Datel Slaps MSFT with Lawsuit Over 360 Accessory Lock Out

November 24, 2009 -

Datel, who expressed disappointment over a recent Xbox 360 firmware upgrade that eliminated the ability to use its third-party memory cards with Microsoft’s console, has responded with a lawsuit.

The complaint, filed in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court, alleges that the October 2009 Xbox 360 update, and subsequent lock out of Datel products, was designed to “to exclude competition from the Xbox 360 aftermarket for controllers, and to force consumers to buy Microsoft's own controllers.”

Datel claims that Microsoft informed them that the lockout of Datel products was an “unintentional effect” of the software update, but notes that Microsoft told G4TV that, “Unauthorized MUs are not tested for compatibility or certified for safety and compliance standards and thus could damage -customer's Xbox 360 consoles.”

Datel also says that Microsoft has changed the 360’s authorization protocols and Security Integrated Circuit process to prevent all Datel accessories, even a currently unreleased 360 wireless controller, from working with the console, stating:

In fact, it is Microsoft's anticompetitive conduct, including tying and predatory design, such as the erection of technological barriers to third party accessories and the disabling of otherwise functional third party accessories, not consumer loyalty or esteem, that primarily drives Microsoft's accessories attach rate.

The lawsuit asks that Microsoft be adjudged to have violated federal anti-trust laws and that the Redmond, Washington company “be preliminarily and permanently enjoined and restrained from disabling or erecting technological barriers to Datel accessories and add-ons for the Xbox 360. Datel is also seeking damages and to have its attorney fees paid.

The full complaint can be viewed here (PDF).


|Via Seattle PI|

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MSFT Responds to Possible Xbox Live Suit

November 23, 2009 -

Last week we reported on the story that a U.S.  law firm was accepting submissions as part of a precursor to a possible class action lawsuit on behalf of users banned from Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.

AbingtonIP had put up a form on its website asking those affected by the ban for more information. The firm called the timing of Microsoft’s ban “convenient,” as it happened just before the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and may ultimately have resulted in an increase in subscriptions to Xbox Live.

A Microsoft Spokesperson is quoted in the Financial Post reiterating that the company is well within its rights in enacting the ban, “Piracy is illegal and modifying an Xbox 360 is a violation of the Xbox Live Terms of Use. Microsoft is well within its legal rights to ban these users from Xbox Live.”

Marc Whitten, General Manger of Xbox Live, told VentureBeat that the estimated number of Live members banned was way off and defended his company’s actions:

It’s a cat and mouse game. These were people that were pirating software. We try to keep sanctity of life from a safety and anti-cheating perspective and we protect our partners. We didn’t release the number. I cannot explain to you why people would think it was a million people. It wasn’t a million people. Check the veracity of that claim. It was one news source. I think we do a really good job understanding what people are doing on the system. That applies to intellectual property (piracy) and how we treat the community in terms of harassment.

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Law Firm Sniffing Around Xbox Live Class Action Suit

November 19, 2009 -

A law firm that specializes in consumer class action lawsuits is probing the recent purging of Xbox Live accounts in what may be a setup for future litigation.

Inc Gamers noticed that AbingtonIP currently has a form on its website asking those affected by the ban—and who were not refunded a prorated sum for their time remaining on Xbox Live—to send in pertinent information. The law firm writes, “Microsoft has chosen to use one of the most indiscriminate 'weapons' in its arsenal in an effort to combat piracy -- as a result, use of this 'weapon' has resulted in a great deal of collateral damage -- many people were affected who had nothing to do with piracy.”

AbingtonIP calls the timing of the widespread ban “convenient,” in light of the pending, post-ban release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and thinks the ban may have resulted in a boost to Xbox Live subscription revenues. If the ban had been enacted before the release of MW2 and Halo 3: ODST, the law firm supposes that sales of both games would likely have been “greatly diminished.”

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Police: Yes Kid, Parents Can Take Your Xbox

November 19, 2009 -

A Buffalo Grove, Illinois boy called 911 after his parents took away his Xbox console as punishment.

The boy hung up, reports The Chicago Tribune, but as a matter of routine, an officer was dispatched to the home just in case. The boy apparently admitted to making the call and asked a cop whether his parents were within their rights taking away his game system. A police officer assured him that they were.

A Police Commander told the paper that he did not know why the boy was being punished. Police further advised the boy to listen to his parents.

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Report: 600k Accounts Banned From Xbox Live

November 11, 2009 -

Microsoft has once again taken out its ban stick, this time in an effort to prevent modified Xbox 360s from accessing Xbox Live.

