Microsoft’s Shady Practices on XBOX Live Subscriptions

Gamasutra has the details on a class action lawsuit against Microsoft over its shady XBOX Live subscription billing practices,

Graves explains that in his own particular case, he let his Xbox Live subscription expire by declining to update his credit card information; when he renewed his account several months later with a new credit card, Microsoft charged him for both a new subscription and the subscription that had previously expired.

According to the court filing, Microsoft told Graves that the issue was “not a mistake,” and said he would receive two years of Xbox Live service, as the charges covered both his manual service renewal, and his pending automatic renewal from the previous subscription.

Microsoft did something like this to me last year, though not quite as bad as this guy. My XBOX Live membership was set to expire in a month. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t want them to bill my credit card, so I bought an XBOX Live subscription card, entered the code and extended my membership. And a month later, despite the fact that my subscription had 6 months to go before expriing, they billed my credit card for the renewal, and just added the time to the length of my subscription.

Stupid f—s. I canceled the card I had on file with them (there’s no way to remove all credit cards, as far as I could tell) and refuse to ever again give them anything but a temporary credit card number.

XBOX Live Arcade Sales Increase After NXE Release

Xbox 360Gamasutra cites statistics from Microsoft suggesting that sales on XBOX Live Arcade increased by as much as 300 percent following the release of the New XBOX Experience back in November.

Hmm . . . so, in theory, if you replace a shitty looking, almost unusable interface with a pretty looking one that actually makes sense and sales increase.

Nah, that’ll never work.

What’s amazing is just how bad the XBOX 360 interface was for so long.  It’s almost like Microsoft didn’t have any clue how to create a usable interface so they just swiped Sony and Nintendo’s best ideas.

Nah, that would never happen.

Microsoft Screwed Vista Customers to Placate Intel

Personally, I’ve been using Windows XP on the numeours computers I have to use, and I don’t plan on ever using another Microsoft OS. Ubuntu’s Good Enough(TM) without all the bullshit like this that Microsoft is constantly pulling,

A new court filing reveals disputes at Microsoft’s highest levels leading up to Windows Vista’s release — including CEO Steve Ballmer describing former Windows chief Jim Allchin as “apoplectic” over a move to lower the standards for the “Windows Vista Capable” logo.

. . .

Allchin, who has since retired from Microsoft, took the opposite view [over whether Microsoft should give the “Windows Vista Capable” logo to machines running the Intel 915 chipset]. The filing quotes from one of his e-mails:

I’m sorry to say that I think this plan is terrible and it will have to be changed.

I believe we are going to be misleading customers with the Capable program. OEMs (computer makers) will say a machine is Capable and customers will believe that it will run all the core Vista features. The fact that aero won’t be there EVER for many of these machines is misleading to customers. …

We need to meet on this. Please set this up ASAP. We need something simpler in my view. I know we don’t want to hurt the OEMS, but end-customers must be the top priority. We must avoid confusion. It is wrong for customers. And we probably will have to change your current plans.

Of course Allchin was overruled by Ballmer. What’s a little misleading of consumers between MS and Intel? Allchin resigned from Microsoft the same day Vista was officially released.

Microsoft Receives Patent on Page Up/Down Functionality

I believe Om Malik was the first to point out that Microsoft has been awarded US Patent #7,415,666, “Method and system for navigating paginated content in page-based increments.” That’s right folks, Microsoft was granted a patent for page up and page down functionality,

A method and system in a document viewer for scrolling a substantially exact increment in a document, such as one page, regardless of whether the zoom is such that some, all or one page is currently being viewed. In one implementation, pressing a Page Down or Page Up keyboard key/button allows a user to begin at any starting vertical location within a page, and navigate to that same location on the next or previous page. For example, if a user is viewing a page starting in a viewing area from the middle of that page and ending at the bottom, a Page Down command will cause the next page to be shown in the viewing area starting at the middle of the next page and ending at the bottom of the next page. Similar behavior occurs when there is more than one column of pages being displayed in a row.

Sheer insanity.

Microsoft Kills Marvel Universe MMO

Back in November, City of Heroes developer Cryptic sold all of its interests in City of Heroes/Villains to NCSoft. The speculation was that Cryptic wanted to devote all of its time and energy to the Marvel Universe MMO which it was developing for Microsoft. Except this month, Microsoft went ahead and announced that it was ending development on the Marvel Universe MMO. WTF?

The odd thing is that Microsoft flak Shane Kim strongly implied that the reason they killed the Marvel MMO was that they did not believe they could achieve World of Warcraft-like subscription levels with it. Maybe someone finally showed them City of Heroes/Villains subscription numbers, which are in the 140,000 area.

My wife and I played CoH for a couple months and the game was fairly good, but the interface was absolutely awful. A well-done superhero MMO, especially with the Marvel license, could certainly expand on COH’s numbers, so it is a bit odd to see Microsoft of all companies throw in the towel.

Shut Up About Passport Already

I bought a new laptop a couple days ago, and have experienced the same thing Dave Winer writes about — everytime you reboot XP puts in a plug urging you to get a Passport ID. Plus MS uses language that might lead technically unsophisticated users to think they need a Passport ID in order to have some basic functionality. (This is something new, btw — this didn’t happen at all when I bought another XP-loaded laptop last Summer).

The other really annoying aspect of moving everyting over to the new laptop was having to call Uncle Bill’s tech support to beg for permission to install my copy of Office XP on the new laptop. In total it took about 15 minutes for me to accomplish this — I’d hate to think how much time I’d waste if all the 40-50 applications I use required me to spend 15 minutes just obtaining permission to use software I already paid quite a bit of money for.

And, frankly, I found it very insulting to have some stranger asking me to explain why I needed to install Office XP a second time. I assume that now until forever there will be a database at Microsoft which knows I bought a new laptop last week.