Today was a big day for Xbox 360 owners around the world. Microsoft rolled out the Fall update, along with Xbox Originals, and announced a launch date of December 11 for the Video Marketplace in Europe and Canada. The second major Dashboard update for this year packs quite a punch with a few major features, along with a massive list of smaller fixes and additions. So, how is that disappointing?

The Same Old, Only Worse

The first thing I did when I hit the couch this morning was fire up my Xbox 360 to install the Dashboard update. About 6 seconds later (Sony needs to start taking notes) my console restarted and I was back up and running. But hold on, everything looks the same… except for that zero beside “Messages”. It looked nothing like the revised Xbox Live Blade I saw in the Gamerscore Blog’s video walkthrough. As it turns out, Inside Xbox, one of the big features being touted, is only available in select regions (US, UK and Japan). Since the Xbox Live Blade was revised to fit a button that doesn’t exist in some regions, they opted to leave the Messages and Friends buttons as they were. Which is fine, except now even if you have no messages, the count is displayed. More of an annoyance than anything, and totally feels like a step backwards.

Profiles have been update a bit, and now include your real name, location and bio, along with your motto which was previously available. All of this information is optional and privacy settings can be locked down to keep them hidden, only show to friends or share with everyone. Apparently I was mistaken in thinking that I would be able to change the view on my Friends List to show real name in place of gamertag. I thought I had read that somewhere, but can’t find any mention of it in the Dashboard. This new info is definitely welcomed as a person’s gamertag and motto often don’t tell you much about them. I did find something to complain about here, though. When you click on a person in your friends list and the guide pops out to display their info, it used to display their Country and motto under their gamercard. If you look closely, the Country is displayed for a split second when the guide opens, but is quickly covered by the motto. Personally, Country is of more interest than motto and I’m really unsure of why they would hide it all together. There’s plenty of room to display both.

Xbox Originals are Here

Announced a few weeks back, Xbox Originals would launch along side the Fall ’07 Dashboard update. A handful of heavy hitters were announced for day-one and a lot of people seemed to be excited about this. I never got around to playing Indigo Prophecy and thought that I would download it and give it a go during the next slow streak. That was, until I saw the pricing. 1200 MS points will get you a full original Xbox game. Doesn’t sound like much, right? 1200 points converts to $19.19 CDN at today’s exchange rate. I could go out and buy any of those games for no more than $15, and probably find most of them in a bargain bin or used at a rental store for under $10. If you agree that this is too much to ask for these games, then let your voice be heard and don’t buy a single one of them.

Video Marketplace on the Horizon

It’s hardly fair to knock a service that is yet to launch, but I’m going to anyway. Just as Xbox Originals are over-priced, video “rentals” are through the roof! Standard definition movies go for 310 points ($4.96 CDN), while HD versions are a whopping 460 = $7.36 CDN. Update: An FAQ was just posted on Xbox.com detailing the Canadian Video Store and the prices they had previously announced were for “library” aka older titles. New releases are priced at 460 points (SD) and 610 points (HD). $9.75 CDN for a new release! Un-fucking-believable! I can go to my local video store and rent an HD DVD or Blu-ray movie for around $6 and keep it for 2 weeks without any late charges, watching it as many times as I’d like in that time. The only argument I can see that could possibly justify these prices is to think of those that might not be within driving distance of a video store.

Unfortunately, pricing is only half the upset. Unlike the European video store which has a pretty stellar line-up of launch titles, the Canadian store gets the lamest of the lame, with very few exceptions.

  • Babylon 5, The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark
  • TMNT
  • 300
  • Lucky You
  • Homie Spumoni
  • Wiggles: Getting Strong!
  • Believers (UNRATED)
  • Return to Haunted Hill (UNRATED)
  • The Reaping
  • License to Wed
  • In the Land of Women
  • A Dennis the Menace Christmas
  • Oceanâ€â„¢s Thirteen
  • December Boys
  • Amadeus
  • Creepshow
  • Enter the Dragon
  • Everybodyâ€â„¢s All-American
  • The King and I (1999)
  • Krush Groove
  • The Man with Two Brains
  • The Neverending Story
  • Risky Business
  • Wyatt Earp
  • Borderline Cult
  • Air Guitar Nation
  • The Condemned
  • Delta Farce
  • Bug
  • A Few Days In September
  • Pirates of Ghost Island
  • Holla
  • Cutting Class (1989)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
  • Henry 2: Portrait of a Serial Killer
  • Spider Baby

I don’t even have anything else to say on this topic.

