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Along with other copy protection and anti-piracy issues...
Published on December 1, 2006 By terpfan1980 In XBOX

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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.


Comments
on Dec 01, 2006
DRM and Copy Protection - scourge of the gaming industry and computing world in general.
on Dec 01, 2006
Hey, I play The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivon. There is an expansion pack out called Knoghts of the Nine, when/if I buy it , I have to be plugged into the XBOX Live?

I sure hope not, 'cause if I do, it sounds like a scam.
on Dec 01, 2006

Well you're going to have to be logged in to download it
on Dec 01, 2006

Hey, I play The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivon. There is an expansion pack out called Knoghts of the Nine, when/if I buy it , I have to be plugged into the XBOX Live?

I sure hope not, 'cause if I do, it sounds like a scam.

First answer is "I'm not sure"

Second answer is "Probably not, but..."

Third answer is "maybe"

That definitive enough for you?

Those are all answers to the same basic question by the way.

Here's the way it would normally work -- you download Knights of the Nine to your system.  Somehow Microsoft keys that download to your system (by the box's serial number maybe?) and then knows that you purchased it and fixes it so that your purchase (they software you paid for the right to use) is "unlocked" and "authorized" on the system.  Once that is done, you should be able to play the expansion without a hitch.  No need to talk to Microsoft's servers any more, etc.

But... if your system crashes (3 red lights, ring of death, etc.) so badly that it gets shipped back to Microsoft for repair and/or possible replacement, you *may* get a new system (most likely you'd get a "new" system -- i.e., a refurbished system to replace the one you sent back so they can take their time repairing your original box).   *If* you get a new system than you may find that your system silently connects up to Microsoft to make sure you are authorized to use the Knights of the Nine expansion you paid for and had previously used.  Each time after that, whenever you fire up Knights of the Nine, you'll find your system connects up to confirm authorization of the expansion (making sure you paid to get it).  Again, you don't have to stay connected to Xbox Live, but you will be connecting to Microsoft (Xbox Live) for at least long enough to confirm that you are authorized to use the game.

Before swapping systems you'd have had the advantage of having *any* user of your system (any profile that existed on the system) be able to use the expansion you purchased.  After swapping the system, only the system that paid for the expansion will be able to use it.   If that happens, you lose functionality, and Microsoft's minions back at 1-800-4MY-XBOX will likely be unable to help and/or will be darned slow and near helpless in trying to make it right for you.

That is what is happening to my friend up North of the Border right now.  She and her husband each have separate profiles on their Xbox 360.  He bought some games, she bought some games.  Both were able to play the games before they sent their box back for repair, but now the games are limited to whomever bought them while before either user on the box could play them.

I'm told by other friends that this is the case whenever the boxes get swapped out, and if so it shows a big flaw in Microsoft's DRM system.  They seem to be keying everything to box serial numbers or something similar and then seem not to have a way to "fix" the authorizations permanently in the future.  No "transfer" of authorizations, or other function that would eliminate this hassle.

The problem is pretty bad for Xbox Live Arcade games like say Texas Hold'em or Uno.  In those games you can buy the games and not ever (after downloading them on the marketplace) have to connect up to Xbox Live to play them.  You could play them standalone and have fun.  If Xbox Live is down for some reason you don't care.  But, once you swap out system for repair, then that functionality is gone, you are then forced to have to the software confirm it's ok to play before you can use it and for that you'll need to connect up to Microsoft (I think specifically to the Microsoft Xbox Marketplace).

Stupid system.

on Dec 02, 2006
"Stupid system."

YAHOOO!!! THE SYSTEM FAILS AGAIN!  
on Dec 02, 2006
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.


Another possibility here is licensing. I live in Canada so obviously I can't see the VOD content. But if Microsoft isn't the owner of this content (i.e. licenses it from someone), then their license to distribute that content may be limited to within the United States. Someone else may have licensed that content for Canada.
on Dec 02, 2006
Another possibility here is licensing.


That's exactly what it sounds like to me. (Possibly combined with applicable Canadian laws as mentioned in terpfan's original article.)

The other issues seem to be more of an MS decision problem, though.
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