Microsoft Reminds Us Why They Suck: XBox LIVE Outages and Poor Customer Service

Well, I couldn’t fight the urge anymore. With as much work as I have on the table, I owe it to you, my loyal readers, to bring back the passion and frequency of my blog and what better way than to take potshots at one of the biggest and crappiest pseudo-monopolies out there? That’s right, it’s time to attack Microsoft once again!

XBox LIVE Dies - ZOMG!!!

No, XBox LIVE is not dead but, the way it has been running the past couple of weeks, it might as well be. If you have lived under a rock or are not really a gamer, you may have missed all the scandals regarding XBox LIVE customer horror stories and continued outages. I’m going to give you all a little grocery list of some of these horror stories:

  • XBox LIVE customer support analysts actually laugh and hang up on customers.
  • The ultimate solution for most problems plaguing XBox 360 seems to come down to buying a new system, creating a new account, or hearing “we can’t help you”.
  • XBox 360 units are still experiencing random crashes (surprise), red rings, and other hardware failure.
  • The magical XBox 360 warranty (which comes at an additional cost) does not include much at all; in fact, shipping and even boxes come at additional premiums in many cases!
  • Prepaid XBox LIVE subscription cards are more trouble than they’re worth – some don’t even code with a code behind the silver coating, due to misprints (good luck getting anyone to give you credit or a full refund for that)!
  • The most over-used line of any XBox LIVE customer support representative is “sorry, but that’s our policy”.
  • No one on the XBox LIVE support team seem to speak English natively, nor do they understand the root cause of your issues and what the customer TRULY needs.
  • It is not unlikely for random people to harass you, just for fun, and file false complaints against you which, ultimately, get you terminated. Since the XBox LIVE team doesn’t really understand English, they just go by “what’s in their system” and follow their scripted courses of action. A few strikes and you’re out. Good luck appealing.

If you’re like me, you may be looking at this list with great disgust. Anyone that knows me knows that poor customer service, unwarranted rudeness, and poor product “follow-through”/overall quality are things that I absolutely abhore. As a gamer and someone that happens to be an XBox 360 owner, I feel that Microsoft’s business tactics are completely unethical, to say the least. We shouldn’t be surprised since the XBox franchise is a microcosm of Microsoft’s track record in all other facets of their huge corporate monster.

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Gaming Shop Talk: Microsoft’s Majestic Marketing – Halo 3 Zero Hour

Today is the day that many geeks and overly-competitive gosu gamers have been waiting for: the Halo 3 launch. For me, it is business as usual. I played the beta and wasn’t particularly impressed and I am not a huge fan of Halo to begin with (you’ll have to forgive me for that) but, whatever way you chop it up, this is a historic day. This is the story of a somewhat obscure developer that hit it big by allying with one of the biggest brands out there – Microsoft! It is also the story of how online multiplayer games really got put on the map. Halo brought a gleam of hope to those that wanted something different…

Halo 3 - a ray of light for a different type of gamer!

For many years, the online gaming community has thrived in great numbers on the PC front but it was mostly underground, cult-like, not very organic or viral. Some home consoles tried to capture the magic of PC gaming but failed, mainly because they treated multiplayer modes as an after-thought. Along comes Halo to change everything. Halo is, without a doubt, the killer app of the XBox, comparable to Final Fantasy and Super Mario, easily. It is all a matter of brilliant marketing. The XBox cultivated a huge gaming space that was, for the most part, a vacuum waiting to be filled by a big idea. Bungie was a quiet developer that gave Mac users what they rarely got: fun games that weren’t family-oriented or overly-nerdy. Marathon arguably started it all yet few people even heard of the game. In this case, it is clear that the Bungie brand made little difference as crossing over to the “dark side” (Mac users tend to dislike anything Microsoft) would have lost the long-time followers. Surely, the amplifier of the Halo franchise was something outside of the developers and branding, surely the market was ready and waiting for something to come along. Halo certainly filled void by meeting the needs of those that wanted hardcore competition in a not-so-nerdy package. Finally, an FPS that was fast-paced, revolved around multiplayer (both coop and versus), and didn’t have a complex control scheme!

Had Halo been released on the PC like Microsoft originally intended to, it would not have been as popular; instead, they attacked the console market and used college dorms as marketing hives, the gaming bees buzzing about about their latest gaming addiction. Why do I say this? Well, the game is a rehash of what has been done before but, since it was new to those that only knew console gaming, it was easy to spread.

The brilliance of Halo was never it’s unique storyline or break-through architecture. The technical aspects are all commonplace in a marketplace where ideas are just repackaged and regurgitated. The marketing is where the real money was made and where the Halo franchise became rock-solid. The console market was in dire need of a fast-paced online multiplayer game. Something that was easy to find (accessible), easy to talk to others about (smooth), and simple to play (inviting). The major gripe for people that dabbled in other First Person Shooter (FPS) games is that keyboard-and-mouse control schemes were too complex. Halo opened up the FPS genre to the masses and targeted the most aggressive, competitive gamers as well as everyday, casual gamers that needed something simple to enjoy with friends. These two segments spawned many fans spreading the message: here’s something UNREAL! Continue reading

Microsoft Brings Out SECRET WEAPON B: Premium Price Drops & XBox Elite

I have returned with more information about the rumored XBox 360 price drops and system reinvention. I think this topic alone has created much buzz, simply because everyone keeps waiting for the huge holiday sale, only to be disappointed with empty promises. I promised Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day sales for the XBox 360 and it happened, in spite of all the nay sayers trying to discredit the news bit (and spamming me on MySpace – thanks Brandon).

ZOMG - Halo 3 in HDMI? I can't wait for Christmas 2007!
[ If you are like many console gamers and Halo 3 really excites you, you may want to read on! ]

With the first quarter of 2007 being mostly quiet, we see the same trends carrying on from 2006’s year-end news: PS3 still suffers from supply issues, forcing Sony to focus on their PS2. This leaves the next-gen arena mostly to Microsoft. Many say that this is the reason for which they will not be pushing price drops for a while, but I still beg to differ as it is much more complex than that. In fact, my colleagues at YouNewb have been dubious for a while until we got some mixed signals from certain Microsoft representatives. It turns out that the folks at Microsoft were telling consumers one thing and certain press/PR contacts another, essentially pitting us against each other!

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