A story on GamesIndustry.biz estimates the total number of banned accounts at around 600,000. Total Xbox Live accounts number over 20 million. Modded console owners will still be able to use their 360s offline.

The BBC (thanks beemoh) has reaction from one of the banned gamers, a 25-year old gamer dubbed “Raz.” Raz had his 360 modded in the back of a shop for £75 (approximately $125.00 U.S.). He estimated that the ability to pirate and copy games “saved” him about £600 (approximately $993.00 U.S.) and that he copied 30 or 40 games in all.

Ironically, Raz then had the temerity to complain about the high price of games:

I still think they should lower the prices. There are 16-year-old kids out there, they don't earn money so they go screaming to their parents saying, 'Can you buy me this game?

So Raz, are you going to buy another Xbox?

To be honest, I've contemplated whether to move to PlayStation 3 or buy another Xbox. I wouldn't do it again [chip the 360] but I really don't know if I'm going to get the Xbox again now."

It's always fun reading the Xbox Forums after such a widespread ban.

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Datel Responds to 360 Lock Out

October 21, 2009 -

Following up on news earlier in the week regarding the next Xbox Live update locking out unauthorized storage devices, Datel, a manufacturer of such devices, has responded.

A Datel spokesperson told CVG that such a lockout would prevent “customers from exercising their freedom of choice.” It appears that Datel has no more information on the proceedings than anyone else who read Major Nelson’s blog, as they stated “If the Major Nelson blog is to be taken at face value then we're disappointed...”

The Datel mouthpiece added:

We are following this issue and awaiting the outcome like everyone else. Everyone is looking for ways to make their cash go further at the moment and we believe that Max Memory offers a good value, high capacity, alternative to the official Memory Unit.

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XBL Update to Cripple Unauthorized Storage Devices

October 19, 2009 -

As part of its next Xbox Live Update, Microsoft will cripple the use of any unauthorized, third-party 360 storage and memory devices.

The news was announced on Major Nelson’s blog and has more than a few 360 users upset, as third-party devices are less expensive than Microsoft’s first-party offerings and have worked fine with the 360 up until now. A 4GB Max Memory Card offered from Datel sells for about $49.99, while Microsoft’s official Xbox 360 Memory Unit has 512MB of storage and sells for $29.99.

Some comments on Major Nelson’s blog praise Sony for the open architecture of the PlayStation 3, as any hard drive or USB storage device can be utilized. Xbox Live user Southpaw asked if “Microsoft made cars we could only buy Microsoft gas and drive on Microsoft roads?”

Major Nelson weighed in this morning on the 15th page of comments, saying “It took some time, but I have read all the comments here. Some interesting points that I'll be sharing.”

While this could be a way to affect 360 modders and/or hackers, what are your thoughts? Buyer beware for using a third-party device or a bad move by Microsoft in alienating its fan base?

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War Game Imagines Obama on the Run

October 16, 2009 -

The year is 2011. President Obama has just outlawed the private ownership of firearms, announced that the Constitution has been dissolved and revealed that the United States is going to be replaced by the North American Union, an amalgamation of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Revolution breaks out. Your part in this is to help capture Obama and the renegade Cong (former Congressional leaders).

This is the premise of a new online community and game calling itself United States of Earth. The extensive site is almost overwhelming in the sheer amount of information it provides, but centers around a browser-based war game in which a player can train and amass troops with the intention of taking over counties in Virginia. Players can also challenge other United States of Earth users in real videogames on Xbox Live or the PlayStation 3 network in order to win points to be used on the site.

Once logged in, users have access to a series of stories and videos that revolve around the fantasy setting, Stories include: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck Found Dead in Camp, Barack Obama Retreats to Virginia With Wife, Former V.P. Joe Biden Captured Outside Arlington and The Cong Loses Control, Pelosi Captured!

Obviously setup by a right-wing oriented person or organization, the United States of Earth website domain is registered under contactprivacy.com, a service designed to protect the name of whoever registered the domain. The terms/contact page of the website lists what they call a “virtual office” in Brooklyn, New York.

Also from the terms page:

We take the Constitution of the United States seriously here and apply many if not most of the freedoms contained within to our own United States of Earth. It is a shame that America itself no longer safeguards its citizens freedom as we enter this next glorious age of collectivism and decay promised daily by those in power, Republicans and Democrats. Will America survive? Only time will tell.

Via: Phillip and Fark

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Xbox 360 Owners to Pay $7 for L4D DLC that PC Gamers Get For Free

September 9, 2009 -

Usually, it's the PC crowd that gets dissed by game publishers. But in the case at hand Valve is doing right by computer gamers while Microsoft seems intent upon squeezing the last nickel out of Xbox 360 owners.

