Xbox Live Arcade - Ridiculous DRM Problems after Console Exchanges

Screwed! I try to be patient and understand when a company occasionally drops the ball. I really do. Especially a company like Microsoft, whose ecosystem I've worked in as a developer for much of my career. I generally support their initiatives... but problems with the Xbox 360 -- and now DRM issues with a console back from repair -- have just boiled over.

And crappy support was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

Begin Rant...

Back in September, my console died. It suffered all the same symptoms as a Red Ring of Death failure -- except the red rings. So when I sent it in, I got the privilege of paying $99 for the repair. After roughly a month, I get a console back from them and a letter explaining that, in order to expedite things, this is a different console than the one I sent in. So as of late October, I've got a new/refurbed console that's under warranty for a year. My hard drive's plugged in, so I can see all our profiles and game data. We're set.

Or so I thought.

The problem occurs when my wife or daughter sign into their profile on the console and all of our Xbox Live Arcade games are in "Trial" mode. That's about 15-16 games purchased with Microsoft Points over the last year or so. If I sign into MY profile, the games are in "Full" mode (because my profile was the one that purchased them), but nobody else in the family can play them -- or even access their existing achievements and progress.

I tinker around with deleting and re-downloading the games, but nothing works. So on 11/10, I call Xbox support and open a support ticket. The person I ended up speaking with (Ella, a supervisor) explained that because I was sent a different console, the serial number doesn't match. So the console's DRM system thinks that my wife and daughter's profiles are being used elsewhere and won't authenticate the games.

She tells me it'll take 2-4 weeks for them to "re-associate" our downloaded games/videos with the new serial number. (Why on earth this would take 2-4 weeks is left as an exercise for the reader. I can't imagine). Note that they DO already have the new serial number associated with my Xbox Live account -- she could verify it and knew the warranty dates. But once this "re-association" is done, I'll get a phone call notifying me to re-download that content and then the other profiles will get access to that content.

As of yesterday, it's been 6 weeks. SIX.

With a daughter who's out of school for the holidays now, and me taking some time off, this obviously becomes a higher priority -- we'd like to play some games together. So I call today (43 days after the first call) and spent 51 minutes on the phone. The first guy I got put me on hold three times because "his computer was booting up, but thanks for your patience". Once he could pull up my support incident, he had me verify a bunch of information, repeat the whole saga, and then put me on hold a couple more times. Eventually, he transferred me to a supervisor, Edwin.

This is when the fun started. Edwin was a complete information vacuum. All Edwin could tell me was that:

  • My support incident is still open (duh)
  • The problem isn't resolved (ya think? seriously... he related this to me as if it were news)
  • Someone should call me when it does get resolved.

What he couldn't tell me is WHEN it would be resolved. He couldn't tell me if it would be days, weeks, or months. He said that "in special cases, it will take longer than 30 days". Given that it's been much longer than 30 days, I asked what was special about the case. His response was "I don't know. Could be a number of things."

After going round and round with me wanting to talk to someone who COULD answer my question (he couldn't connect me), wanting to know WHEN I could expect some resolution to this (he couldn't provide even a sense of scale), and wanting to know WHY this was a "special" case ("could be anything"), he hung up on me.

That's right... he told me it didn't matter if I "called a thousand times, there was no information" to be had so he went through his "thank you for calling" script and hung up on me.

This is where point out that I wasn't insulting Edwin, using foul language, or anything like that. What I was doing was asking a lot of questions because I want to understand why this is still a pending problem.

Obviously, I'm not the only person having this problem... the 360's failure rate is a joke at this point, so there must be thousands of people in the same boat. An exchanged console with more than one profile that has Xbox Live Marketplace content. In at least one case, Microsoft credited someone the MS Points required to re-purchase the games for those other profiles (this wasn't offered to me -- yes, I'd go that route if it would work). The comments for this post are also motivational reading (sarcasm)... I should point out that I am NOT "Shady515" in those comments -- sounds similar, but that poor guy is on his 11th console and has been waiting for access to his Live content since August. Travis had the problem again a few months after posting that. No shortage of similar horror stories on the web.

An Xbox team member explains the problem (but no solution) on this post... where the comments point to a petition on the issue. The petition is apparently centered around people who own an original 360 and would like to upgrade to an Elite -- but can't take their content with them because it's a new serial number.

The kicker for me to blog it... Tonight, I see a blog post from Major Nelson (Xbox Live guy about town) pimping MS Points as a holiday gift -- because I'm not getting screwed out of the Points I've already purchased?

Like the headline says... ridiculous.