:

    Tell me theres a way around this. I just spent 25 for content i cant play unless  i spend another 25. Wheres the logic in that? It only makes people question buying off XBL again. Especially when there was no warning it could happen. I want my 25 back so i can do this again.

  53. Angryfellow says:

    This is so stupid! I have an X360, and downloaded ALL possible downloadable content for Oblivion, got very far into the game, but my X360 started destroying games when i put them in, so I got it replaced, it now won’t let me access any of my saves with extra content, so is there any way I can use my extra content without having to be plugged into xbox live 24/7, and recover my saves?

  54. frustrated user says:

    I think this page is dead… no one has even offered an answer…

  55. BigWeather says:

    Did bsalem ever revisit this thread?  I too have just had to get a new XBox after my first one got the red ring o’ death and I’m living through the joy of this DRM crap.  Is there anywhere this is being officially tracked by Microsoft?

  56. FOR TEH WIN says:

    The rediculousness of this idea is incredible. Honestly the second license should not require you to be online. My acount purchased the item, it should have access to it whether or not im online. This ruins my ability to play oblivion as i have all the DLC and at times my internet doesnt work, rendering oblivion unplayable. Or as how live is currently down i CANT get online. remove the need to be online, just make them have to be signed in on the console not xbox live.

  57. Very Piss'd Off says:

    Well after reading all this i think that this situation is BullSh!t to be honest, MS is a multi billion doller company, why cant u sort it out, its happening to me also now, and with my oblivion content as im on my second console, i have enough trouble dealing with other life sh!t let alone a company with enough money to feed Africa, and all we are asking is support the people who make you you’re money, is that such a bad thing?

    P.S i work in the gaming industry and im finding it harder and harder as of the bad experiences iv had with MS to support them..i used to think gaming was fun, now its just begining to be a pain in the A$$

  58. Lady Akatosh says:

    Having spent around 6000 microsoft points on oblivion content, my boyfriend and I can not play, Why? Because we had the hard drive in my brothers 360! We don’t have internet so travelled a fair distance and figured it was a bit far to lug a whole 360… Now I wish I’d not bothered since around 6 level 40+ oblivion characters have been destroyed in the making (and breaking) of shivering isles!

  59. doc dodge says:

    i also have bought everything for oblivion but cant use it this needs to be sorted out and pretty darn quick

  60. Divalent says:

    There’s a petition at

    that has recently gained momentum since the launch of the Elite and the resultant unmasking of this longstanding problem by those who choose to upgrade.

    MS is backpedaling now and saying that the Elite is not meant for current owners, but new purchasers. So, as another poster on a different thread noted, that must be why the first thing you see today when you log into live via the dashboard is an advertisement for the Elite?

    The problem has been around since launch, brought to MS’s attention via their forums in December of ’05, blogged about here 9 months ago, and now with the launch of the Elite may have the catalyst needed to actually get a true response from MS. The current kludge of a workaround with a Silver Dummy account shouldn’t even be presented to the consumer but as a temporary stopgap until the real solution is presented. Well, in my book, temporary does not mean 17 months.

  61. Paying Customer says:

    Please fix the DRM so the profile I bought my $200+ worth of DLC with can access all of it without having to be online. I want to buy an Elite, but I don’t want everything inaccessible.

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