Xbox Live is Unavailable. Please Try Again Later

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been playing a lot of Halo 3 multiplayer with my wife and daughter lately. Hannah (daughter, 9) is really hooked and asking me to play with her a couple times a day. She only has a Silver account, so she logs in as a guest and we play split-screen over Xbox Live. I’ve played so much lately that I’m totally starting to feel guilty about other things I’ve been neglecting. So, I figured I could get her an Xbox Live Gold account and pay monthly for as long as she’s interested in playing online. I made my way over to Account Management and proceeded to order the membership, when I was greeted by a generic error, “Xbox Live is Unavailable. Please Try Again Later”. Strange, since we were just playing Halo 3 online. I thought it might have something to do with the Xbox Live settings on her child account, so I proceeded to adjust them. As soon as I got to the login screen, the error popped up again. I figured there was something going on with the server and it could be related to the pending Dashboard update, so I left it.

This morning after the update, I tried again and received the same error. After troubleshooting for a while, I determined that the email address I used for Hannah’s Windows Live ID is no longer associated with it. Assuming this is going to be a nightmare of an issue to get sorted out with Xbox Support, I’ve taken the first step by emailing my issue and hoping for an eventual response. There’s no way I’m taking this to phone support, unless I can get it escalated to someone who can speak english fluently. In the mean time, I think I’m going to set Hannah up with a temporary account so she can play Halo 3 online without losing all gamerscore.

To top this day off, Xbox Live has been suffering massively in the performance department all day. Even now, when I go to Xbox.com while logged in, I’m greeted with, “Sorry, this page is unavailable.” Which I guess is a step up from the constant “runtime errors” and default server config pages I was seeing earlier.

And Now, Something Out of the Ordinary

I’ve got such a bad taste in my mouth from all things Xbox that I decided I need a bit of a break from it. I picked up Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for the PS3 tonight and am really looking forward to getting into it. The demo was fantastic and I’ve listened to the soundtrack 3 times today. With Unreal Tournament 3 coming out next week, and a map pack for Warhawk before the holidays, my PS3 might finally be getting some steady use.

23 Comments

That us a horribly pathetic line up of movies to launch with. I don’t even know why they’d bother launching until they secured a better lineup.

What I’m most pissed about is the fact that the update hosed my 360. I know it was bound to happen sooner or later, but I’m not the only one this has happened to. I’ve spoken to three friends that have had to deal with the 3 lights of death as a result of the update.

I just hope that I have my console back before I have my week’s vacation at the end of the month.

I couldn’t be more pleased with this update. I’ve been rocking Xvid files all day (what I was looking forward to), but I can see why you’re frustrated.

After troubleshooting for a while, I determined that the email address I used for Hannah's Windows Live ID is no longer associated with it.

You should be able to change the Windows Live ID yourself now. It’s in the Account Settings area. However, you may just be having problems due to the current Live issues.

Yeah, Video Marketplace here is going to be a joke. I was never planning to get anything except TV shows (And maybe HD movies since I don’t have the drive, but, if anything, the price is more of an incentive to get a player than the downloads) but if the prices are of a similar range…

@Jeff: Remember the incident involving the Forza Motorsport 2 update? (Or the BioShock update? Or the Crackdown update?) Updates seem to push borderline red-ring consoles over the edge, it doesn’t have anything to do with the specific updates themselves, just Microsoft’s unreliable hardware.

@Kenneth – I totally realize that it’s not the specific update and that I should be happy that my console has gone this long without crapping out, it’s more-so just sour grapes towards Microsoft.

I think my only qualm with the new update, is just how box enlarges when you scroll through your friends list. I also don’t like that it took away the #/## view at the bottom, and how it will only be displayed while you’re scrolling through the list.

Otherwise so far I don’t have any other issues, aside from my system freezing on me after the update when I tried to view my friends list. A restart resolved it.

I haven’t checked out what movies are available for the US, but hey, you’re not excited for "The Neverending Story" or… better yet, "Wiggles: Getting Strong!."

That’s a movie everyone should have looked forward to! 😛

The thought had never occurred to me, but being able to show a friend’s real name instead of their gamercard would’ve been a great feature. Remembering who xX IOjklnmkD KDsKLDFjl Xx is is challenging. :/

Totally agree, Matt. Besides the speed increase in the dashboard and DivX, it was a pretty disappointing update. I keep browsing the dash looking for something exciting, but nada. I guess it’s a start for the Video Marketplace, albeit, a lame start.

I just want to download HD movie trailers! Ever since they blocked my US (ahem) account from region specific content, I can’t even download a stinkin’ movie trailer. At least I still get the free gamer pics and themes (although I don’t know after this update).

