Microsoft announced it has made some significant backend improvements to the Windows 10 Store that technically allow for offline play — but the number of hoops you’ll need to jump through to enable this feature remains significant. Offline play is one aspect of the Windows Store that’s lagged well behind competitors like Steam or even services like Origin, so it’s good to see Microsoft making an effort to offer this feature.
There are more details on how to enable this capability over at the Xbox support site, and you’ll want to read about the capabilities and restrictions of the mode before you start fussing with it. The first thing to know is that unlike Steam, which allows offline play from any device associated with your account, the Windows 10 Store only allows you to have one designated offline device — and you can only change which device is designated three times a year. To set an account to offline, perform the following steps:
Once you’ve completed this step, you’ll need to launch each title individually that you want to play in offline mode. You will need to sign into your Xbox Live account from within each title, though it’s not clear why this step has to be performed. Once it is, however, you can run titles while remaining offline (provided you properly followed the steps above). While it’s great to see Microsoft adding this feature, the process of actually playing offline is cumbersome at best.
If Microsoft actually wants to compete with Steam, it’s going to need to do better than offering poor imitations of a better process. Adding capabilities is good, but they need to be at least as easy to use on Microsoft’s own platform as they are on a third-party utility. Most games can be played offline through Steam by simply setting the store to offline mode. There are exceptions, and games do need to be launched at least once before offline mode can be engaged, but this has been the general rule for a number of years.
With the Windows Store, only being allowed to change your “Offline” device three times per year is ridiculously strict — so much so, one suspects that Microsoft’s goal was to offer bullet-point capability for comparisons against Steam, but not to create a feature anyone would actually want to use.