A friend of mine, who works in the merchant navy, asked me the other day if the Xbox Series X needs the internet to play games.
After all, he spends 6 weeks at a time at sea. And last time I checked mobile phone companies don’t erect 4G masts in the middle of the ocean.
It was a question I had never really pondered before. As a writer and content creator, I’m always connected to the internet, whether that be broadband or 4G.
It had never crossed my mind that there are avid gamers, like my friend, who literally sail around the Cape, five thousand miles away from home, with only their Xboxes and Playstations for company.
Being the good friend that I am, I set out to find an answer. Which wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
This is what I found:
Do you need the internet for the Xbox Series X and S? Yes and No. You need the internet on the Xbox Series S to buy and download games as it has no disk drive. However, after you have bought the game, installed it, and made that Xbox your Home (Primary) Xbox, you can play without internet verification again. It is the same on the Xbox Series X for digital games. For disk games, you do not need the internet at all as the disk needs to be in the Xbox Series X’s drive to verify ownership. However, it’s worth noting that both consoles need to be connected to the internet on first setup so your gamer tag can be “installed” on your machine.
That doesn’t exactly seem straight forward, does it? Well, not to worry. In the following sections, I’ll explain everything in a little more detail. And then I’ll take a look at the advantages of being online and what the optimum internet speed is for you.
Do you need the internet for the Xbox Series X or S: Digital Vs Disk-Based Games.
Instead of splitting this section by console. I’m going to look at digital games, disk-based games, and the first set up of a new console.
Let’s get started.
First set up of your Console
You do not need an internet connection to first set up your Xbox Series X or S console. Ignore all the mobile app handshaking, streaming stuff, and download dancing on first booting up and you’ll be given the chance to sign in to your new Xbox with a guest gamer tag.
From here, you’re Xbox Series X can take any disk-based game and play it. Though you may want to connect to the internet to download day zero patches. More on that soon.
Obviously, you do need the internet for the Xbox Series S as it’s a digital-only console.
Digital Xbox Series X/S Games
The Xbox Series S is an all-digital console. So at some point somewhere, you will have to connect the dainty little white box to the internet to download games.
But what about games you own and have installed on an external hard drive?
Sadly, you need an internet connection to verify your ownership of these games the first time you play them. Otherwise, you could just copy your friend’s entire collection of games onto an external hard drive, and transfer them to your Xbox. I really don’t think Microsoft would be happy with you doing that.
So, when you run a game it will ask to verify your ownership over the internet. No way around this. Fortunately, once this initial check has been made, you can continue to play your owned games, offline. So long as your Xbox is set to your home or primary Xbox.
Take a look at this help page on Microsoft’s website to see how to set your Xbox Series X or S as your primary console.
Disk-Based Xbox Series X games
So how about Disk based Xbox Series games?
Well, fortunately Disk based games can still be played completely offline.
Stick the disk in an Xbox Series X, wait for it to install, and play away. No need for the internet at all.
Just keep in mind that you must have the disk in the drive at all times as a disk-based game is continuously verified by the system.
However, I must stress, in this day and age shipped games are often incomplete and in need of patching to fix game-breaking bugs and what-not.
So it’s always a good idea to plug into the internet when first installing a game so it can download the latest patch.
What are the benefits of connecting your Xbox Series S or X to the Internet?
Though it’s nice to play offline from time to time, there are actually many benefits to hooking your Xbox up to the internet.
Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Though games are still sold on disk these days, 99% of the time the games stuffed onto physical media are incomplete and are in need of patching.
Being connected to the internet gives you a chance to download that latest patch, or version of the game, so you can play the game at its very best.
Download system updates
The Xbox’s operating system is updated a number of times a year to add new functionality and features to the existing operating system.
By connecting to the internet you can be sure to have the latest OS and the latest features available for you to use.
The main reason to play online: you can play games with your friends, comrades, work colleagues.
For a low monthly price, GamePass gives you access to over 150 games.
This includes all of Microsoft’s first-party exclusives including Halo, Forza Horizon, and Gears of War.
Not only that but, due to Microsoft’s deal with Skyrim creator Bethesda, all future Elder Scrolls games, Doom games, and other Bethesda games will be added to Game Pass. For free.
Buy digital-only games
Many indie games only get released digitally. By avoiding the internet, you are missing out on some true diamond-in-the-rough games.
Online game sales
Another reason to get online with your Xbox Series console is the digital game sales.
Microsoft often runs deep discount digital sales that can offer massive discounts of up to 90%.
Let’s be honest, it’s a lot easier to click a few buttons and download a game than it is to get dressed, drive into town, shoulder past crowds to the game shop, buy the game while making small talk to a zombified cashier, drive all the way home through apocalyptic traffic, and finally play the game (Actually, you’d still need to download the patch).
