Farewell, Xbox (Petty Squabbles with a Giant)

This has the distinct possibility of running away with me, but I really will do my best to keep it short. Ish. Short-ish, because there’s a lot to tell.

XBox-Live-Support

Essentially, I bought a song bundle for Rock Band 2 in 2009 and was unable to download it on my Xbox One to play it in my newly purchased Rock Band 4. I am, according to all available sources, supposed to be able to access all previously purchased downloadable content for the game as long as it’s on the same family of consoles (which it is, with both being Xbox). All of the other songs I’d purchased on the 360 downloaded just fine but this specific bundle did not, so I figured there must be some kind of problem with the content or my account.

After speaking with three online chat representatives, one phone rep, a series of Xbox Twitter support reps, two Xbox Support Forum reps, and the game’s publisher (Harmonix, via email), their ultimate conclusion is that I must be lying (or humbly mistaken). I’ll break it down:

Chat rep 1 (Reyan E., July 5): He had me check my Microsoft account purchase history via web browser, but when I revealed that it only went back to purchases made after 2013, he asked me to check the same information through my 360. I didn’t have access to it so I told him I’d check it later in the day and contact them back.

Chat rep 2 (Leo, July 5): I informed him that my 360 purchase history shows the same information that my browser-accessed account does: it lists them as “recent” purchases and only goes back to 2013. He told me that I should contact Harmonix because “all the songs are coming form the Harmonix servers and we do not have a direct access to it.”

So I emailed Harmonix support (July 5) and explained the situation. They responded with: “Unfortunately if Microsoft can not confirm the Export Licences have been previously purchased on your account, under the same GamerTag which you are using for Rock Band 4, then there is nothing further we can do. Harmonix has no way to reference any personal information stored in your first-party account, as this information is handled exclusively by Microsoft.”

Chat rep 3 (Jake G., July 6): After again asking me to check my purchase history in a few different ways and confirming that I can’t see it (or other DLC I purchased around the same time), he instructed me to delete my profile on my Xbox One, reset my console, and reboot my router and modem before reloading my profile and attempting to download the material again. “I can assure you that everything will work fine,” he said. I expressed doubt because if it was indeed a DNS issue then I wouldn’t have been able to download the other songs: “It seems weird that I would be able to download the other songs and not this set, but I’m willing to try anything at this point,” I said. But he assured me, “I’m very positive that this process will resolve the issue that we have today,” and added “I will also make sure to send you follow-ups through email moving forward.”

Side quest: rebooting my router caused it to experience a hardware failure, so it was completely unusable. It was still under warranty, so I was able to get a replacement sent to me by the manufacturer, but I had to wait for it to arrive before trying the last step of Jake’s fix. The router arrived July 11th and I tried loading my profile and accessing the content on my Xbox One the next day. It didn’t work. At this point I was getting frustrated at having to constantly provide the same information and being given solutions that didn’t work, and having to replace my router in the middle of it didn’t help. I was feeling betrayed and disappointed, but I wanted new songs for Rock Band 4 so I (perhaps foolishly, in hindsight) bought $60 worth of new downloadable songs for it. We’ll come back to that later. After a busy few days of doing other things, I got around to calling Xbox Support, hoping that speaking to someone might yield better results.

Phone rep (MJ, July 19): It was around a 45 minute call, during which he asked me to check my purchase history again, checked it on his end, and consulted an “escalation team.” They concluded it was a backwards compatibility issue.  I calmly disagreed, because it has been available for purchase on the Xbox One since October 2015, thus people have been able to download it and play it on both systems since then. He insisted that it must be the issue and said that their engineers would be working to fix it. Less calmly (especially because I began the conversation politely and meekly saying that I was becoming frustrated by this whole ordeal) I disagreed, because I was able to download and play other songs that I had accessed on the 360 just fine, and if it were an issue with compatibility I would not be able to access any of the songs. He again insisted that it was an issue of compatibility, at which point I became enraged. I didn’t curse or yell, but I took a few breaths before explaining that I was staring at the content in the Xbox Live store on my Xbox One as we spoke, and it was available for purchase, and if I purchased it right now I would be able to play it like other people have been doing since October of 2015, and that if it were a compatibility issue that would not be the case. He took a few breaths of his own before again saying it was a compatibility issue, so I asked him if there was someone I could speak to elevate this or complain to that it wasn’t being resolved. He told me I could go to the Xbox Support Forums to complain.

