Rant - The Xbox 360's downloadable content time bomb

What if this happened to your Xbox 360?Longtime readers may recall how my Xbox 360 died. Just a couple days after launch last November.

Overall, Microsoft handled it well. They sent me a prepaid mailer and turned around a replacement console in a matter of days. It should have been a flawless exchange.

Only someone wasn't minding the details when they created Xbox Live Marketplace. They crafted a system where the customer only half licenses any content he or she pays for. The other half is licensed to their console. If you lose your Xbox 360 through no fault of your own, your purchases are orphaned. And now that there are downloadable content modules that affect your game save file - such as Knights of the Nine for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - this has even deeper consequences.

Here's how it works. You buy an arcade game, theme or downloadable game content item using Microsoft points. That content is registered to your Gamertag, so you can re-download and access it remotely from any Xbox 360 that's connected to Xbox Live over the Internet. Nifty, right? But it's also registered to your "home" console - the one you bought it on - for offline use by anyone who plays on that console.

Which is all well and good, but what happens if:
You buy something on a friend's Xbox 360 with your gamertag?
Answer: They own the content on their console and can play it anytime they like, but you can only play it when you're online at home.

You have more than one Xbox 360 in your home?
Answer: Anyone can play it on the console you purchased it with, but you alone can play it on the other one, and only when you're online.

Your console dies and you get a replacement?
Answer: You can only play your content - and any games whose save files depend on that content's presence - online!
Think about it: If your Internet service goes down unexpectedly (say, due to a winter storm that takes out half the utilities in the Seattle area!)… or you have to cancel it to pay for Ramen noodles… or you visit a bandwidth-impaired family member... you simply can't play your downloaded arcade games. Or Oblivion (or any other game add-on that modifies your save game) if you've paid for downloadable content and then saved your game.

Here's what happened to me. My very first day with the 360, I bought Bejeweled 2, Geometry Wars and the Penny Arcade theme and gamer pictures on my living room console. A few days later, the console died and was replaced. When I got the new one, I had all of my content stored on the hard drive (which I had thoughtfully held back when I sent the defective machine in for repair), but I could only see my chosen theme when I logged in to Xbox Live. I also couldn't play those games unless I was logged in.

So I called 1-800-4MY-XBOX. I told the tech that I couldn't access my purchases unless I was online. "Oh, that's because it's registered to your console. You're probably trying to play it on another Xbox 360."

"Yeah," I said. "The one you sent me to replace the launch system that died. Didn't you transfer ownership of my purchased content to the new console before sending me a new one?"

"Let me give you to a supervisor," the tech said.

Half and hour, a hang up and three transfers later, we had worked out a solution. A technical support supervisor credited my account for the Xbox Live points needed to repurchase the content. There's only one problem with this approach: You can't buy the same content again since you already own it! When I went to repurchase those items on my new console, Xbox Live blocked me. "You already own this content, do you want to download it again?" it said. Only re-downloading the files didn't give me back my "first console ownership."

So I had to call back and get Xbox support to transfer the newly credited points to my wife's account so she could buy the items for me on my 360. Only then could I get the games, theme and pictures to load without being connected to Xbox Live.

It's a year later now, and I expected that Microsoft would have dealt with this. I was shocked recently when I saw people on several game forums complaining about the problem, particularly related to Oblivion.

Microsoft, if you're listening, here are a couple of consumer-friendly solutions that shouldn't hurt too much to implement on your end and might even save you on costly tech support:
Transfer content ownership when you replace a console. C'mon, this is basic customer service. How hard is it to create an internal tool that looks up any content that's been registered to a specific console sent in for repair and then perform a one-time transfer to the replacement console's ID before shipping it off to the customer? Even if this step added a day to the replacement time, it would be worth it to most customers. This process should be created and become a standard operating procedure.