At issue is Crash Course,  a bit of DLC for the popular zombie shooter Left 4 Dead. Valve, which doesn't charge for DLC, plans to give Crash Course away to PC players. Meanwhile MS will be nicking 360 gamers $7 for the download.

Not that he has any explaining to do (although MS does), but Valve's Chet Faliszek told Eurogamer why it's happening this way:

We own our platform, Steam. Microsoft owns their platform. They wanted to make sure there's an economy of value there...

Via: The Consumerist

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Shadow Complex Boycott a Non-Starter?

August 26, 2009 -

Calls to boycott Xbox Live Arcade offering Shadow Complex because it is based on the works of anti-gay rights author Orson Scott Card may be falling on deaf ears, reports gamezine.co.uk.

Card is part of the National Organisation for Marriage: founded in 2007 to act as an organised opposion against same-sex marriage. Card has personally campaigned against gay marriage, which he believes would mark an end to democracy. He further argues that homosexuality is a dysfunction...

Whatever the case, it looks like the boycott didn't work. Following rave reviews, Shadow Complex has romped to the top of the most played Xbox LIVE Arcade titles, even entering the top ten of all Xbox 360 games played online.

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Gamers Propose Shadow Complex Boycott Over Orson Scott Card's Involvement

August 25, 2009 -

Shadow Complex, an adventure game in the vein of Castlevania or Super Metroid, became available for sale last week on Xbox Live Arcade. While the game has garnered impressive reviews, some are upset by the fact that its plot has been derived from the fiction of Orson Scott Card, a known campaigner against gay rights.  Gamers upset by this news are suggesting a boycott to ensure their dollars don’t end up funding Card's political agenda.

In an opinion piece for Gamasutra, Christian Nutt sees the idea of boycotting a game based on the political views of one of the creative influences as a sign that video games are growing up:

When Shadow Complex was announced, I personally was torn. I'd already long since made the conscious decision to not support Orson Scott Card directly with my money...

 

What bothers me is people who suggest that it's a non-issue because the topic of discussion is a game... "Remember back when we were kids and we just enjoyed games?" asks Wizman23.

Yes, I do. But we are not kids anymore... I was 32 on the day [Shadow Complex] became available for download on Xbox Live... I can't approach things the way I did as a child. That's not me being self-righteous; I mean that I literally cannot do this...

 

And that's why it's acceptable to talk about this... If we can have meaningful political discussion in other media, we can have it in games.

From all accounts, Shadow Complex looks like a very fun game.  For those who are put off by Card’s involvement, Nutt points to a suggestion offered up at GayGamer: buy the game and make a donation to a gay-positive charity to offset any profit Card may see from the sale.
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Senior Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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Dress Your Xbox Live Avatar for the Recession & Get a Little Poorer in the Process

August 13, 2009 -

Times are tough, so why not blow your last few bucks on virtual threads for your Xbox Live avatar?

Designer Michael Connell spoke to Kotaku about his new line of fashion for XBL. While some of Connell's designs pay homage to the popular Steampunk style, he also gives a nod to the down economy with "Recessionista" clothing:

I was thinking about making a statement, if you will, that even though this time of global recession, everything isn't bad." Connell said. "And in the 30s, in a time that was really bad, much worse than it is today, it wasn't all bad. There was fashion that was quite interesting. And this fashion wasn't the couture that was happening at the time...

 

[I hope] to kind of show that there are good things and we've been there and we'll get out. Clearly these are subliminal messages, but this is what I was inspired by. If you design a collection I think the most important thing is there needs to be heart and soul and direction.

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ECA Urges Gamer Action on Net Neutrality

August 5, 2009 -

The Entertainment Consumers Association is urging gamers to stand up and be counted for Net Neutrality.

In an e-mail circulated yesterday, the ECA issued a call to action:

Now is the time for you to stand up for your rights and join millions of Americans of every political persuasion in the fight for Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the principle that ensures that gamers are free to go where they want, do what they like, and connect with whom they choose onlin. Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) have introduced H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.

Take action now and tell Congress to make Net Neutrality the law of the land. Without Net Neutrality, your Internet Service Provider is free to: charge you extra for playing World of Warcraft, to interfere with Xbox Live, or to completely shut off your ability to access for favorite web sites. Net Neutrality effects your entire online experience...

This is our best chance yet in making sure that Net Neutrality is passed by Congress. The head of the FCC supports it, the President of the United States supports it, and we're asking you to make sure to tell Congress you support it. Take a moment to send them the message to make Net Neutrality the law.

A suggested letter to Congressional representatives is available from the ECA website.

