In case you don’t know, I moved from the US to the UK at the beginning of the year, and of course I brought my Xbox 360 with me. I mean it’s not like I moved to the third world, and gaming culture is pretty strong here. So, I bought a new power adapter, changed my console’s internal clock, and it seemed I was in business. Region locking on 360 games is nearly obsolete, after all.
Everything was going just great for the first few weeks, but then one day I switched on my console and received a notification saying my Xbox LIVE Gold account was about to expire. This is something that I use every day—I even use it to stay in touch with friends stateside—so I went about trying to renew my subscription right away. Since I’ve converted all of my money to pounds sterling, I needed to use my British credit card, but to my frustration, the LIVE system refused to accept my payment.
Looking for a quick fix, I jumped onto eBay where I soon found a seller flipping Xbox LIVE 12 month subscription cards from the US. So, I checked him out and saw he had been selling them for years with great feedback. Awesome! I coughed up the money for one of these prepaid cards, and I received the code by email a couple of hours later. Problem solved… or so I thought.
Then came a couple of weeks ago when I wanted to buy the latest expansion for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Now, you need MS Points to buy something from the LIVE Marketplace, and that meant using my credit card again. Uh oh. More irritated this time, I once again jumped through the hoops of trying to get the convoluted LIVE system to recognize my perfectly valid credit card. No dice. It turns out that any credit card must be of the same country as the gamertag profile. Hmmm… makes sense due to security, so I’ll just update my details. But this didn’t work either because the only field that can’t be changed is the one for ‘country’. Fed up, I did some research, and what I found was very disappointing.
Do some googling and you’ll find plenty of people who have moved countries and hit the same payment wall. This is especially common in Europe because the EU makes moving between countries nearly as simple as moving between states in the US. You’d think that Microsoft would understand this. After all, I had no issues migrating my iTunes, Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook, etc. Hell, I managed to get my entire physical collection of games through UK customs, so why should there be an issue with migrating, of all things, my gamertag? It should be pretty cut and dry, but it’s not. As Microsoft’s customer service told me, it is simply not possible under any circumstances. Ridiculous!
The only ‘solution’ they can give is to create an entirely new gamertag… great. See, all I wanted to do was give them money and keep things as they were, but it turns out if I really want to migrate I have to lose all achievements, digital purchases (which are a lot!), friends list and any remaining subscription. And why is this again? After all, I’m talking about Microsoft, the biggest software superpower in the world, and they can’t even manage a database transaction that will move my account to a new country? Pathetic!
Anyway, it’s not all bad because I’ve discovered a semi-solution for the time being. It is possible to create a new, free account for my current location and use that for future transactions requiring UK region specific content like DLC. Since downloads are shared between profiles living on the same Xbox, this, paired with eBaying the subscription cards, has me covered right now. Maybe I should cave and start from scratch as Microsoft suggest, but for now I’m holding out that they will eventually get with the program.
*** UPDATE ***
First off, thanks to commenter Dprincz for turning me onto this. To my great satisfaction, Microsoft have finally made region migration possible. The process is a little clunky at the moment–requiring a manual procedure during which the user’s LIVE account is suspended–but it’s a start. The complete process took about three weeks for me, although MS say it can take up to six. I was sweating it just a little coming up on Halo 4, but in the end I was back up and running on the eve of its launch (just in time!). Although I opted for this immediate solution, it is my understanding that the whole thing will be streamlined in the coming months. So, if you’re in no big rush it may be worth it to wait and not suffer the down time. Granted, MS did give me a bonus couple of months for the trouble, so I really have no complaints.
For more details, check out this report courtesy of Jim Sterling at Destructoid.