When I hung up with him my hands were literally shaking with anger. I am not a confrontational person, especially because many times I question myself and wonder if I might be in the wrong, but in this case I was certain that I was right, so being repeatedly asked to provide proof (that seemingly doesn’t exist) or given fixes that just waste my time and don’t work, I felt defeated and powerless. I was being denied any actual solutions and I couldn’t do anything about it, aside from posting about it on Facebook to my meager 275 friends. After the call, the same day, I tweeted:

The Xbox Support Twitter team responded with “@Losperman We’d be happy to help, though we could use more info. Could you please follow & DM @Xboxsupport with your Gamertag? ^EZ”

They directed me to yet another site where I could check what content I had previously purchased using my Xbox 360 and asked me to send them pictures of what I saw. I showed them these:

…along with a screenshot of the last item shown on my Microsoft “recent purchases” page, which was in 2013. The first picture above shows “All” of my Xbox 360 purchases, which you’ll note is completely empty. The second picture shows what appears when I click on the “Full Games” category. This does indeed show games that I bought on the 360 going back to the very first game I purchased. So already it seems like there’s an issue with their record keeping. If I look at “All Items” (first picture), the games that show up when I look at “Full Games” should be there, but they’re not. Likewise, when I click on other categories like “Avatars,” “Game Demos,” and “Gamer Pic,” items that I purchased dating back to when I first got my 360 show up. There is one category that shows nothing, though, and that’s picture 3, “Game Addon,” aka DLC. I purchased quite a lot of DLC with my Xbox 360, including all of the Rock Band songs that I was successfully able to access on my Xbox One. Some of the DLC that fails to appear on that site shows up on Microsoft’s billing site, which I’d sent them a screenshot of. So there is direct evidence of their record keeping being sketchy. The Microsoft billing site shows that I bought some Rock Band songs after 2013 and I can access them on my Xbox One, but this site shows that I never purchased any DLC on my 360, for Rock Band or otherwise.

They suggested that I might have bought it under another account. I explained that I only have one account, and I used Microsoft Points to make the purchase, which are tied directly to my account.

They replied with: “Since the items that you are looking to download did not show up on that list it would be best to contact our phone/chat team for more support.”

Yes. They referred me to the team who led me to tweet my frustration in the first place.

In the end, they concluded: “We can definitely take down all the info you’ve provided to make sure we are keeping an eye out for any other possible solutions, we just did not want to promise anything we couldn’t follow through on.”

This response was probably the apex of my already exceedingly breached anger and anxiety. After speaking to three chat reps, a phone rep, and four Twitter reps (direct messages were signed with initials), their response was that they would “keep an eye out for any other possible solutions.” There is a possible solution that they can enact. They can give me a code for the DLC that I purchased. But they would only do that if they believed that I’d actually purchased it at some point. If they believe I’m lying and trying to get $18 worth of DLC from them for free, they would keep asking me to find proof, despite their own web sites proving inconsistent in being able to help me do that. So I tweeted:

A rep DMed me after that, saying “Definitely not implying you are lying or anything, truly hope you don’t feel that way.” But how can I not? If they believed I was telling the truth and I had actually purchased the content and just wasn’t able to access it on my Xbox One, they would give me access to it by crediting my account with it or providing me with a code that would allow me to download it. I’m not asking for anything more. If I get pickles on my Big Mac, despite asking otherwise, I don’t ever bring it back, and if I do I don’t demand for them to throw in a free order of fries because they messed up. I don’t like being ‘that guy.’ I hate being the source of someone’s annoyance or embarrassment. But if I didn’t get a Big Mac that I ordered, I would ask for it. I would expect it to be provided for me if I paid for it. If I was told they would “keep an eye out for it,” I’d be pretty upset. And I am.