GP: Gamers, this issue may not inflame passions in the same way that the censorship debate does, but it's just as important in the long run.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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ESRB Wants App Store Rating Content Business... But What About Xbox Indie Games and Other Burning Questions

June 15, 2009 -

The recent discussion concerning the ESA's desire to have its rating organization, the ESRB, evaluate game content for the iTunes App Store brings a number of questions to mind:

1.) Why?

Having watched how corporations, lobbyists and their related entities do business for some time now, I'm too jaded to believe that ESA/ESRB wants to jump into rating App Store games for the good of society or because it's the right thing to do. This would, after all, be a significant commitment of ESRB resources. Generally such things happen because there is revenue to be made or there's power to be grabbed.

Despite its present chaotic nature, the App Store is a rising star in the game space. Getting in on the ground floor would be a coup for the ESRB. Apple has a lot of money, too, and the ESRB is paid a fee by the developer/publisher for each game it rates. Despite my cynicism, ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi told me that it's not about the Benjamins:

ESRB is a non-profit organization funded by the revenue generated from the services we provide the industry.  Given our highly discounted rate for lower-budget games, rating mobile games is not a financially attractive proposition; however we believe making ESRB ratings available for those games would serve consumers well.  Parents are already familiar with ESRB ratings and find them to be extremely helpful in making informed choices for their families.  
 
To be clear, our desire is to see Apple integrate ESRB ratings as an option in its parental controls and display a game’s rating (if it has one, the ratings are voluntary after all) in the App Store or on iTunes prior to purchase, not to require that every game available via an iPhone carry an ESRB rating (just as not every piece of video content available will carry an MPAA or TV rating). 

 

Apple’s integration of ESRB ratings into its parental controls for iPhone games would afford parents the ability to block those video games that carry an ESRB rating utilizing the same tool they are being offered to block video content that has been rated by the MPAA or carries an official TV rating.  It’s about giving parents the same ability to do on the iPhone what they are being offered with other entertainment content and can already do on game consoles and other handheld game devices.     

2.) What would it cost?

I asked the ESRB what it costs a developer/publisher to have a typical console game rated?  Would the cost to rate an iPhone game be less? Mizrachi said:

Our standard fees for getting a game rated cover the costs of providing that service.  However, to make accommodations for lower-budget product like casual and mobile games, several years ago we introduced a highly discounted rate - 80% less - for games that cost under $250,000 to develop.  We believe most iPhone games would likely be eligible for the discounted rate.

3.) Isn't this a lot of extra work for ESRB?

Mizrachi was asked whether the ESRB has the capacity to handle an influx of iPhone games for rating. His response:

ESRB has seen increases in rating submissions each year since its founding and has always been able to keep pace.  We have rated more than 70 mobile games to date and will undoubtedly rate more in the future as the market grows.  Consumers of those mobile games that have been assigned ESRB ratings should have access to rating information, and if parental controls are available, the ESRB rating should ideally be operable within that framework. 

4.) If the ESRB plans to do App Store games, what about Xbox 360 Community Games (soon to be known as Indie Games)? 

I also asked Mizrachi about the indie games on XBL. Wouldn’t they seem to be a more natural focus for the ESRB before targeting iTunes? Mizrachi said:

Once XNA games graduate to XBLA they are rated by ESRB... ESRB isn't "targeting" iPhone games.


5.) Who would pay for ESRB to rate App Store games?

Not the creators of $0.99 games, for the most part. They are apparently not making significant revenue. Apple has a deep pocket, of course, although they are not the creator of the games for sale on the App Store. Perhaps the larger industry players such as EA, Namco, etc. would foot the bill for their games. They are already accustomed to dealing with the ESRB.

6.) If only some games are rated, why bother?

But then again, if only the commercial game apps from major publishers are rated, how does that stop your kid from downloading Baby Shaker or Hot Dog Down a Hallway? The foundation for the retail employment of ESRB rating is its ubiquity. Major retailers won't carry non-rated games. Thus, parents have a reasonable expectation that their 12-year-old will be turned down if he tries to buy GTA IV. If not all App Store games are rated, such an expectation is not applicable. So, what's the point?

Hopefully we will learn more about the ESRB's plan as we go forward.

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XBL Indie Game Turns Obama Into Side-Scrolling Scrapper

June 15, 2009 -

A recently-released Xbox Live Community Game (MS recently announced that these will soon be called Indie Games) features President Obama as a side-scrolling, 2-D brawler.

Angry Barry is available for 400 points on Xbox Live. We didn't spring for the game although we did check out the free demo.

Hillary Clinton makes an appearance in the game and the screen shot at left appears to feature Sarah Palin. From the game's XBL page:

Angry Barry is a sidescrolling, political parody, 1-2 player 2D beat 'em up in the tradition of many classic arcade games. Take control of Barry as he tries to take over the Presidency of the United States!