I really can’t believe that they haven’t fixed the DRM issue with downloaded games (I’m on my 4th 360) and expect us to buy over-priced "Xbox Originals"? My son still can’t play content unless I am signed in on a 2nd controller. It’s too bad

I thought Video Marketplace was launching yesterday which now means I’m also in the unhappy camp. I had a look at the Xbox Originals but the price put me off – I could pick those games up here for £3 in the local shop.

There are a few nice touches I like, such as the Friends tabs enlarging as you scroll down, and the bio information is a cool way to find out a little bit more about the randoms on your Friends List.

So, my verdict: A few nice touches, but the big asset I was looking forwards to is no where to be seen. Disappointing.

(P.S. Please do a write up on Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, aye? :))

Yeah, I live in the US so I can see why your a bit disappointed with that video marketplace line-up. The US one has movies, tv episodes, shorts, and music videos. What your getting is basically the US launch, but a year later. Also, your not the only one with network problems. I my console continuously locked up while sending messages or game invites. I am going to try it later today and see if it has been fixed.

Amen brother! I *really* wanted to buy Fable but now it seems silly to. I might as well go buy a copy at futureshop for cheaper.

As we discussused yesterday – they’ve maximixed their profit margin because they think we’re used to paying this much for stuff. LOL Like we don’t realize were getting hosed.

@Jeff Smith: Man, that sucks. I’ve heard of that happening many times with Dashboard and games updates, but never to someone I know. Fingers crossed for a speedy return.

@Ronald Heft: I’m definitely stoked about the DivX support, but I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. I use Connect360 to share files between my Mac and Xbox 360, but the new formats aren’t supported yet. Are you using an external drive or something to stream yours?

You should be able to change the Windows Live ID yourself now. It's in the Account Settings area.

I tried that. Seems that anything to do with account management returns the "Xbox Live is Unavailable" message.

@Kenneth: Maybe that’s their ploy? Charge a ridiculous amount for downloads to encourage more sales of the HD DVD add-on. HD DVD and Blu-ray movies are insanely priced in Canada as well, though. I’ve been buying everything from Amazon.com (not Amazon.ca) and haven’t paid more than $23.99 for either format. There’s frequently sales on and buy 2 get 1 free deals. Worth checking out.

@Jordan: My console froze on me a number of times while navigating the Dashboard last night as well. I hope it was just related to the server issues.

@Deniz: Yeah, the DRM issue is nutty. I have 30+ Live Arcade games and a very small number of those were purchased or redeemed on the console I have now. So my wife and daughter have to do the same if they want to play them.

@Ashley Baxter: Agreed. I’m happy with a lot of the smaller, more behind the scenes changes they’ve made. Navigating the Marketplace with the twist menu is stellar. But most of the big features are a let down.

And yes, I’ll definitely be writing about Uncharted some time soon. I played a bit last night and am loving it so far. Amazing opening scene.

I noticed that, too! I had hoped that the videos would be at most 160 MS points, and heck, we don’t even get them for a while. Not to mention that yesterday at EB Games I saw Halo: Combat Evolved for $4.99 in a discount bin. That’s bullshit.

Also, XviD movies are a welcome addition, but they definitely don’t affect me very much–the only files I download are WMA.

I use Connect360 to share files between my Mac and Xbox 360, but the new formats aren't supported yet. Are you using an external drive or something to stream yours?

For the time being just rename the .avi or .divx files to .mov. Connect360 will allow it to be streamed, and the 360 is smart enough to know the true codec, thus playing the file normally.

After only a week with my Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, I’m also annoyed with a lot of things in the UI. One simple thing is that real names aren’t available alongside gamertags, which makes it very hard to figure out if a person who adds you as a friend is someone you know or not. I also hate the setup required for an Xbox Live account so that my roommate could get on and play multiplayer Halo 3 with me. I swear it took 15 minutes. Why can’t he finish with the registration part on xbox.com and just put in the very basic details to get online, especially if I already have a Gold account?

And this whole Marketplace business is retarded. First of all, why use points that aren’t worth 1 point per $1? That’s just confusing. Secondly, why would I pay $20 for a classic Xbox game that I can probably get for $20 brand new or less than half of that used?

The only thing I plan on buying in the Marketplace are the 3 new Halo 3 maps coming out next week.

@Ronald Heft: I can’t believe that works! I used Automator to change the extension on all my video files and they all work. Thanks for the tip!

@Patrick Haney: There’s actually a guest login for Halo 3 that lets up to 3 other players join without having to setup an account.