At the beginning of this series of DMs on Twitter, I posted a thread at the Xbox Support Community, where the phone rep suggested I go to complain (http://forums.xbox.com/xbox_support/xbox_one_support/f/5574/t/2187543.aspx?pi7962=1). I explained the situation and detailed my grief, ending my post with “I apologize for the lengthy post, but as I said, I am incredibly frustrated with how this has been handled and I’m not sure where I can go to vent, since it doesn’t seem like my issue is going to be resolved.” After a community member tried to offer help, a staff member actually responded and after the other reps had repeatedly danced around directly claiming that I did not own the content, she said it outright: “Unfortunately, if you are unable to locate Peal Jam’s Ten DLC in your purchase history that would indicate that you may not own said content.”

She suggested, like one of the Twitter reps, that it might have been purchased under another account on the same console. I explained that it almost certainly wasn’t, due to the reasons I’ve already stated, and pointed out that there is plenty of content that I bought prior to 2013 (when my recent purchase history ends, according to their records) that I can access fine, so the logic that the content not being on that list means that I don’t own it doesn’t hold water.

A different staff member responded and asked me, again, for the maybe twelfth or fourteenth or twentieth time, to check my purchase history. If it was there, he said, I would have to go to Harmonix’s support forum and ask for help. If it wasn’t there it “would indicate your Xbox Live account may not own the appropriate license.”

If you’ve read this far, or even skimmed, I hope that you can understand how maddening it might be to have that be their final resolution. If my official Microsoft purchase history, which only shows me purchases made in and after 2013, doesn’t show me something that I bought in 2009, then I must not own it. With that logic, I don’t own the games and DLC that I purchased prior to 2013 and have already transferred to my Xbox One.

The insinuation is pretty clear: I’m either an idiot who somehow mistakenly bought DLC for myself under another person’s account (that I don’t have access to), or I’m lying about having ever purchased the content and am just trying to get them to give it to me for free or perhaps trying to get them to just give me the funds to buy it again. Either way, I want to do some math really quick.

I own an Xbox, an Xbox 360, and an Xbox One. I bought them fairly close to their release windows. The original Xbox was $300. The 360 Elite was $479, but I got it on sale for around $350. The Xbox One bundle I got was $400. Total spent on consoles: $1,050.

Not counting controllers that came with the systems, I own two Xbox controllers, four Xbox 360 controllers, and one Xbox One controller. In each case the controllers were around $50, but I might have gotten a couple of them on sale (though controller sales are much more rare than game sales), so I will put them at $45 each. Total spent on controllers: $315.

I have 19 Xbox games, but I am pretty sure I bought four of them used. I won’t count those, because the money I paid probably didn’t go to Microsoft. So I have 15 games, and they were $50 brand new at the time. I probably got some on sale, so let’s just say $40 each. That’s $600. I own 89 Xbox 360 games, which is not surprising when you consider that it was one of my favorite consoles of all time. By that point I very rarely bought used games because I became tired of GameStop and its tactics, and I liked the idea of supporting game developers. And I discovered Amazon.com. I do remember buying one of them from a pawn shop, but I’ll play it safe and say I got four used. That’s 85 games, brand new. Games were $60 at this point, but I got a lot of them on sale. So let’s say $45 on average. That’s $3,825. I bought some collector’s editions on day one, though (the Batman: Arkham games, Gears of War 3, all BioWare games), and some of them were $100 or more. Let’s play it safe and say I bought eight CE games, and I paid an extra $30 each for them. That’s an additional $240. In total, that’s $4,065. I own five Xbox One games. I paid full price for all but one of them, which I got on sale for $35. So that’s $275. I bought the full band kit for Rock Band and Rock Band 4. In both cases I paid the same, actually: $170. If I subtract the estimated $45 for each game, that’s $250. In total, I’ve spent around $5,190 on games across three platforms.