Xbox Live's Major Nelson Visiting Troops in Baghdad

June 13, 2009 -

Larry Hyrb, aka Major Nelson, is currently in Baghdad.

The Director of Programming for Xbox Live tipped readers to the surprise 10-day trip in a blog post on June 7th:

I am a few hours away from stepping on a plane for the first leg of my journey to Baghdad, Iraq for the Iroq-Band competition taking place next week. I am honored to be asked to support the event, and I am looking forward to meeting many of service men and women that are Xbox LIVE members...

 

With all of the travel and security involved in this trip, my online time... will be extremely limited... I want to warn you that I’ll be unusually quiet (which I am sure won’t bother some of you) during my radio silence. 

Major Nelson arrived in Iraq on Wednesday. Despite the heavy security of a war zone, he has been providing numerous updates via Twitter. Some of his recent tweets give the flavor of the experience:

It takes you back when the staff where we are staying have sidearms and automatic weapons.

 

Taking a scenic tour of downtown Baghdad aboard a Blackhawk heli.

 

Apparently I slept through a mortar attack last night. No one was injured.

 

Seems like Xbox 360 is everywhere on this base. The only thing they don't have is LIVE due to the poor connectivity.

 

Most popular games on the base? Rock Band, Halo, COD (any of 'em) and all sports games.

The pic at left is from the Major's ride-along with a Blackhawk sortie over Baghdad.

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U.S. VAT Tax Would Affect Games, Systems, Online Fees (and everything else)

May 28, 2009 -

Suddenly, there's a good bit of discussion in Washington, D.C. about the possibility of a value-added tax, or VAT.

For the uninitiated, a VAT is essentially a national sales tax. As the Washington Post points out:

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax... has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity...

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything... But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American...

Should a VAT be enacted, it will tax every type of transaction involving a good or service. For gamers, that means disc-based and downloaded software, consoles, peripherals and even monthly fees for Xbox Live, Second Life and World of Warcraft.

The WaPo posits scenarios involving VATs ranging from 10-25% but concludes that a VAT is unlikely - for now.

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Politically-Charged Xbox Live Community Game Dinged Over Gameplay

May 15, 2009 -

As GamePolitics mentioned earlier this week, the politically-tinged indy game Clover was released as an XBL Community title.

While the game is essentially an allegory about the twisted path that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003, Fidgit's Tom Chick finds Clover wanting in the fun department:

Entertainment has a long and storied history of commenting on politics. Unfortunately, Clover seems to lost sight of the entertainment part of the equation. Or maybe I'm to blame for not having the patience to play through a crudely drawn and even more crudely built adventure game based on inventory management.

I can eventually get past the look of the game, which might be described as South Park run through a Braid Photoshop filter...  The problem with "message" games is that unless the message is delivered with some sort of nuance or power... the gameplay is going to have to take up the slack...

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Politically-influenced Clover Launches on XBL

May 11, 2009 -

Clover, an Xbox Live Community Game being developed by Binary Tweed has now launched. As GamePolitics reported recently, the story which unfolds in Clover was heavily influenced by the run-up to the Iraq War.

In fact, Binary Tweed calls the game a "watercolour political platform puzzler," and those are four words you don't hear strung together very often.

From the Clover press release:

Already in the hands of some early-bird gamers, the true nature of Clover's political plot is becoming clear. “It's been great to read emails from gamers who have picked up on the historical and political references - if Clover has one objective, it's to make people think.” commented Binary Tweed's Deejay. Heavily inspired by the events preceding the 2003 Iraq war, the game invites players to draw their own conclusions from unfurling events.

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XBL Community Game Mixes Platform Action, Puzzles and Politics

April 30, 2009 -

We're intrigued by Clover, a nearly-done Xbox Live Community game which its creator says was heavily influenced by the prelude to the war in Iraq.

While we don't want to give too much away, Deejay, who heads Binary Tweed, added:

The game is loaded with references to speeches by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, as well as references to World War II and September 11th...

Clover is set in a pseudo-Tudor monarchy with a welfare state, experiencing increased security measures after an act of foreign aggression, in which the lead character's mother has died.

To make things just a bit more interesting, the Clover web site has apparently been viewed by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Army Information Systems Command.

That's a bit spooky...

While no official launch date has been set, Clover should be available in early May for 400 XBL points.

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Xbox Live in Discussions with Gay Rights Activists

April 14, 2009 -

Xbox Live has had a rocky relationship with its gay and lesbian users in recent times, but there are signs that things may be improving.