Why would anybody want to do that over buying digitally?
Play internet connected single player games
Some single-player games, annoyingly, think it’s necessary to be connected at all times to the internet when playing.
It’s a sad fact that as some games become more – some would say needlessly – complex they need to have an active internet connection.
I’m currently playing through Secret of Mana on the SNES mini which has an absurdly deep inventory and magic system. Yet that game, which is nearly 30 years old I might add (Wow!), manages without an internet connection.
Get Games with Gold
Games with Gold is Microsoft’s way of saying thank you for paying to play online each year. By paying for Xbox live gold, Microsoft will give you a minimum of 2 games every month.
You can use Xbox apps
Your Xbox doesn’t just play games you know. Oh no, it can do a whole lot more. For starters, it’s a really good media center giving you access to streaming services such as Netflix and Disney Plus. There are loads of other internet-ready apps available on your Xbox.
Get access to Project Xcloud
Project Xcloud lets you stream your games from your home Xbox to any number of streaming devices including smartphones, your friend’s TV, or your PC.
It’s a pretty cool feature you get as a bonus for signing up to Xbox Live. But you need the internet to use it.
One of the key selling points of the new Xbox consoles is the backward compatibility the consoles offer for all the previous generation of Xbox.
You can play some original Xbox games, nearly all Xbox 360 games, and all Xbox one games, on your Xbox Series X and S.
But to do so, you need the internet as your Xbox actually downloads a new enhanced edition of the game you wish to play. Especially in the case of the 360 and Original Xbox version of the games
What is the optimal internet speed for the Xbox Series X and S?
Ok, now you know there are a lot of reasons why you should connect your Xbox to the internet.
However, broadband internet can get very expensive very fast. And mobile internet gets even more expensive.
So that brings up the question. What is the optimal internet speed for the Xbox Series X and S, given your situation at home, or elsewhere?
After all, why would you want to overpay for internet speed that you don’t need? You could save money and spend it on, you know, games instead.
But see, the thing is, trying to find an answer to the question “what is the best internet for a given person or household?” isn’t that easy.
On looking for an answer, all I could find were websites recommending an arbitrary connection speed of between 50Mbs and 100Mbs download speeds which took nobody’s personal circumstances into account.
I wanted to change that.
I wanted a way of working out the best internet speed for any given household.
So I thought I’d show you how I figure what internet speed I need.
For starters, the internet speed you need is dependent on 3 variables, they are:
- The maximum number of simultaneous devices connected to the internet that regularly play 4K/Download large amounts of data.
- The number of people who use your internet connection
- The desired maximum download speed for large amounts of data.
Let’s take at how we can use these variables to determine the right internet speed for you.
The number of devices and people using your internet connection
The number of devices and people using your internet connection simultaneously will greatly affect what internet speed you need.
And given that one person can be using multiple devices downloading at the same time, I thought both of these variables need to be tied together.
I needed a base to start my “speed equation”. And there’s no better place to start than video streaming…
Streaming is one of the most data-intensive tasks you can perform over the internet. With that in mind, I thought I’d contact the king of streaming: Netflix.
Having spoken to Netflix, I found out that they recommend a speed of 25Mbs per 4k stream. So 2 simultaneous 4k streams would need 50mbs. 3 would need 75mbs, and so on.
That’s the same across all streaming platforms.
Now, playing games online doesn’t actually require anywhere near as much data bandwidth as 4K streaming.
But for my calculation, I assume that you’ll need 25Mbs of bandwidth for online gaming. This helps mitigate things like packet loss and other techy things that are best left to techy people. IE, not me.
So that’s 25Mbs per 4k streaming device/console/PC.
So it makes sense that if you have 8 streaming devices, you just multiply that number by 25 to get a desired minimum internet speed of 200Mbs.
However, the other element we need to take into account is the number of people in the household.
For example, say there are 4 people in your household. Each person won’t be using multiple dives all the time. Most of the time they will just be using one device.
But you still want enough headroom on your internet connection to run more devices than there are people in your house.
Keeping that in mind, here’s my simple equation that helps to determine the required minimum internet speed in any given household.
Take a look at this:
((Number of people living in house + Number of high data/4k streaming devices used) / 2) X 25
Here’s an example, in my house:
We have 4 people living here.
So there is the first number: 4.
As for devices, I have 2 work PCs/Macs, 3 Consoles, 1 gaming PC, and 2 Streaming TVs for a total of 8 devices that could theoretically be working simultaneously.
So let’s do the math.
8 + 4 = 12
Great. Now we want to find an average so we take the number 12 and divide it 2.
12 / 2 = 6
Now we want to determine what internet speed we need. To do that we multiply the new number, 6, by 25Mbs. Remember 25Mbs is the minimum speed you need for one 4K streaming device.
