So, I just got off the phone with Xbox Live support. A little backstory: my Xbox 360 “died” in November, last year. That is, the optical drive simply stopped reading or even recognizing discs. The console itself booted up and functioned otherwise – this wasn’t a “ring of death” tale that people on the cynical blogosphere are so fond of telling – but otherwise, I couldn’t do anything with it. Xbox Live Arcade is great, but it wasn’t enough, and I needed to have a working optical drive in my 360.
Having purchased the console in February, I was eligible for a free repair/exchange, the warranty having been just recently extended from three months to a year for consoles manufactured before 2006, which mine was. I called up the very helpful Xbox repair support team and, long story short, though I had to foot the bill to send my Xbox out for repair, I got a totally different, fully-working console (likely a refurbished one) ten days later, which I reconnected in the same spot my last console was in, and went on enjoying the system.
Now, I’m a fan of Xbox Live. I’m not a huge fan of multiplayer; I don’t play too consistently. But I own enough multiplayer games and I have enough friends with libraries that match mine that I will randomly play a session now and then, so I like that the ability to jump online is there for me whenever I’d need it. I keep my console permanently connected to broadband internet and I keep my Xbox Live Gold account active; I’ve never had any interruption in either service…until last weekend.
Last weekend, my internet service wasn’t as smooth as it normally is. I kept dropping offline and would be unable to connect. Frustrated, I turned to my Xbox 360, to play one of my Xbox Live Arcade titles, and lo! It wouldn’t let me. I was, of course, unable to log into Xbox Live due to the temporary state of my ISP, so I did some research and apparently, when you purchase any non-free content on Xbox Live, you are really buying a license for your gamertag AND your console.
That is, if you go buy Prince of Persia Classic today, for 800 Microsoft Points, that Xbox Live Arcade game will be licensed both to your gamertag and your console. This is done for a variety of reasons: one, so that other people on your console, say your brother’s silver account, can also enjoy the purchased content and score their own achievements. And, two, so that you can play the content you’ve purchased whether you are online or not.
As you may remember, my console repair was done in November, and I received a brand new console as a result, with a new serial number and a new manufacture date. If they had repaired my console and sent the same one back, there would have been no problem. But, since they replaced it, my console had a different unique…identity, and the licenses I had purchased using my main gamertag were not tied to this new console. Apparently, this is a problem that people struggle with after they get their console replaced through the repair process, it just took me half a year to realize it because I was never not logged in to my original gamertag.
The normal process, when this happens, is to call Xbox Live support, and they historically check the information out and refund any Microsoft Points that were used before the repair. This is, of course, an unwieldy process and one that lends itself to economic abuse: from what I’ve heard, nothing stops the recipient of these replaced points from simply using them as they like. This is certainly a system Microsoft would want to avoid.
In looking it up, though, there were conflicting reports on this process. Some people claimed that they were able to delete their purchased content, say an Xbox Live Arcade title, re-download it, log off, and use it online. Others called these people liars, claiming that they tried this and it did not work. I was just on the phone with an Xbox support supervisor and I was asked to try this very process, to no avail; it did not work for me.
Out of curiosity, I asked her if this whole process was going to be changed, because it felt very cumbersome and potentially exploitative, to simply refund a massive number of points to someone after a console repair (my figure was an astounding 21,000 points spent by last November). She agreed and said that, actually, the download-again process works now in 75% of all cases, but for some reason, it fails 25% of the time, and they are working vigorously to get it fixed so that they don’t have to go through this whole process again. Apparently, check marks are ascribed to a person’s gamertag when they make a purchase, so if they delete the game and then re-download it, the license should tie itself to the replacement console.
So, those hoping to exploit the system are in for a rude awakening when the points-refund process goes bye-bye and the much less painful, easier, and more logical process works for every consumer.