Gay Gamer reports that Stephen Toulouse, who polices the XBL community, recently met with members of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation:

I can't talk about what we discussed specifically except to say that we provided them with a lot of information about what we do today, why we do what we do and how we do it. And then we asked them the question, 'How can we do this better?' And we have some ideas. Here are some ideas. That dialog was super, super helpful. I think it was a great engagement. Justin and Jeffrey who came out from GLAAD really appreciated the effort that we're putting into it - and had great ideas, like they brought up some stuff we hadn't thought of.

We'll plan to say something about [GLAAD and Xbox LIVE policy] in the future.

Via: Kotaku

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Nasty Prank: Woman's Child Offered for Sale on Xbox Live

March 11, 2009 -

A Florida woman is understandably upset after someone posted a message on Xbox Live advertising that her two-year-old daughter was for sale - and included her home phone number. The offer included free shipping.

As reported by the Charlotte Sun, Christa Manos of Punta Gorda began receiving angry phone calls from Xbox Live users on Saturday night.:

The [first caller] was furious Manos would consider putting a price tag on her child.

At first, it sounded like a prank. But the phone kept ringing, with more and more angry voices from across the United States. Some just cursed at Manos. Others called her a bad mother. She didn't know what they were talking about.

"By the 18th or 19th call, I knew something wasn't right," Manos said.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

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Report: Lesbian Finds Herself Banned From Xbox Live

February 26, 2009 -

A woman who identified herself as a lesbian in her Xbox Live profile has reportedly been banned from Microsoft's online gaming venue.

The woman, known only as "Teresa," told The Consumerist:

My [Xbox Live] account was suspended because I had said in my profile that I was a lesbian. I was harassed by several players, 'chased' to different maps/games to get away from their harassment. They followed me into the games and told all the other players to turn me in because they didn't want to see that crap or their kids to see that crap.

As if xbox live is really appropriate for kids anyways! My account was suspended and xbox live did nothing to solve this, but instead said others found it offensive...

Microsoft does nothing to stop this or prevent it, but instead sides with the homophobes...

Microsoft, which in September received a perfect score from gay equality group Human Rights Campaign, has struggled with the gay identity issue on Xbox Live.

Most notably, in 2008 XBL banned the gamertag "Richard Gaywood," even though it was the user's actual name.

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Feds Say Xbox Live Predator Targeted California Teen

February 3, 2009 -

For the second time in less than a week, authorities have nabbed an alleged pedophile who met his victim on Xbox Live.

In the latest case, federal investigators allege that 27-year-old Edward Stout traveled from Missouri to California, where he engaged in sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl. The two met on Xbox Live more than a year ago.

Last week GamePolitics reported on the arrest of a 19-year-old Ohio man who is accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old Ohio boy he met on XBL.

Fresno's CBS-47 has a video report.

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19-Year-Old Xbox Live Gamer is Alleged Traveling Pedophile

January 27, 2009 -

Police in Ohio have charged a 19-year-old Michigan man with traveling to Parma and raping a 12-year-old boy.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Codey Hawks (left) met his victim on Xbox Live where he played an unspecified online game with the boy and his father.

From the newspaper report:

Hawks... called the victim's family when he arrived [in Ohio] and asked if he could stay with them. Hawks said he'd joined the National Guard and was to ship out in February.

At some point, the parents became suspicious and confronted their son about his relationship with Hawks. They called police after learning its nature.

Compton said Parma detectives questioned Hawks and he admitted that he assaulted the boy while staying at the family's home when the parents weren't there. Hawks now is in the county jail.

Police are looking for other victims...

40 comments

Obama Inauguration Featured on Xbox Live

January 21, 2009 -

President Barack Obama's status as pop culture icon extends to Xbox Live as well as, seemingly, everywhere else.

Joystiq notes that the Obama inauguration was featured on XBL last evening:

Log into Xbox Live tonight and the first thing you'll see is ... a photo of President Obama from today's inauguration. Indeed, the spotlight of the Spotlight channel is today's ceremony, including video of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden being sworn into office, the 44th President's inaugural speech and more.

Even the Movies and TV Shows categories have taken on the theme, featuring the likes of The West Wing and -- wait a second -- Mars Attacks? Yes, the Tim Burton camp-fest is inexplicably among the inaugural offerings...

Indeed, the Obama features are still up this morning.

Obama, as GamePolitics readers will recall, was the runaway choice among Xbox Live users in political polling conducted by the online gaming venue during the run-up to November's election (see: Xbox Live is a Blue State).

The Obama campaign also created a stir with its groundbreaking in-game ads, which were seen only on Xbox Live. The XBL ad story was broken on GamePolitics, BTW.