Let us grant ownership of our purchases to our 360 console and then revoke it if we need to transfer it to another console. Apple does this with iTunes: You can license your music to play on five PCs of your choosing, and then revoke any of those licenses and transfer them to different PCs anytime you want. I know, I know: You want to protect yourself from piracy and maximize your revenue streams. So limit the number of active consoles to only one or two at a time. (I vote for two because we have two 360s in my house. But I can understand if you only made it one… You want to soak us for two copies of each game!) You could even further restrict that the credit card used on the console has to match. Seriously, how many people are going to give their credit card to a buddy so they can let him play Geometry Wars for free?! (True, having a credit card restriction would leave people who buy their points and subscription cards at retail out in the cold, but if it makes one bean counter at Microsoft sleep easier at night, well, it will have been worth it...)
The good news is that only some kinds of Marketplace content are problematic. Multiplayer maps, cheat codes and add-ons that don't affect your game saves shouldn't brick your single-player game if you're not able to get your console on the Internet now and again, though they could cause issues at LAN parties. Movie rentals probably only matter if your console fails during the rental period. But themes, gamer pictures, arcade games, and any game add-on that's not free and modifies the game world (and thus your save game) could be a problem. To test out a new download, you could try creating a new save game (don't overwrite anything!) and then load it on a friend's 360 with the network connection turned off. If you can load the save, the add-on shouldn't lock you out if you ever have to replace your console.

I've given Microsoft a year to resolve this issue. Frankly, they should have planned for it at launch, but they were understandably overwhelmed by other matters - like making and distributing enough consoles to meet demand. But by now someone nestled in the corporate spire has no doubt written a memo or urgent e-mail about how the customer's interest is completely been lost here. And so far it's been ignored.

Consoles die, some well before their time. Our purchases shouldn't be irrevocably locked to them. Maybe in 10 years when broadband Internet is like running water and dial tone, this won't be an issue. But for now, it's at least a great inconvenience and in some instances a travesty.

Me, I'm not buying any Oblivion downloadable content until this problem is corrected. And I'll weigh any other game downloadable content purchases against whether they're likely to disrupt my saves should the thinkable happen - my 360 goes paws up again.

I suggest you do the same.




something kinda similar happened to me and I definitely agree that this is sometime should have solved by now.


I had my console replaced a few months ago and only just now realized that my Live purchases were affected.

You stated the problem very well and I hope that this issue gets a good-for-everyone solution soon.


Same thing happened to me with oblivion. Except its the xbox live not my internet connection that is down. I was going to try and finish the Mages Guild, but I guess it will have to wait... :(


Ifeel very letdown with my new purchase of the xbox 360 it is only 4months old, and allready it has died on me!!!!
every time i try to Play a game on the console i receive a message stating
"please insert this disk into a xbox360 to play"
in all different languages,


So i rang xbox support to find i now need to return the console to be repaired
or replaced!
after only 4 months!
upon searching through xbox forums i found that this was a common problem with the 360, along with alot more problems people are encountering, the list seems endless
from the console freezing all the way to the console overheating and dying!!!
This is a big dissapointment microsoft.

Something seriously needs looking at to proove that the console is as good as you have made it out to be!

A quick summary of the xbox 360 and a top tip for any1 going to buy one.......
would be DONT DO IT.

Try the PS3 maybe.


I fall into "type one" of the marketplace problems:

"You buy something on a friend's Xbox 360 with your gamertag?"

People may think this is not very probable but I wanted to do it now, before I have a 360. I will wait until I get my own to buy the game-- thanks for the heads up.

Also, my friend's 360 has the whole "Please insert this disc into an Xbox 360." message when I try to play Gears of War. I had to open and close the thing for a half hour before I could actually play.. so annoying. I'm seriously reconsidering buying a 360.


All of you should stop yer whining. What would you prefer? Only being able to play arcade games, demos and modded games while online, or a broken xbox? When you think of it that way your moaning becomes instantly inert.

Also, "or you visit a bandwidth-impaired family member"? If you take your 360 to visit a family memeber, you are very, very sad.


dude, ive taken my 360 in like 10 times already... anyways i think this should be solved by now.. but what am i saying? billy and MS only care about money... but guess what, they lost lets see 300 times 10 equals 3000, yeah MS lost 3000 dollars! or best buy....


