Tag Archives: microsoft

In Which Microsoft Ruins XBLA

My life has always been one of jewel cases, DVD boxes, and shrink wrap. Multiple generations of gamers have inadvertently mastered obscure arts such as “removing adhesive security tags”, “shredding shrink wrap”, and “raising the CaseLogic stock price”.

Physical media has remained the primary distribution method for video games since the inception of home consoles. But with the current slew of platforms, digital distribution is finally not merely a possibility but a reality. The channels come in many forms: from the [Xbox Live Arcade](http://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/livearcadexbox360/) and the [Playstation Store](http://www.us.playstation.com/PS3/Store), to Nintendo’s [Virtual Console](http://www.nintendo.com/wii/virtualconsole) and recently launched [WiiWare](http://www.nintendo.com/wii/wiiware), to the hugely popular [Steam](http://steampowered.com) platform run by Valve for Windows.

A lot of gamers still love having discs for a variety of reasons. But there’s a growing movement of gamers and publishers pressing towards digital distribution. Gamers gain quicker access to games, less fiddling with discs, and the ability to reinstall their purchases at a later point. Publishers can create smaller, more innovative titles that wouldn’t survive at retail, keep a smaller budget, and not worry about fighting for shelf space in a brick-and-mortar store.

Or so we all thought.

Continue reading In Which Microsoft Ruins XBLA

Take Two’s Fifty Million Dollar Hat

Moneyhats. The phrase is frequently thrown around in gaming circles when it comes to exclusivity deals; the origin is [a Penny Arcade strip](http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2000/10/23) from October of 2000:

These sorts of deals are becoming more and more commonplace, and this week has had a whopper of one: Take Two announced that the “episodic content” for GTAIV will be exclusive to the Xbox 360.

Never keep Occam’s Razor far from you. As GAF user sangreal [discovered](http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=6754804&postcount=375) in [a transcript of the recent Take Two earnings call](http://seekingalpha.com/article/38017), the simplest solution still is the most worthwhile one:

*Evan Wilson – Pacific Crest Securities*
>Thank you. And as it relates to the deferred revenue chunk associated with the episodic content on X-Box 360, you can see that $25 million of that moved into short-term deferred. Could you give us any sense of when that’s going to hit the P&L? Will we see $25 million at one time and then the second 25 or will it be a slow bleed?

*Lainie Goldstein – Chief Financial Officer, Take Two*
>The first 25 is for the first episodic content package that’s supposed to go out and that is in March of ’08. That’s why it moved into current because it’s in the next 12 months. The second 25 will be for the second episodic, the episode, and that will be later in fiscal ’08.

Repeat: These two exclusive content packs cost Microsoft a combined $50,000,000 to secure.

I am obviously in the wrong business.

Xbox Support: The Text Adventure

You enter your apartment.
Buttons the cat greets you with a warm purr.


The answering machine is black, with silver trim. The phone rests in the cradle. The red LED displays a solid "1", indicating you have one message you have already heard.


You boot your Xbox 360. You reach the dashboard.


You attempt to sign on with your recovery account, but you receive a network error.


You sign on with your recovery account.


Achievement points or Microsoft points?


You have 0 Microsoft points.


You kiss your mother with that mouth?


Which button?


A message from someone who sounds like "Suzette" plays. Your request to be refunded your points has been either put in or is being processed.

Suzette says she'll give you a call back within 24 to 48 hours, or you can call her at the phone number she mentions and give the case number.

This message was left Monday afternoon.


Today is Wednesday.


It is 8:30 PM.


Through a series of difficult equations, you deduce that it has been over 48 hours since Suzette has called.

The stress of the math makes you realize that you have been awake for 16 hours straight. You should think about going to bed.


You pick up the phone.


You pick up the notepad.


You pick up a pen.


You get part of the phone number written down before the message ends.


You get ten digits, but they may not be right.


You get all ten digits right and the first four of the case number.

You are tired. You should think about going to bed.


You now have all of the relevant information.

> CALL 1-800-469-9269 ON PHONE

You dial 1-800-4MY-XBOX.


General Akbar would be proud.

The Xbox tone plays. Max, the automated menu, answers the phone in a chipper voice. He begins: "Hey, thanks for calling Xbox Customer support."


Max doesn't respond.

Max says "Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance. My name is Max, and I can help you find what you're looking for. Do you need help with: Xbox Console, Xbox Live, Xbox Games, or Accounts and Billing?"


