The frustrating choice Xbox Live has forced me to make
In my native New Zealand – a nation of 4 million people tucked away in an isolated corner of the world – we were always rather jealous of the additional Xbox Live services and content continually added to the US marketplace.
To this day, New Zealand still has no Netflix or any equivalent service on Xbox Live – only the comparatively lackluster and expensive Zune service with a seriously stripped-back content selection is on offer. The variety of other services on the NZ marketplace is, similarly, pitiful when stacked up against its US counterpart. In some cases, we even miss out on full games if the publisher doesn’t feel like a release in our territory is worth the effort – Telltale’s The Walking Dead is but the latest frustrating example.
Now that I live in America, you’d think that I could move on from all of this. There are loads of great services that, by rights, I should now be able to take advantage of: Comcast Xfinity, HBO GO, Amazon Instant Video and much more – not to mention the games that never made it our way.
But there’s one debilitating problem: Xbox Live won’t permit me to change the region of my account. So these services are still unavailable to me despite the fact that I now legitimately live in a region in which they are offered.
An Xbox customer-service representative did offer one solution, though, and it was simply this: To turn my back on my current Xbox Live account and start a new one.
The problem is, however, that I have five years’ worth of investment in my existing account, and the frustrations of starting from scratch are difficult to quantify. It’s not the reset GamerScore that gets me – not in the slightest – but rather the loss of five years’ worth of unlocks and milestones associated with that account: every weapon or accessory unlocked in Battlefield 3, every armor permutation in Halo: Reach, every paid-for DLC season pass, every map or difficulty unlocked in countless other games. You get the idea.
As such, I’ve opted to forego a US account and keep my New Zealand one, but the problems associated with this course of action are almost equally as frustrating. Of course, I’m now tied to New Zealand’s much weaker marketplace, which means I’m both limited in terms of content (there’s no way for me to now legitimately buy The Walking Dead, for instance) and forced to pay for my subscription and DLC purchases in New Zealand dollars (FYI, all prices are hiked quite considerably in Australasia and don’t translate to a simple one-to-one currency conversion). I’ve also discovered that some of my pre-purchased digital content no longer works on my new, NTSC console. For instance, my heart sank a little when I realized that I would be unable to complete the Resident Evil: Code Veronica HD playthrough I began before leaving New Zealand. It’s a game that I never finished when it first released, and now my attempt to rectify that is perpetually stuck at a roughly 90% completion level.
The worst part of all of this is that I see no reason for it to be the case, and my efforts to gain a workaround or even an explanation from Microsoft have yielded no results. I understand that, potentially, some users might be able to exploit the ability to change regions at will. But surely the appropriate checks and balances can be put in place to ensure that only those who’ve legitimately moved to another region can allow their Live profile to reflect this. Hell, I’d even be prepared to pay for the ability to change my profile’s region – something afforded to those who wish to change their GamerTag.
People move to different countries. It happens. But the irony of cloud-based services like Xbox Live profiles is that they don’t appear to be able to move along with their owners. It’s a frustrating problem that, truthfully, in this day and age, shouldn’t even be an issue.
As it stands, my advice to new Xbox Live users, no matter where in the world they may be, is this: make an American account your primary account when you sign up. Set up an account for your region only to buy and download region-locked content such as Games On Demand offerings. It seems to be the only way to avoid grief if you ever find yourself living in another part of the world in the future. And with console life cycles seemingly growing, you just can’t anticipate these things…