Now Its May 2007 and my 2nd 360 goes 3 ring of death precisely when pressing X to get the GOW Map update. As I read on many forums there are people on their 4th and 5th xbox 360’s. Where is the government itervention, levies ,fines,recal demmands,consumer protection,watch dog group or some fascit of responsibility to protect the consumer from a Nightmare such as this. Microsoft has blackened the eye of console ownership FOREVER .You better get those extended warrenties purchased because as a previouse electronics salesman 1988 to 1998 there is no product that was ever sold that had a failure rate like the XBOX 360 BRICK!?? Sony had some issues with their ps1 and ps2’s but nothing on this kind of scale. To make matters worse there is so much down time for so many that support is unreachable in anyless than 20-30 min wait. When they do pick up it a foreigner reading a script of fix attemps that would be suitable IF I WERE 7!!! AHHHHH HELLO MICRODUMB This is your 2nd unit you’ve put out, I have owned every console since the ODDYSEY 1–Thats PRE- ATARI …( for you younger readers) Thats alot trust me. I do not need the kind of support that you offer, I need you to USE BETTER SOLDER–DON”T USE FAN”S AND better protection for GPU , actualy care enough about your blunder that your support would consist of well…support. If all your going to do , at least in Canada Is replace the unit then please do it through the retailors ,its faster it makes me happy and it would keep me from thinking [SONY] This late in the game it should be an ELITE SERIES REPLACEMENT)stuff like that you know QUALITY CONTROLL…33 years or more ago my father bought me ODDYSEY 1 . I still have it, it still works , all my old stuff still works!@#??!@# , WTF is the matter with that picture MR. William Gates Huh What?!!



this happened to me too, I bought all the oblivion downloads like mehrunes razor, thieves den etc. and then my 360 died and I sent it in for repairs, got it back and I couldnt find any of my content, the 360 kept saying it was there and it even took up space on my hardrive but it wouldnt let me play any of my save games.


Hi I had different problem with my xbox and recently I found a great tech support site that have free live chat support and guaranteed solutions! I highly recommend it. Here is the page for Xbox 360 repair

Good luck



I would be very cautious about trying the suggestions on the site that Jerry recommended. If you are under warranty, opening your Xbox 360 will void it instantly. And they will be able to tell.

If you're out of warranty, opening up your 360 may make it no longer be eligible for even paid repairs by Microsoft. So if you're willing to risk having to junk it and buy a new one, it might be an option for you. But not one I would try or recommend, personally.



Also, don't forget, if two people use the same console, only one can access the downloaded content. For example, my brother and I shared the downloading cost for Shivering Isles and the Gears of War mappack, but since our old xbox broke, only he can access it (because he downloaded it under his profile). I can't use it anymore unless I buy it again, but we already bought it before. Microsoft really needs to fix this because I tried contacting customer support and they acted like they never heard of this problem.



I'm having the EXACT problem. My brother and I have an XBox 360, purchased last November. In that time, we've had TWO new consoles because of red rings of death. This time when I call XBox Live Support to try and get our games and downloads put onto the new replacement console, it's insanity to an entirely new level.

First off, the last two days I keep getting guys who literally sound as if they are eating lunch in a marketplace in Bangladesh. Seriously. THOUSANDS of voices in the background, making it virtually impossible to hear this one guy yelling into what is clearly his cellphone.

Here's a perfect example. I took notes during my first call yesterday..after that I just kept my phone on loudspeaker and yelled the answers back while I gamed away silently.

...after 10 minutes of attempting to get "Max" the useless piece of crap masquerading as a telephone system to send me to a human, I finally say "Human Being". He then transfers me to an interminable period hold music purgatory. (yesterday's hold selection was heavy on early 80s pop music--imagine having to listen to Madonna's "Holiday", Michael Jackson "Thriller", and Cyndi Lauper "Time after Time" for hours)....

approximately 30 minutes later, a gentleman(I never did get his name, I simply couldn't hear what it was he called himself) came on the line. He answered the line "Hello? This is Xbox Live. How can I help you?"

I quickly attempted to explain the basic problem. I had just gotten a replacement console from Microsoft, and needed credits for our primary gamertag to repurchase the games we already owned but could not play, due to the DRM issues. After a long pause (not silent, as the thousands of voices in the background filled in nicely), the representative proceeded to say "So you can't play any of your games on disc?"

I repeated exactly what it was I wanted. The rep then stated he did not know what I was talking about, and needed to speak to his supervisor. He then asked if he could put me on hold for a moment....and off I go back to PopLand to think about my junior high days in rural SnoCo...

5 minutes later, he returns, stating "I can't help you with your problem, but if you will give me some information I will transfer you to my supervisor". Then he asks me for the serial number of the new console. I give it to him, he asks me to wait one moment...back to PopLand.