Max continues: "Which console are you calling about? The original Xbox, or the Xbox 360?"

You are very tired. You should go to bed.

> SAY "XBOX 360"

"Xbox 360, gotcha. Here's a tip. You can visit xbox.com/marketplace to get the latest information about downloads and other information about Xbox Live."


You sigh.

"So what are you trying to find out about?," Max continues.


Max responds, "I'll see if I can find someone else who can help you out. The representative will be able to help you faster if you have your gamer tag ready."

You are extremely tired. Go to bed.


A female voice says "PLEASE WAIT!", followed by two tones.


You get in a comfortable position to chair dance.

You are about to pass out from exhaustion.

An automated female voice answers the phone.


"Thank you for contacting Xbox. We are unable to answer your call at this time. Please try calling again later, or visit the Xbox web site at www.xbox.com. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

The phone disconnects.

You pass out.


Your final score is 0 out of 17,000 Microsoft Points.


Breaking The Trinity

Seth Jayson of The Motley Fool wrote a piece today called “Microsoft’s Xbotch“:

As an investor, I can’t help but worry that my experience with Microsoft consumer products is not out of the ordinary. Not only are repairs an expensive waste of shareholder capital, but they risk alienating potential customers and crimping future growth. In effect, it doesn’t matter if the rate of Xbotch failure is as low as Microsoft reportedly contends, because the perceived rate of failure is what matters to consumers. People trust what they hear. And if they hear enough from irate Xbotch or Zune customers, they aren’t going to open up the wallet.

This is the conclusion of the story of one irate Xbox customer.

Continue reading Breaking The Trinity

As The Casket Turns

(When we last left our intrepid hero, he spent [over half an hour on the phone with Microsoft support](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2007/05/a_call_to_18004myxbox.php).)

Coming home tonight, I noticed a small white box sitting in front of our door. It was obviously damaged.

“That’s odd,” I thought to myself, “I don’t remember ordering any pa…*oh, don’t tell me that’s…*”

Sure enough, it was my Xbox 360 return box – or as it has affectionately been termed (and reviewed), [the 360 casket](http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/760/760269p1.html). And it was in bad shape.

The Coffin Arrives

Multiple edges torn, corners bashed in. Why? Because the box was single-ply, with no re-enforcements. The protection the 360 gets is limited to a plastic bag with multi-lingual statements of “WELCOME” all over it and two pieces of fairly squishy foam core.

In The Coffin

Arne, “Xbox Community Manager”, decided to accuse me of scapegoating Microsoft for the box damage, so [while I was taking him to task](http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=6514423&postcount=3153), I conducted the true method of discerning which of two boxes was better: I let Buttons decide.

Buttons Chooses The Better Box

The casket – which has been re-enforced with about 8 pieces of weatherproofing tape – will make its way to a UPS store over the next few days.

But I’m not too sad – as I found out today that I’m in the Warhawk beta.

A Call To 1-800-4MYXBOX

There Are Not Enough Swear Words In The English Language

Tuesday night, in preparation for the Halo 3 beta going live, I decided to power up my 360 and play some Crackdown. This could well be described as a *huge mistake*, as the game crashed hard and lead to the much dreaded **red ring of death** – three red segments on the Ring of Light™. The RRoD means “hardware failure”. It means, “time to call the support line”. It means “buddy, you are screwed“.

The [failure rate](http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=148060) of the Xbox 360 is one of the console’s dirty secrets. But from Microsoft’s perspective, it’s [something consumers shouldn’t worry about](http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/2007/05/peter_moore_interview_part_three_answers_to_readers_questions.html):

>I can’t comment on failure rates, because it’s just not something — it’s a moving target. What this consumer should worry about is the way that we’ve treated him. Y’know, things break, and if we’ve treated him well and fixed his problem, that’s something that we’re focused on right now. I’m not going to comment on individual failure rates because I’m shipping in 36 countries and it’s a complex business.

The community response to this story was [about what you’d expect](http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=154448).

Anyhow: After reviving my console for a day (thanks again, Jared), it went back to the red ring. Knowing that my warranty was expiring sometime in the near future – it’s been almost exactly one year since I bought my 360 – I bit the bullet and called Microsoft tonight.

I had heard some horror stories about the support line. A friend who had called was at one point instructed to log into his Passport account. This would have been trivial had he not been calling in about resetting the password to that very account. So I was prepared for sheer lunacy.

