I admit it. Of all the consoles this generation, the 360 is my favorite. I prefer its exclusives over those on competing consoles, I think the Xbox 360 controller is the most comfortable ever made, far outclassing Sony’s DualShock 3, and I prefer the ease of use and features of Xbox Live to the competition. But, I am also well aware of the Xbox 360’s failings, such as Microsoft’s abandonment of the core market in favor of positioning Kinect front and center of its development and marketing focus, the lack of first party exclusives outside of Kinect titles, Forza Motorsport and annual Halo releases, the hardware issues, which are just about gone now but were still a significant problem throughout the first few years of its life and the Xbox Live fees…which actually has a lot to do with what I’m writing about today.
A few weeks ago, my Xbox Live account was hacked. I’m not sure how it happened, but as I was sitting at my computer, I received an e-mail on the account my Windows Live account is associated with telling me that that $125 worth of Microsoft Points had been charged to my account. Immediately, I changed the password on my Windows Live account and called Microsoft’s customer support.
I was understandably miffed as I explained to the CS rep what had happened but I retained a level head and was polite and courteous with the rep, realizing that this wasn’t my fault. She told me that she would send my unauthorized access claim over to investigations and they would take care of it and told me I should hear back from them in a couple of weeks. She gave me a reference number and I thanked her and hung up, content that this matter would resolve itself.
A couple of weeks passed. No word from Microsoft, no notice from my bank saying the money had been refunded.
Okay. I decided to call them to see what was up. Talked to a different rep, gave him my reference number and, after reviewing what had transpired after my call took place, the rep told me that the matter had been reported as an accidental purchase and the case had been closed. As many know, accidental purchases do not qualify for a refund. I explained to the rep that this was an unauthorized access and he told me that the previous rep had obviously not done her job and had filed the claim incorrectly, so he took the liberty of properly filing the claim and actually sent it to investigations.
Wonderful. Now something was actually being done.
This past weekend, a few e-buddies and I decided to have a Netflix movie night (The Expendables, followed by Deep Blue Sea, purely for the laughs), so I signed on to my account on my 360 and found out that my account was suspended due to a problem with one of my payment methods, or something along those lines.
Gears of War 3 came out this Tuesday. The timing on this couldn’t have been worse.
So I called Microsoft CS again, and was told by the support rep and again, very bluntly and rudely by his supervisor that the standard procedure in cases like these is that, once the account is sent over to investigations, the account is locked to “prevent any external access to the account” and Xbox Live services are completely unavailable during that time and that, there was “nothing they could do”. Okay, I can understand this. I don’t want to, but I can understand it. But to restrict my access to my Xbox Live account for up to and exceeding a month when I’m paying for the month in question? That’s where the problem lies.
Great. So I can’t use the service I’m paying $60 a year for, just in time to miss the Gears of War 3 launch and playing it online with my friends. Perfect. Just…perfect. I’ll stick with perfect here but I had some other expletives in mind.
It makes me think. Back in April when the PlayStation Network was hacked and taken down for nearly two months, a lot of people complained (justifiably, don’t get me wrong) but all things considered, this wasn’t a service people were paying for (PlayStation Plus excluded because that’s another issue in itself) so Sony had less of an obligation to provide it, personal information being compromised notwithstanding.
In this case, I’ve been a loyal Xbox Live subscriber for many years. I don’t like paying for it but I do it because my friends do and I want to play games online with them. It’s as simple as that. People can go on about the principle of paying for online access when others offer it for free but those arguments rarely hold water. But when you’re making your customers pay for a service, you had better be able to provide it.
I once thought that I had somehow exposed myself to being hacked but couldn’t imagine how but now it seems that this is the result of a larger scheme, one that may have exposed upwards of 60,000 accounts. Microsoft has remained coy about the situation, saying that there was no hack but I am reluctant to believe this, especially after Xbox Live users such as myself are now beginning to feel the effects of this hack, if that’s truly what this was, as evidenced by these threads on NeoGAF and GameSpot.
So, my account was compromised in what is likely no fault of my own and I’m locked out of it for up to an entire month? A month that I’ve paid for? Just in time for the launch of Gears of War 3 (seriously, the timing couldn’t be worse)? That hardly seems fair. Sure, the Xbox 360 isn’t my only console but I want to be able to join my buddies in my second most anticipated game of the year (behind Forza 4, obviously) online for co-op or competitive multiplayer and I should be able to do that while my account is under “investigation”.
I’m disgruntled. Can you blame me, though? This is a service I’m paying money for and I should not be locked out of it and my money should not take this long to be refunded and the incompetent customer service rep should be fired for how poorly the situation was handled in the first place. If you think I’m wrong for being so bitter about this, well I don’t care. If you were in my shoes, you’d be pretty pissed too. This is not how you show your customers you care. I don’t want a free month of Live after the fact. I want to be able to use the service I’m paying for right now, and that’s not too much to ask from a loyal, paying customer.