It’d been bugging me for a few weeks, maybe a month. At first, I thought it was a bug. My suspended Xbox One games kept closing. I’d have to reboot them from scratch each time, going through long loading sequences far more often than I remember doing. It turns out, that’s not a bug; it’s a feature. Microsoft has quietly started allowing apps to close suspended games to capture more memory.
Right from launch, one of the biggest features of the Xbox One console was the ability to instantly suspend and resume games, saving minutes of loading time each time you wanted to play a game. It’s a feature I’ve used almost daily for the last five years. We spend millions of dollars and gigawatts of energy (1.21 gigawatts, roughly) keeping our game consoles in suspended modes to cut out the minutes of waiting to get into games. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google have worked to make rebooting phones and computers a near-instant experience because that boot process is such a drag on productivity and valuable time spent on entertainment. It was a big deal when Sony added it, and a big deal when Steam removed it.
I confirmed this when I contacted Xbox Support on Twitter, where an Xbox Ambassador (the unpaid support staff employed by Microsoft to answer social media questions in an official capacity) told me that “some apps will now close suspended games,” following up later to note that there wasn’t any announcement about this change.
Now, there’s nothing criminal about this. The Xbox plays games fine. But the problem with this is two-fold. First, this was a selling point for the system. No waiting. Get into your games immediately. Shut down your games on a moment’s notice without worrying about saving. Now, this selling point only works… kind of. If you suspend a game and shut down your system, it’ll still be there waiting for you. But switching apps gives no guarantee.
Second, there’s no warning. If I boot up one game, and then another, I get a notice telling me that opening Forza Horizon 4 is going to close Red Dead Redemption 2. But if I switch from Red Dead to take a break and watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix and The Good Place on Hulu, I get no such warning. My game is just closed.
Most games are good about saving progress regularly, and some games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey even have a quick-save feature. But that’s not a promise.
For Microsoft to let apps close games without warning when we’ve been expecting them to suspend is weirdly opaque from a company that’s been so public about big feature changes and future plans. For those of us who use the Xbox as our primary media hub, it’s also a huge headache. I’m suddenly thinking of adding a 4K Roku to my home theater setup now. So if you’re running into this, remember: it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.