What follows is my running notes from while I was on the phone.

7:14 – Dialed the fateful number. It doesn’t even ring once before connecting. And how nice of Microsoft to play the 360 startup sound when you connect! It makes me feel like I have a working console.

7:15 – Started the stupid basic troubleshooting steps with “Max”, the surfer dude automated help. Radical! Max reads his script perfectly – too bad I already did his magical steps.

7:17 – Into the dreaded agent queue. No ETA given outside the earlier warning that they’re getting “a lot of calls”. Promising. Also, this music sucks.

7:20 – Ooh, Chemical Brothers! They are back, with another one of those beats that may or may not rock my block. Hey, “Max”, when you said you were going to “check and see if an agent was available”, what did that means, exactly?

7:22 – Oh, nice, an ad for the 360 headset. Hey, Microsoft, I’m on the phone with you to get a *working* 360. I don’t think I need a new headset quite yet.

7:25 – And back to the generic techno. I wish I had a speakerphone so I wasn’t giving myself a shoulder cramp.

7:29 – Universal remote ad. Ooh, backlighting! Text messaging! Integrated X, A, B, **and** Y buttons? Max, you must be joking. This sounds too good to be true.

7:34 – I just came to the realization that if I’m still on hold in half an hour, it’s going to start cutting into the season finale of The Office. And that will not help my anger at all.

7:37 – Now a memory unit ad. Obviously this call is not being recorded, because my weeping isn’t getting my an agent any quicker.

7:39 – Ah, Canned Heat. See, it’s actually quite disturbing to me that a generation will know that song only for its use in Napoleon Dynamite, and not that it existed for many years before that and was (and still is) awesome in its own right. I hate feeling pressured to like things ironically. Wait, why did the music stop…oh, it’s ringing!

7:40 – Connected to “Brad”. He sounds absolutely exhausted and/or depressed and/or drunk. I will not find out which.

7:41 – Why do I have to verify my address for this call? Is someone else going to call with my serial and try and get repairs?

7:43 – “I really hate the red lights.” Brad opens up that he doesn’t like hearing that people have gotten the Red Ring of Death because it means they (as in Microsoft) have to take their (as in the user) console away from someone. He’d rather hear that people were playing with the consoles rather than sending them in for repairs.

7:45 – Brad has me check the power supply. Oh, Brad, come on, I told you I already checked this. We’re buddies now, you and I. You should know better.

7:46 – Brad tries to sell me on the extended warranty. But whatever is causing his sleepy sounding voice is also making this a very light sell. This is appreciated after the previous hucksterism for the 360 accessories.

7:47 – We start a conversation about the Halo 3 beta. He mentions that they may extend the beta even further because people can’t download it. I still have all doubt I’ll get the repaired 360 back before the beta ends.

7:49 – I can hear the other people in the room with Brad. They sound a little more lively than this poor guy. And suddenly, as he’s reading me the closing lines of the script (“All the troubleshooting techniques we used today are available on Xbox.com…”), my general disdain turns to sadness and maybe even some empathy. Brad does this sort of stuff all day long, taking calls from the increasing mass of people with busted 360’s. That very well may be the worst job in the gaming industry.

7:50 – Brad mentions that it takes 3-5 business days to get the box to me, but that because I’m in New York, it will probably be on the higher end of that scale. Speaks volume about what level of shipping Microsoft is using.

7:51 – And we’re out.

Exactly thirty-seven minutes, according to my phone, only eleven of which were with the actual agent. Six minutes were spent with the phone tree and automated help. Twenty minutes were spent listening to generic electronica and being pelted with the occasional advertisement.

I look forward to this misadventure continuing on for the next month.


In the 20-something years I’ve been using computers, I’ve heard a lot of stupid things said, but [this may in fact be the stupidest](http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16934083/site/newsweek/page/2/), from the mouth of Bill Gates himself.

> Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine.

And people call Sony arrogant. Jesus christ.

Easy Target: Microsoft Edition

## [Gates to end daily Microsoft role](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5085444.stm)

>Bill Gates has announced he will end his day-to-day role as head of software giant Microsoft by July 2008.

Boy. Two years. That’s some drastic business change there. Nothing shakes up a company traditionally known for glacial movement like a two year transition period.

But, then again, this IS Microsoft. And we all know how they are with sticking to announced dates.

See you in 2010, Bill!