Make sure your account is the only one signed in. Turn on the other controllers that will be used and you’ll see them show up in the player list on screen, but will have an A button and the word "Join". Press A on one of the other controllers and select the Guest profile from the bottom of the list. That will sign them in as yourusername [1], yourusername [2], etc.

Your troubles with Microsoft/Xbox soundly hardly unlikely or unfamiliar. While I admit that the service is fantastic in most regard, I can’t help but notice fundamental issues that seem simple to fix, but Microsoft is reluctant to address them half the time. It’s frustrating, but that’s the price you pay when dealing with a mega-corporation I suppose.

I don’t think much of the update, though I haven’t had a chance to try yet as I got the Red rings of death a couple of weeks ago :(. Luckily it’s coming back tomorrow… only a week away from getting the new Halo 3 maps. Is anyone else picking those up?

I feel your pain w/ the Xbox… I recently had one throw the 3 lights of death… a shitty time to have happen with how crazy the holidays get, didn’t think I would be able to snag another one for a while.

Regardless, I got one… right out of the box it was broken. It would boot and then turn off w/ 2 red lights, absolutely lovely. I’m guessing a fan was broken but who the hell knows.

After taking it back and exchanging it, they gave me another one… this time it ended up being one manufactured in 10-2005… oh I don’t think so… had to take that one back AGAIN.

Finally got one that works and is "NEW", so I’m hoping it all goes well. After the dashboard update my console clicked off, scared the hell out of me because it didn’t sound normal. Seems to be working though, didn’t really notice of the updates. Videos are such a rip though, and I think they expire after a while.

I’ve had similar errors like the ‘xbox live is currently unavailable’ error that you described, when trying to recover an account from one 360 to another, only recently (for the past month or so).

Preceding the update, I have a feeling that XBL modified their account database scheme. A consequence of which is that some registration, renewal and recovery features associated with existing cusomters are pulling this error, instead of doing what they are supposed to. I’m assuming this was unintentional and some how related to the lead up to the update.

Good call on avoiding phone support. My buddy and I have corresponded with them on multiple occasions; tier 3, reference numbers, call backs, etc. All calls lead to nowhere. XBL used to have North American phone techs who were a least moderately familiar with the service. Now, they’ve got the worst kind of South Asian phone support; heavily scripted, no real know how and no authority to resolve account related issues.

@Dave: I can’t wait for the Heroic Map Pack. Definitely picking it up on day one!

@Jason: Wow, that’s horrible luck. Glad you finally got one that works, though.

Videos are such a rip though, and I think they expire after a while.

They sure do! Once you start watching the video, you have 48 before it expires. I believe you have 2 weeks total, from the time you purchase it. But once you begin, there’s a 48 hour window to finish it up. I was at Blockbuster yesterday and they’re doing a huge push for HD DVD and Blu-ray. It was something like $6 for a full week rental.

@Scotty Gun: Brutal. Emailing support hasn’t been much better. I’ve heard back quickly twice, but on both occasions that told me to go and talk to the other. So now I’m back to where I started, and getting frustrated pretty quickly. I’ve actually told them what needs done – "Add this email address to this XBL account." and they still have no answers for me. Useless.

Well it finally happened to me, I booted my xbox on the morning of the update to try and get at some of that Divx goodness and the dashboard jammed when opening up my friends list. I restart the xbox and the logo appeared as normal but then the xbox crashed again and then the dreaded 3 lights appeared.

I rang Microsoft the next day to try and get a box to send it back for repair but apparently there servers where down so they couldn’t get to my details, they informed me I will need to call back tomorrow (come on Microsoft your support servers down for the whole day WFT). The next day I rang them back but apparently they don’t even provide a box, you have to send it in your own, thats annoying. I mean Apple make shitty iPods that break all the time but at least they are kind enough to provide a box and good support.

I just hope that my Xbox makes it back before the xmas holidays otherwise I will cry, fact. Sorry I just realised I’m clearly using you blog to vent….

@Patrick Haney – The reason they don’t use points that aren't worth 1 point per $1? is because then they can not screw you. If they use their own system whatever you do you always have points left on your account a spear 100 or 300 that you will probably want to spend and how do you spend them well you buy more points of course.

Thats a pretty angry little comment (: I think thats my Gears addition getting the best of me.

Gamertag: Mr Cheeese

Yeah pretty lame movie line up as a whole. I must say I love Amadeus though. Something about that film has me watching it at least three times a year.

[…] you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve no doubt witnessed some coarse words tossed in Microsoft’s general direction directly at those mother bitches. I don’t […]

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