I am not terribly surprised when services fail and things go wrong. There are exceptions though, like this case where Comcast apparently decided it was a good idea to call its customer "Asshole Brown." Nevertheless, even when companies do the occasional daft and self-serving thing it doesn't burst my tolerance bucket unless it is something particularly egregious.
In most instances I allow for a little leeway and instead reserve judgement on the organizations until I am able to assess how well they responded to the crisis and how painless the interaction was for the end users as well as how easy it was for the company and its employees or contractors to rectify the error. Having a problem is not a crime but not being able to fix it is certainly an unforgivable sin.
Today my ire is aimed squarely at Microsoft, its Xbox platform and Xbox Live service. Ironically, while I don't always like every MS product the DirectX Box (XBox) was actually among the few for which I was a fan. Well not anymore! Such folly ends immediately.
My troubles started when I decided to change the region to which my account was attached. Having bought the system in the US my profile was registered there. This was never a problem until lately when I started to experience a few issues with downloads in my present location, Jamaica.
The problem wasn't serious but I figured I would just change the region setting to accurately reflect the current location of the system. I knew I would likely not get frequent updates and my access to the latest apps and games would be delayed. Not a problem I thought since that was the present state of affairs anyway as the Xbox service does geolocation based on my IP address and all the above was already happening. But at least I would no longer purchase items that then would subsequently not play or fail to allow a download. It would be a bit like Netflix I thought. Slightly less shows and may be a lot more spanish :( So I made the switch.
In hindsight I should have known better.
Boy was I Wrong! Services weren't just degraded they were non existent. Yes, you read that right. No services. No XBox Live, no nothing. It gets worse too as not only was I not allowed to login to Xbox I lost my access to any of the games or services that depended on it being present while running on the console. No Youtube, no Netflix, you are left with just a console that is now worthless. Furthermore, I was informed that you cannot make another change of region for 3 months. What? Exactly, no more region changes not even to switch back. This is even if you try to do it in the first 24 hours. There is no grace period. So essentially despite paying 60USD for a years worth of access you have now been banished for 3 months. As for support they are of no use. Save yourself the trouble. Don't even bother calling them.
Here is what they had to say
Thank you for your recent contact with Microsoft Xbox Chat Support.
We are writing you this email with regard to the account migration you requested and switching it back to US.
We tried to contact you over the phone in Jamaica; however, I'm afraid we were having trouble getting connected after several attempts.
As for the account migration, it will let you migrate to any region as there are a lot more Microsoft services that are in many different countries. Since your account has been changed to Jamaica, I'm afraid there are limited services at the moment for the country.
We're truly sorry to inform you that now that you've changed your region to an unsupported LIVE region, you can change your region back to US after 3 months. There's unfortunately no way to speed this process up.
Your feedback is important to us and In order for us to make sure that your suggestions get to the right folks, please make a post on our Xbox Feedback page.
Xbox Customer Support
Wait; I thought calling support was for giving feedback? That's right. Now that MS helped you to switch to a region it doesn't support they aren't going to allow you to comeback. Nevermind this was working 10 minutes ago,
not only did they lie or more likely couldn't figure out how to dial a number outside the continental United States, they are trying to convince me that waiting 3 months for something you paid for is completely normal and acceptable. No. It is not. Sorry, this is 2015. This is after I spent minutes chatting to their support team and waiting for a non existent manager. Judie T my agent was nice but even she couldn't redeem them. Did they just try to give me the Blue Pill?
This was what came to mind and here was my take on it in full disclosure.
Reverting a region change on Xbox (360). A total failure
I am sorry, I cannot accept this. I am a programmer and systems engineer so I know that reverting a change like this is technically possible and well within the remit of MS. What MS is trying to tell me is that despite being a paying customer for their services over the last two years that Microsoft has designed a feature with the sole intent of limiting customers. How does preventing a simple reversal (less that 24hrs with the new region having never been accessed) benefit anybody? It is clearly a feature designed to protect copyright holders etc to the detriment of the end user. However, it was ill conceived and this 3 month carte blanc approach is not in anyone's best interest.
There are no services for Xbox live in Jamaica and many other countries so allowing me to switch to these locations is completely useless and of no benefit and the system should have been designed to prevent exactly this occurrence. What exactly is the point of support if they are unable handle an issue as simple as this one? Now no matter where I take this system whether it be the USA, Britain or Germany it will be completely useless as my region doesn't exist and is not supported. To add insult to injury I am supposed to accept and continue to pay for this? Are you telling me that if I were to pay more money and create a dummy account with the correct region I would be able to connect but your paying loyal customer that is trying to do the legitimate thing cannot?
Basically from this experience I get the feeling that it is not in my interest to buy an Xbox or support any MS product. In addition, how exactly is Microsoft planning to support subscription services for Windows 10 if it can't offer even the most basic support to 90% of the world. Should I tell people to avoid that like the plague too?
Thanks for giving me the topic of my next blog post. Look out for it as I write frequently at http://bigthinkingapplied.com. PS, I am likely to cancel my Xbox Live Gold subscription and I am never coming back. Forget about my buying an Xbox ONE. I am definitely going to buy the PS4 now. Not only does it not lock apps like Netflix etc to the online service which it doesn't require but it is less likely to enforce this region locking stupidity. Irrespective of any security issues they have they far excel in terms of the services and most importantly they understand that the world is larger than the USA and that people everywhere have the internet too.
Your once loyal customer.
Thinking about purchasing that XBox ONE or any MS product and you don't live in the United States or are not a member of the 1%? Stop it. Remember this and tell yourself 'Uh Oh.' I hate to say it but you are likely better of pirating the thing.
I agree with Fred Wilson, the Internet really ain't so global after all. I know what I am going to do. I just bought me some VPN. and will seriously be considering the below for the the future.
As for Microsoft? I am going to cancel my subscription as soon as they allow me to. You won't find me buying into this subscription model and cozying up with Windows 10.
#$@*!!! If they can't manage a simple subscription issue on a peripheral service like XBox how exactly am I supposed to feel comfortable trusting them to subscribe away features in my core Operating System on my Desktop, Laptop, Phone or not to mention Server? I won't be upgrading and you reading this I can't recommend you do so either. Stick with Windows 7, Buy a PS, Save up for that Apple iPhone or Mac or run Linux.
I admire many aspects about what Bill Gates has accomplished including the creation of Microsoft and I can't argue with the work of the Foundation. But there are times when he gets it wrong like when he criticized Google and Facebook for trying to deliver internet to poorer regions by balloons. Sure, Polio and Malaria must be eradicated but even in these regions people cannot afford to wait for the banishment of all diseases they need first class communication services and they need it now. It seems to me that it is some of this type of thinking that has infected MS too.
When is the rest of the world going to be fully supported? The Xbox has been out for over 10 years now? Jamaica has some of the best internet connections in this hemisphere and if AOL which only serves the US can still make most of its money from Dial-Up internet then nobody has a right to treat us like second class.
Horrible phrases like the Third World remain relevant because companies like Microsoft with nonsensical actions like the above continue to perpetuate this reality for millions across the globe.