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First discussion of Microsoft/Xbox idiocy. A friend, who happens to be an "American" living in Canada (her description of herself: American woman living in Canada, formerly Southern Californian) has an Xbox 360 system. She and I became friends playing Uno and other Xbox Live arcade games on the system. Anyway, she happens to live close enough to the U.S.-Canada border that she may venture across for shopping on weekends or even at lunch or after work times.
As it turns out she complains that due to exchange rates buying things like the Microsoft Points that are used for purchasing Xbox Live Arcade games and other things off the Xbox Marketplace are "jacked up" when she tries to purchase them as a Canadian. The exchange rate comes into play, and not just the exchange rate but the regular asking prices for these things may be higher for folks who live "north of the border."
Because of the price discrepancy she has bought things like Xbox Live Gold subscription renewal cards, and other Xbox 360 accessories down here in the lower 48 and then taken them home to use back up north of the border. Unfortunately though she recently found out that Microsoft doesn't support and/or allow the use of the MS points cards by folks outside the U.S.A. and even if she were to legally and officially move back to a lower 48 address (or perhaps Alaska or Hawaii), once her account was created it was flagged as NON-U.S.A. and will never be able to -- at least not by any setting she can modify -- count as a U.S.A. citizen. So, there's no way that she can purchase an MS points card here in the U.S.A. and make use of the code that is on it to redeem it for the points she legitimately pays for.
Similarly, she found that she is also restricted from Microsoft's Xbox 360 video on demand features. There's no way for her to download or purchase any of the content that Microsoft has made available on the system. No movies, no TV shows, nada.
I realize and have known for a while that there are restrictions on allowing U.S. TV broadcasts into Canadian territories. Canada has restrictions that are designed to help protect the Canadian TV and film industry and keep a sizable amount of original Canadian developed content on their airwaves. Never mind that they export their talent down here to the lower 48 and that said talent may become big stars here in the U.S.A. I guess that this is all part of the reason that Microsoft doesn't make the VOD stuff available outside the U.S.A., but still it seems a bit too restrictive to me.
Those two issues aside, another issue that bit my friend, and myself as well (and many others we know) is one that stems from systems that have been sent back for repair/exchange. Microsoft typically sends back a refurbished unit so that you aren't left waiting for your original unit to be repaired. That is a noble thought and when it actually happens it's probably a good thing as you aren't stuck waiting weeks for your system to be repaired, but at the same time there are some real glitches with the practice that come from other DRM (digital rights management) and other copy protection methods that Microsoft uses.
Keep in mind that Microsoft allows individual gamers (tracked by their gamertags) to download content to their Xbox 360s, but once the content is downloaded to the box, normally any user of the box is permitted to play the content. Meaning, if I set up gamer tags for my entire family, then download a game (that would be family appropriate) from the Xbox Live arcade and don't restrict the game at all for any family settings, any of the profiles on my system would be able to use the game and play it. That would include being able to play the game without having to stay connected to Xbox Live. (Or so seems to have been the case).
Unfortunately, people whose systems that have been replaced by Microsoft are finding that this gets broken by sending in a system and getting back a different one (a refurbished one in exchange for the original). Apparently somehow the games were "keyed" to the original Xbox 360, perhaps to a hardware address of same, or some other uniquely identifiable tag on the system that is found via software run on the system.
Because of that, in effect, Microsoft is not allowing owners (purchasers) of Xbox Live Arcade games to run the games without being connected to Microsoft servers despite the same hard-drive or memory card (storage device) being used all along, and despite the original purchaser of the game firing the game up on the system. You must *be* connected to Xbox Live, otherwise no game play for you -- even in "offline" mode.
I feel for Microsoft in this area because if they make it so you can simply download the game to your your system's storage device (harddrive or memory card) and not have it additionally keyed in some way, then you could easily just download the software to the device and then transfer the device to someone else, copy the content, and basically have them playing the games for free. Still, whatever method Microsoft does use for this software has to be one that basically unlocks the content for full access on the system, and that method has to be one that can be repeated seemlessly and very easily by someone that has had their system replaced, or had to replace their storage device, etc.