Included in the current inaugural theme is a segment introduced by Major Nelson which features XBL users offering their opinions as to what the new chief executive should prioritize. Aside from the woman who wanted Bruce Springsteen named "secretary of rock" and the guy who demanded a college football playoff system, the answers showed that the XBL crowd is both thoughtful and well-versed in current affairs.

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Collectible Games Plunge in Value Following Digital Re-release

January 2, 2009 -

For most gamers, it's great to see an old classic turn up on Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network or the Wii Shop Channel.

But, as Ars Technica reports, such re-releases are often bad news for collectors of hard-to-find video games.

Video games are a digital medium, and re-monetizing rare games via digital distribution services has been a long time coming... How much do rare games drop in value when they're re-released via a service like Xbox Live? A good example is Rez HD, the Xbox 360 version of a rare Dreamcast and PS2 shooter...

"Rez used to sell for about $50 for the Dreamcast version and $45 for the PS2 version through the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008," Nick [of Racketboy.com] explained... "Ikaruga sold for about $75 for the Dreamcast version and $45 for the Gamecube port. Once it was announced that both games would be coming to XBLA in the middle of the year, the games dropped $5 to $15 in value... It seems that the Dreamcast games hold their value a bit more as it is more of a cult classic system, and they are also Japanese imports."

Nick also told us that the domestic copies of the relatively common PS2 and GameCube ports of the game have halved in value.
 

25 comments

Journalist Reflects on Brandon Crisp Case, Terms CoD 4 Multiplayer "a Sad Place"

December 18, 2008 -

The tragic death of Canadian teen Brandon Crisp was easily gaming's saddest story of 2008.

In a sense, it was also one of the most frustrating stories for gamers as they watched their hobby maligned publicly, yet again. For several weeks in October and November, mainstream media reports fueled speculation that Brandon, a dedicated - perhaps even compulsive - Call of Duty 4 gamer, had been abducted by someone he met on Xbox Live.

Early on in the case there was even the highly improbable suggestion that Brandon had left home to join a professional gaming league. This was, perhaps, the modern equivalent of a 19th century child running away to join the circus.

Throughout the investigation and its aftermath, the notion that Brandon was addicted to Call of Duty 4 remained a constant theme. Not written about much, but just as likely, was the fact that Brandon was experiencing the same issues that plague many adolescents: difficulty in finding one's place and conflicts with parents.

In the end, Brandon was found dead not far from home. A coroner ruled that he likely fell from a tree soon after running away.

Now that a bit of time has passed since Brandon's death, Canadian journalist Jesse Brown takes a retrospective look at the case for his CBC Radio podcast. Unfortunately, what Brown ultimately serves up is a blanket condemnation of Call of Duty 4 multiplayer.

Brown, a non-gamer, spent time playing CoD4 and recording his impressions. In the end he was seemingly put off by the trash talk on Xbox Live. Hey, who isn't, from time to time? But there are ways to deal with XBL jerks that don't involve condemning the entire CoD4 experience, as Brown unfortunately does in his wrap-up:

Brandon Crisp played video games compulsively and Brandon Crisp died in the woods after falling from a tree. And those two things might not have anything at all to do with each other.

But as I played Call of Duty 4 late at night, crouching in a digital simulation of a snowy field and then collapsing in the leaves as a stranger somewhere in the world pushed a button and cursed in my ear, it was eerie to think that Brandon Crisp was here too, virtually killing and virtually dying thousands of times.

 

This world is a sad place and it's awful that Brandon Crisp spent so much of his time here when he had so little to spend.

What Brown doesn't get is that CoD4 may have become for Brandon a place where he could fit in, have fun and enjoy a sense of community and accomplishment.

GP: Thanks to GP reader Joseph M for the heads-up...

In Wake of Election, ESA Boss Sees Historic Time for Game Community

November 21, 2008 -

In an op-ed published at 1up, Michael Gallagher, CEO of game publishers trade group the Entertainment Software Association, frames the recent presidential election as "a historic time for America and the computer and video game community."

Recapping many of the campaign-related game developments (Obama's XBL ads, McCain's Pork Invaders game), Gallagher writes:

The campaign produced a milestone of its own in the use of our technologies to engage and communicate with voters.

 

 For the first time, American gamers and the entertainment software industry played an active role in the political process...

With the U.S. recession deepening, Gallagher also cites the benefits that the game industry provides to the U.S. economy and lays out the ESAS's agenda going forward:

  • working closely with all levels of government
  • preserving the First Amendment rights of gamers
  • supporting parental education efforts around video game ratings
  • protecting our industry's intellectual property
  • leveraging broadband to increase the connected experience
  • working to improve our industry's contributions to the economy
  • supporting state-level tax incentive legislation
     

Gallagher concludes with:

We look forward to working with the Obama administration, the new Congress and state leaders around the country and ensuring that America's governments recognize the positive effects of the computer and video game industry.