3 minutes later, he asks me for the address where we have this console. I give him our home address, and POW, back to...where else?...POPLAND. After less than 2 minutes, he returns to say "Is that your address? That is not the address I have on file--I cannot transfer you to my supervisor". Panicking for a moment, I blurt out my parents address, thinking that my rtard brother might have originally used their address (burned into his brain for a dozen years) for registration. This response gets me back to PopLand.

2 minutes later I am congratulated that I have the correct address! Fabulous, let's move on, shall we?? Next up, he'd like to know both my gamertag and my brother's. I give him both. Pow. Back to the days when all I wanted was my first kiss and a big bowl of sugar snaps for breakfast....

5 minutes later this time, and he wants the last 4 digits of the credit card the downloads were made with! I reply "Oh, lovely, that's in my brother's wallet, tucked against his ass, and squished into the chair where he's sitting in a dungeon at Nintendo working for your competitors as a wage slave testing games for endless hours...which is why he CAN'T HAVE HOURS TO CALL YOU!". This response is met with utter silence, even the roar of bodies passing by is gone from the background.

I panic again, thinking I've lost my only chance to get anything done. I quickly zip through the hard drive and find the correct last 4 of the cc. After I give it to him, I get congratulated again. Then he says "Ok, now I transfer you to my supervisor".

"If we took a holiday...took some time to celebrate..just one day out of life"...ok, kill me now. Please.

15 minutes later, a woman picks up the line. She doesn't sound like she's in an open-air market, but rather in a washroom on an airplane. In her defense, she didn't need any of my qualifying information again (THANK GOD!), and only put me into PopLand twice. Then she returned to tell me that she could not solve my problem, and that she was sending an email "...to Microsoft so they can fix the problem."

"Aren't YOU an employee of Microsoft?" I asked, curious as to why she'd need to specify them like they were a different company. "No, I work for XBox Live".

"But it's MICROSOFT'S Xbox Live on branded stuff everywhere. Aren't you a Microsoft employee?"

"No, I work for Xbox Live. I will send your email to Microsoft, and sometime within 30 days your games will begin to work." She then gave me a ticket number and told me to have a nice day. Thankfully, she hung up, rather than putting me back on hold....

So today, I call back again, and I got two different answers. This time, I got "just redownload the games and they'll work"...nope, BS. Then I got "Oh, we'll send you an email and you can reply back to get the credits". Again, nope, BS.

So tomorrow I try to call somebody locally. Will they answer my issue? Not likely...will I have to listen to hours more bad pop music? Definitely.


Yeah, same boat here. I play Oblivion whilst at work. I've been playing it un-patched offline to build my stats (after my original saves were lost as I got my 360 repaired... -100 hours of fun) I redownloaded it, brought it all to work, blah, no downloads... but still patched to stop me from duping self enchanted items ;).

Anyhow, go through and talk to Manuel. He tells me I'm boned. Yep, simply put, nothing he can do, I should insert stick in ass unless I'm online. SCREW YOU MANUEL! I politely (seriously, I understand ignorance, he was ill informed) ask for his supervisor (still praying I don't get stuck with someone who knows 10% of common English), and after waiting for 15 minutes he comes back on and asks me to verify my gamertag info... then 10 more minutes he tells me he's preparing to transfer me, and that I'll have to wait, as the supervisor is busy with calls... he then transfers me... I wait ooooohhhh 1 minute and I'm talking to I think Jana, Jayna, Jahna.... INFORMED, we'll call her. So, Informed tells me that they've had this problem before (I knew this, I finally came upon this web page by this time), and that she would escalate my call (coming from experience in teleservices, I figured it would come to this. Very few actual tools are given to phone jockies, as these would give them far too much ability to either screw up or cheat the system... blah blah). So, I tell her I understand, then ask her the steps that I should expect. She tells me 30 weeks (WTF?! Oh, wait, I think I misunderstood) "Three weeks you say?" She says yes (THANK GOD). She then tells me they have the tools to fix this ('They' had better. I told Manuel it was utter BS that my $50+ in MS money for Oblivion plugins should disappear into the F'n ether) I made sure she had two phone numbers to contact me, she insisted they would, and they would get me back offline with Shivering Isles ecstacy ASAP. I may defecate smoke soon after what she just said, or I may actually be happy. Time will tell, time will tell... For now I guess I'll just have to live with plain, vanilla, Cyrodil.


i dont believe this crap...this was posted two years ago..m having the problem now

what the hell are they doing


I've been promised "it will be fixed within 30 days" 3 times, and "it will be fixed in a week or two" once, then "it will be fixed within 48 hrs with a refund because of the long period of time involved here", and finally....."the last person lied to you, it will be another 3 weeks at most-oh and if it isn't call me back, please don't e-mail me."

