I love the Xbox Live
able to get five-to-ten-dollar games that are fun to play is a great
idea. I dig it, Jenn digs it, everyone has fun.
The way it works is you sign in to Xbox Live on your Xbox 360. Once
you’ve done that, you can navigate over to the Xbox Live Arcade section
and you can buy cheap, fun games using “Microsoft Credits.” The game
downloads to your console, and you play. Simple enough. I buy games,
Jenn buys games, we play, it’s great.
That’s the key, though - we both buy games, and we both play. There’s
no point in me buying a copy of Frogger, storing it on our Xbox 360
hard drive, and her not being able to turn the thing on and play. When I
buy the game, I’m buying it so we can play. And that’s how it works by
default - if I buy the game, anyone who signs onto my system can play
the full version of that game. Sweet.
My Xbox DVD drive stopped recognizing discs recently and I had to send
it in. I got it back yesterday, and the first thing I did was pop in a
disc to something, just to make sure it all worked. It did, and that was
cool. Then I switched over to the Arcade. That’s when the problems
Somehow all the games I bought were no longer available for Jenn to
play. All the games she bought were no longer available for me to play.
I mean, they physically showed up in the menu, but they all appeared as
“trial versions” even though we had paid for them.
After much screwing around, I figured out that if her profile was
signed in at the same time I was trying to play using my profile,
everything was unlocked; sign her back out and the games she bought
instantly become trial versions for me again. That’s patently
unacceptable - I can’t keep signing her on just so I can play. It’s not
just inconvenient, it’s dumb.
I looked at the “Usage Restrictions” you see when you download any game
from the Arcade. It kind of explains what I was seeing, but until you
experience it, it doesn’t fully make sense.
I called Xbox Live support to find out what to do. After spending
literally an hour on the phone (about 45 minutes of that on hold while
they were sorting things out trying to figure out how to address the
situation), it turns out that the DRM they use on Xbox Live Arcade is
all sorts of messed up.
When you buy a game, it’s associated with your user profile. It also
automatically authorizes the console you purchased the game from such
that anyone who plays that game on that console is unrestricted. (Don’t
buy games at your friend’s house and stick them on a memory card to
bring home, you’ll get nailed by this.) If you transfer the game from
one storage unit (the hard drive) to another (a memory card), the DRM is
changed so only the person whose profile purchased the game is
authorized to play - they need to be signed in to Xbox Live for the game
to be unlocked.
I’m not sure if this happens if you do something like originally
download the game to your Xbox hard drive, take the hard drive to your
friend’s house, then bring it back home. Does it recognize that you
removed the media? Do you lose the machine-wide authorization? I don’t
know, but I’d be interested in finding out.
Anyway, what the Xbox repair people did is send me a new console, not
just replace the broken DVD drive. So the console itself was “new”
according to the DRM, so it was like I bought a game somewhere else and
brought it home.
How is this getting resolved? You’re going to love this.
First, you have to create a new gamer profile and make it an Xbox Live
“Silver” membership. It’s free to create that new profile since the
“Silver” membership is free, but there is a heck of a lot of data entry
for contact information, not to mention the fact you need to give it an
email address and password so it can sign on - just like a real profile.
The representatives on the phone will tell you it doesn’t matter what
email address you give it, but from experience I know they send account
notices and such to that email address, so it should probably be
legitimate. Of course, that means if you don’t have your own domain
and/or can’t figure out how to set up email address forwarding then
you’ll need to create a new, dummy Hotmail account or something. Super
Once you have the dummy gamer profile set up, Microsoft will credit
that account with enough credits to go in and re-purchase all of the
games you previously had unlocked. Getting that credit to come through
takes eight-to-ten business days.
I asked why you can’t just credit one of the existing gamer profiles so
you can re-purchase without going through that hassle. Apparently
there’s something in the system that knows if you’ve played the game or
not before and the account you re-purchase the games through can’t have
played the games you’re re-purchasing. I’m not sure if that’s a
technical misunderstanding on the part of the technicians or if that’s
actually a legitimate issue. Regardless, the dummy profile thing was the
set of instructions given to me by more than one technician during the
call, so that’s how it’s going.
I’m not a big fan of Apple’s iTunes DRM, but the notion of
authorizing/de-authorizing a machine might have come in handy here. Like
I said, I dig the Arcade, but now I’m reluctant to buy anything. What
happens if I want to get a second Xbox 360 for a different room? I can’t
take the game up there because it won’t be authorized. Even if I wanted
to accept that as a limitation, Jenn couldn’t take the game to the other
room because I’d need my profile signed in so she could play.
Argh! You’d think that not having to fuss with a game disc would be
easier, not harder, but it’s exactly the opposite. I can take the game
disc to my friend’s house without having to fight DRM. I can get a
second console and play the game disc on either one without having to
screw around signing in profiles or setting up dummy accounts.
The only exception I’ve found to this odd DRM rule is the Hexic HD
game that comes standard on Xbox 360 hard drives. It was unlocked for
both of us from the get-go, even after we hooked up the new console, so
I’m guessing there’s just no DRM attached to it.
Come on, Microsoft, I thought you were smarter than this. We just want
to play the games we bought. Let us play.
*UPDATE * (Minor clarification) - The Xbox that the repair
facility sent me back was a different one than I sent in; they didn’t
actually replace the drive in my broken Xbox, they just sent me a
new/refurbished one. Had they sent me my original Xbox, I may not have
run into these issues.