Microsoft will allow Xbox One owners to start playing a game purchased on Xbox Live before it’s finished downloading to their console.

A spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed to Polygon that the functionality – previously confirmed for all disc-based games which require a mandatory install on the Xbox One anyway – will also apply for all digital titles.

The feature presumably covers Xbox Live Arcade Games, Indie Games and titles that are already available as a physical copy, dubbed ‘Games on Demand’. It’s not clear, however, whether this would cover additional downloadable content (DLC) too.

Sony will be offering a similar service with its highly anticipated PlayStation 4 video game console. The company announced during the hardware’s initial unveiling in February that games can be installed in the background, allowing players to dive in before a download is complete.

A promotional video showcasing aspects of the PlayStation 4 interface then showed some of the options that will be available to users at launch; players can choose to download either the single player campaign or multiplayer suite first, either from the console itself or a supported smartphone or tablet.

Sony’s R&D senior team leader Neil Brown then announced at the company’s Develop Conference last week that the feature would allow players to access their library from any PlayStation 4 console.

The addition is hardly a system seller, but its effect on digital distribution and the perceived friction that comes with buying and downloading video games in this fashion. Players have varying Internet connections and it means that larger files – take Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which is a standalone digital-only experience – should be accessible to everyone. No need to press download and then leave the system on overnight or running while you head off to work.

Microsoft will need to be able to match, if not surpass Sony’s offering with the PlayStation 4 if it stands a chance of reversing the overwhelmingly negative market reaction and subsequent perception of its Xbox One console, which was triggered via mismanaged messaging about its games sharing and pre-owned sales policy.

Being able to play while you download is a welcome feature, but it’s strange that such a detail needed to be prized out of Microsoft by Polygon, rather than simply issued in a press release or revealed at one of its high-profile press conferences.

Regardless, this is good news for anyone that’s pre-owned the Xbox One already. With new leadership and a fair few months before launch, Microsoft still has a chance of regaining lost ground.

Image Credit: Microsoft