Downloadable content is much harder to guess. I’ve bought a few avatar accessories, wallpapers, downloadable games like Uno, the Penny Arcade games, and Pac-Man: Championship Edition. I’ve bought a lot of Rock Band songs. A lot. Aside from the Pearl Jam songs that started this whole thing, I’ve bought more than an album’s worth of Foo Fighters songs, No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom album and additional song pack, song packs from Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, David Bowie, Queen, and more. And, of course, there’s the $60 that I mentioned earlier, just a few days ago. In all, I’d say $500 is a very conservative figure. But I want to be fair, so I’ll go with that.

And let’s not forget Xbox Live membership. I don’t recall jumping on board with the original Xbox, but I got a Gold account right after getting my 360 and have been an active member since with virtually no gaps. So that’s $50 a year since 2007, or $500.

Consoles: $1,050

Controllers: $315

Games: $5,190

Downloadable content: $500

Xbox Live: $500

Total: $7,555.

This is not including tax, and not including other Microsoft products, like operating systems, Office, PC games, etc. On Xbox products I’ve spent $7,555. At least. So for Xbox Support to consistently act like I must be mistaken in having purchased this or, worse, like I’m lying and trying to get free downloadable content, is repulsive. That might be a strong word, but I choose it decidedly. I can’t explain why their system of record keeping does not allow me to see purchases I’ve made before 2013. Neither can they, as they have offered no explanation for that. So it comes down to my memory and the logic surrounding why I would have been the one to purchase the material, and them claiming that I must surely be mistaken if I can’t currently access it.

Their fix, you’ll remember, is not a fix at all. It’s that they’ll “keep an eye out for any other possible solutions.” Like the rep who promised two weeks ago that he would follow up with me and has failed to do so, I doubt I’ll hear back from them.

These last few days have been rough. The anger and helplessness that I feel distract me even when I’m not actively thinking about it. I’ve spent hours chatting, emailing, talking, messaging, and posting about this and I have nothing to show for it. I’ve been fighting for $18 after having spent over 400 times that amount on Xbox products. These are hours I’ll never get back. For what?

For what, indeed. Part of what’s been making this such a trying time is the questions that tangle throughout my brain at all times of day. Why is this a big deal? Is it even worth it? Would other people fight over something so small? Are you being petty? Is this trivial? Are your friends judging you for this? Maybe you should just drop it.

But I can’t. Sure, it’s only $18. But Microsoft makes a lot of money from people like me, and when we buy things from them we enter into an agreement. I give them money, they give me something in return. In this case, I gave them $18 for access to digital material across platforms. I’m not getting that, and my time is being wasted every time I am told to check my purchase history again and again, and never given an explanation for why my purchase history is incomplete on their end. As I said previously, I was never expecting a “we’re sorry, here’s a gift card that will cover the content and then some.” I didn’t want a handout, I just wanted what I paid for. I still don’t want any extras. At this point I don’t even know if I want the damn content that I was fighting for. After spending years supporting a company with my money, time, and public opinion, it’s physically painful to be treated like this. I feel sick when I think about it too much. I get headaches. I’m not being dramatic. I’m not a hypochondriac.  It’s just what life has been these last few days.

In my response to their message in which they said they’ll “keep an eye out for any other possible solutions,” I told them that I won’t support their products until I get a resolution. I have been a gamer since my earliest memories, and I have almost every home console ever released. I may have had favorites, but my allegiance has always been to myself and my desire to experience it all. I don’t see why I should support a company that doesn’t support me. I was planning on buying another $50 worth of Rock Band DLC this week but I’ve been holding off. I think I’ll pass. And I’ll pass on new Xbox One games, and Xbox Live, and HoloLens, and their next console. They can keep their $18 if they truly feel it’s worth it.

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