UPDATE: For more of Gallagher's thoughts, see GameStop's interview.

Blizzard, Microsoft Wield Banhammer

November 13, 2008 -

Microsoft has banned a number of Xbox Live users whose 360s were modded, according to XBL front man Major Nelson:

In our our continued effort to keep gameplay safe and secure for our community of more than 14 million members, Microsoft has taken action against a small percentage of Xbox 360 consoles that have been illegally modified in order to play pirated games.

 

You should know that modifying your Xbox 360 console is also a violation of the Xbox LIVE terms of use, will void your warranty and result in a ban... The health of the video game business depends on customers paying for the genuine products and services they receive, both from manufacturers and the local companies that support them.

Via: Amazon Game Room

In more banning news, Destructoid reports that Blizzard has said goodbye to some 350,000 Battle.net accounts for Starcraft and Diablo II.

At issue? 

Players using third-party hacks. The good news is that the cheaters were banned. The bad news is that Blizz might let them back in after 30 days.

 

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MaskedPixelanteProbably dihydrogen monoxide, the most dangerous substance in the universe.09/21/2014 - 10:14am
james_fudgewell I hope he called the police so they can let us all know.09/21/2014 - 9:07am
quiknkoldIt's pretty gnarly. Depending on what it is, it could be worse than white powder or a fake bomb.09/21/2014 - 9:06am
james_fudgeI just looked it up on UPS.com09/21/2014 - 8:56am
james_fudgeand expensive for an American to ship to London.09/21/2014 - 8:55am
E. Zachary KnightThat is pretty scary. Would have been worse if it were a fake bomb or white powder.09/21/2014 - 8:49am
quiknkoldThere's some more tweets regarding it with more pictures09/21/2014 - 8:09am
quiknkoldMilo Yiannopoulos was mailed a syringe filled with clear liquid. He claims it's anti gamergate harassment. Mentioned on his twitter twitter.com/Nero/status/51366668391625523209/21/2014 - 8:07am
Andrew EisenNow, having said that, what sites are you reading that are claiming that if "you self-identify as a Gamer, you're immediately the problem" or that gamers are "obligated to stop harassment"? Or was that hyperbole too?09/21/2014 - 1:03am
Andrew EisenFirst of all, ONE person in the Shout box suggested an obligation to call harassers out on their harassing but only after YOU brought it up. Plus, Techno said "when you see it happening." If you don't see it, you're not under any obligation.09/21/2014 - 1:02am
Sleaker@Craig R. - at this point I don't even know what the hashtags are suppsed to be in support of. what does GamerGate actually signify.09/21/2014 - 12:21am
Sleaker@AE - Hyperbole for the first 2, but it seems like some of the comments in the shout are attempting to place blame on fellow gamers because they aren't actively telling people to stop harassing even though they don't necessarily know anyone that has.09/21/2014 - 12:16am
Andrew EisenSleaker - Who the heck are you reading that is claiming "all gamers are bad," we "need to pass laws or judgement on all gamers," that if "you self-identify as a Gamer, you're immediately the problem," or that gamers are "obligated to stop harassment"?09/20/2014 - 9:44pm
erthwjimhe swatted more than just krebs, I think he swatted 30 people http://krebsonsecurity.com/2014/05/teen-arrested-for-30-swattings-bomb-threats/09/20/2014 - 9:31pm
Craig R.Btw, the guy who swatted security expert Brian Krebs? He got picked up recently. It can be done.09/20/2014 - 8:55pm
Craig R.Such things are not done in a vacuum... hence why the 4chan and other logs show what fools you've all been, tricked into doing the trolls' work09/20/2014 - 8:49pm
Sleaker@Technogeek - How do you call someone out that anonymously calls in a SWAT team, or sends threats to people?09/20/2014 - 7:04pm
Technogeek"It also doesn't mean you're obligated to stop harassment from all gamers that are doing so." I'd say you're certainly obligated to call them out when you see it happening.09/20/2014 - 5:17pm
SleakerNow if you disagree with anything in my last 2 posts then we obviously have a difference in world view, and wont come to any sort of agreement. I'm fine with that, maybe some people aren't?09/20/2014 - 5:09pm
SleakerIt also doesn't mean that just because a news outlet says that Gamers are the problem and you self-identify as a Gamer, you're immediately the problem. It also doesn't mean you're obligated to stop harassment from all gamers that are doing so.09/20/2014 - 4:59pm
 

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