6 X 25Mbs = 150Mbs
That means, for a household with 4 people and 8 streaming/data-heavy devices, you’d need a minimum broadband internet speed of 150Mbs for best performance.
At 150Mbs, you could stream 3 4k films simultaneously (75Mbs), and still have 75Mbs left over to download games in the background.
Here’s the full equation again:
((Number of devices 8 + Number of people 4) / 2) X 25Mbs = 150Mbs
However, this is just the minimum internet speed you need. What internet speed you actually want is determined by how quickly you want to download large games.
Let’s take a look…
Desired Download speeds
Maximum download speeds affect how quickly large amounts of data, such as games and patches, can be downloaded.
For example, a 100Mbs connection, running at peak speed which is rare, can download 1GB of data in about 82 seconds (There are roughly 8000 Gigabits in 1 GigaByte). Pretty nippy! However, some games are huge and can weigh in at 60GB or more in size.
At 100Mbs it would take 82 minutes to download a 60GB game. Or about 90 minutes in the real world. Better start making that cup of coffee, it’s gonna be a long wait.
However, if you upgrade to a faster internet connection, say 400Mbs, the 82 minute download time drops to just 20 minutes and 30 seconds.
So internet speed isn’t just important for the number of simultaneous users, it determines how long you have to wait to actually play your games.
And remember, that’s if nobody is downloading anything.
If you have a 150Mbs connection and 75Mbs are being used by other devices in your house, you’ll only have 75Mbs to download your game.
As a rule of thumb, remember that 10GB of data takes roughly 15 minutes to download on a free 100Mbs connection.
So you can quickly do the math:
If you download a 100GB game at 100MBs it will roughly take you, 150 minutes or 2 hours 20 minutes.
You can also change the speed to see how that will affect your downloads.
Double your download speed to 200Mbs and that 15 minutes per 10GB is halved to 7.5 minutes per 10GB.
Optimal Internet speed for Xbox Series X/S: The bottom line
The bottom line is this:
Your minimum internet speed is determined by the number of users in your house plus the number of devices in your house that can stream 4K/Download large amounts of data. This number is then divided by 2 to get an average. This average number is then multiplied by 25. The final number is the minimum internet speed you need in Mbs.
((4 people + 8 devices) / 2) X 25 = 150Mbs
Additionally, your internet speed dictates how quickly you can download large files. So if you intend on downloading a lot of games and patches, then the faster the internet you have the quicker those games and patches will download.
A good habit to get into is putting your console on standby so large patches or games can be downloaded at night when you are not playing.
It’s also worth noting that if you do not own a 4K TV you will not stream in 4k. Instead, you’ll stream in 1080p. The bitrate needed for 1080p is around half that of 4K
So if you are only using 1080p screens for streaming throughout your house, you can half all the numbers above. So 150Mbs becomes 75Mbs.
It wouldn’t be an article on CareerGamers if I didn’t end it with a scintillating summary. So here’s your quick reminder before you hit the road:
- Digital Xbox Series X/S games only have to be online the first time you play so long as the Xbox you are playing on is set as your home (primary) console.
- Disk-based games can be played without an internet connection
- Many benefits of connecting your Xbox Series X/S to the internet. These include:
- Download patches
- Download system updates
- Play online
- Game Pass
- Buy digital-only games
- Online games sales
- Play internet-connected single-player games
- Get Games with Gold
- Use Playstation apps
- Get access to Project Xcloud
- Enhanced backward compatibility
- The optimal Internet speed is based on:
- The number of people in your house + the number of simultaneous high data devices hooked up. This number is divided by 2 to get an average. Then this average number is multiplied by 25 to give you a minimum internet speed for your house in Megabits per second.
- Example: 4 people + 8 devices = 12. 12 / 2 = 6. 6 X 25 = 150Mbs
- Your internet speed is also determined by how quickly you want to download games.
- As a rule of thumb, a 100Mbs connection when dedicated to the Xbox Series X or S will download a 60GB game in about 90 minutes.
Can the Xbox Series X or S lay down? Yes, both the Xbox Series X and S can lay down. To ensure they are laid down in the correct orientation, always be sure that the power button is in the top right-hand corner of the face that is facing you when the Xbox is on its side. This is to ensure to don’t accidentally put the machine upside down.
How do I charge the Series X and S controller? The Series X and S controller can be charged in many different ways. But I tend towards using rechargeable double-A batteries. For a better explanation and an in-depth look at the best options and batteries to use with your Xbox Series X and S controller take a look at my article here.
How long is the Xbox Seresis X/S’ Power cable? The Xbox Series X/S power cable is 5 feet or 1.5 meters long. Need a longer Power cable? Well, you’re in luck because we’ve got a cracking article written about just that here.