I can't believe I didn't cuss.


yea when i try to load my oblivion save it says the content that this save uses is no longer present, but on the profile that i downloaded on it works fine, i recently replaced my xbox


I have been dealing w/ this issue for about a year now. I thought that by now that this problem would be a systematic fix since I'm sure a ton of people have been affected (remember those red lights of death everyone???). My story is the classic case. I made the monumental mistake of buying an xbox30 only a few months after launch. 5 repairs, 200+ hours of oblivion w/ all DLC, countless calls to customer service, and 1000 hair follicles later I am still unable to access my DLC offline. I was informed by a supervisor about two weeks ago that the licenses were updated and that I would able to delete and redownload the content and would be able to access it offline. Well that was simply incorrect. I tried it today and it DID NOT work. I gave customer support a call, they tell me that they will look into this issue further and call me back w/ more info tomorrow. I can already see how this will play out: they call me back, tell me try deleting this and redownloading that, i do and it doesn't work, they then tell me that they will forward this issue again to the even higher-ups and call me in a day or two since my issue was supposed to resolved, they call me 3 days later, tell me that in order to completely solve this problem I will have to send in my xbox, I bite my lip and just send it back w/ the faint hope that this may finally be the end-all fix, I get it back in about a week only to find out that the issue has not been resolved, but only made worse since the previously DLC that worked offline on my the last console will not work offline w/ this new one, and I call xbox customer support and attempt to recite the longest sequence of profane words humanly possible in one breath, I then put my xbox and all my games on ebay, and invest in that cheap blu-ray player (you guys know what im talking about).


If everyone stopped buying the content (which should be free anyway with yearly subscriptions - As you sure as hell ain't paying for game servers!), they'd soon get their arses into gear and sort out this ridiculous headache they're causing everyone using this supposedly 'entertainment' system.

That's my rant over for now...

Sort it out Microshaft


ok I brought my 360's harddrive to a friend of mines house and downloaded songs for both rockband and gh3 because I lack the ability to get on xbox live at my house, I brought my harddrive home and the songs show up in the data but I can't play them on my games. is there anyway to get them to play?


I was just having this trouble, and I actually found the solution when I went into the forums. You have to perform a license migration. This process uses your 360 and your computer (or whatever you connect to the internet with) simultaneously. You go to this link: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/support/systemuse/xbox360/licensemigration/ That link will allow you to transfer the associated licenses to the console. From there, all you have to do is redownload the content (at no charge since you already bought it), and then your console will work all your content just fine regardless of connection or profile.


I have a similar problem. i used to have online and i used to buy content for my games like see the future and knothole island for fable 2, but just recently i had to move due to money problems and i cannot afford the internet. But the problem here is that i went to play my fable 2 again to find my save file corrupted due to the fact that the dlc is unplayable and my xbox treats it like it never existed and thinks my save file has dodgy data on it when it doesnt. but if i check my memory, the DLC is still there!!! it also happened to me with lost and damned for GTA4. Its not a console ownership issue and i seriously dont get the problem. Now because my data is corrupted, i will not get the bonuses when i play fable 3 for have data from number 2. FML!!!

Leave a comment

Join Busy Gamers
on Facebook

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Gamewatcher published on December 18, 2006 3:04 PM.

Misery Loves Company - Nintendo recalls Wii-mote straps was the previous entry in this blog.

Wii Downloads - Forecast Channel, Web browser and more is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Recent Comments

  • Gamewatcher: You don't specifically mention console replacement... but if you had read more
  • Shane: I have a similar problem. i used to have online read more
  • Organous: I was just having this trouble, and I actually found read more
  • Gamewatcher: This is exactly why I think the 360 DRM still read more
  • Justin: ok I brought my 360's harddrive to a friend of read more
  • Nathan: If everyone stopped buying the content (which should be free read more
  • Mike: I have been dealing w/ this issue for about a read more
  • randy: yea when i try to load my oblivion save it read more
  • alan fraser: I've been promised "it will be fixed within 30 days" read more
  • Gamewatcher: I've heard from Microsoft support and, today, from a GameStop read more