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Kristan's Xbox Live adventure

And why Microsoft prefers American customers to Europeans.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Rainy Sunday afternoons. In the UK (and presumably 'on the continent'), we all jabber on about putting things away for a rainy day, and we always mean Sunday afternoon, because the rest of the week is tied up with work, sleep, play and debauchery. In the case of Kristan, Eurogamer's resident technophile, this particular rainy Sunday afternoon was given over to setting up Xbox Live. Embarrassing though it may sound, the closest our little ginger hero has ever come to Live is via other people (like Michel Cassius, for example).

And it was on this particular rainy Sunday that Eurogamer learnt of a dark secret: Microsoft likes North Americans more than Europeans!

However could this happen? Our governments virtually hand over their entire computing infrastructures to Redmond, we all buy their sodding operating systems, and they consistently manage to find their way into the press (cough). But the truth of the matter seems to be that they do.

Back to the story. Having dutifully blagged a couple of Starter Kits while the Live service was in its Test Drive phase, Kristan assumed all would be well with his quest for online gaming nirvana. And after a lot of faffing around on the telephone involving yours truly (ICS, IP addresses, DNS resolution, all that crap), we found ourselves at the New Account prompt, and I said triumphantly to mine Editor, "there, now just stick your subscription code in".

"What subscription code?"

Ah. As it transpires, Microsoft sent us Starter Kits, but not subscription codes. Our kits lack that handy little scratch-away panel which reveals a code, and didn’t come with any handy bits of paper or anything like that either. Of course, having assumed that Microsoft would take yonks to get us anything at all, I had already signed up via the Internet, paid my forty quid and got it all working ages ago. But this didn't much help Kristan, as a subscription code is obviously only valid on one Xbox. Mine.

However, logically, we surmised that as I had picked up my code online, so would he be able to, in exchange for a small pile of filthy gaminglucre. Heck, the Xbox even says this, claiming that if you go to, you will be able to get one for the usual price. This, however, is utter bollocks. Go there now. Go on. Find me a way to get a subscription code out of it. You can't, can you? The problem is that unless you are prepared to saunter down to the high street (and living in Willesden Green, Kristan could get shot doing that!), or buy one from Amazon/GAME/Argos/etc, you can't get a code. And none of these online retailers have a special provision for Xbox Live allowing them to send out your code via email as Microsoft once did for all and sundry.

Given that we're catching a plane first thing Monday, and that it was bloody raining, Kristan was left with only one option: to do it all when he gets back from LA.

Which brings us in a roundabout way to the issue of Microsoft favouring Americans. Our evidence? The useful-sounding 'instant on' offer. Somebody, somewhere, please explain to us why this is available only to the USA and Canada...

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