My nine year old son and I play video games together. A lot of video games. So many in fact, that I decided a while back to buy him his own Xbox 360 so we could play System Link games together. Halo co-op is a lot more fun when every player doesn’t have to share half his screen with the other guy.
Tommy and I are huge fans of Crackdown. We own two copies of the game and have played through it together a bunch of times, and we were both excited to get our grubby mitts on Crackdown 2. Unlike Crackdown 1, Crackdown 2 didn’t work over System Link so I had to cave in and buy the kid his own $50/year Xbox Live Gold Account. As if it’s not expensive enough having bought two Xbox 360s, and a bunch of copies of various System Link-able games, now I’m having to shell out $50/year for the kid to play certain titles with his old man.
Enter … Battlefield 1943
Just about every weekend, Tommy and I play EA’s online FPS Battlefield 1943 together, taking turns by passing the controller between us. About a month ago, I decided I’d had enough of playing hotseat and decided to get the kid his own copy of the game for his Xbox 360 on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
I paid Microsoft $14.99 for 1200 points to buy the game, and used the points to purchase the game on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The game downloaded fine without any warnings and I started the game up.
Since the game is an EA title, I had the misfortune to have to deal with EA.com’s online game authentication. Tommy didn’t play any EA online games prior to BF1943, so I had to create an account for him. I went through the steps and hit the Connect button and the game just sat there endlessly spinning it’s “Connecting…” indicator.
I waited 15 minutes, reset the Xbox 360 and tried again with the same result. I tried this probably a dozen times over the day, and never got any closer to getting into the game.
I contacted EA support about the issue, and was advised to download another EA online game demo and use it to create the user account. I downloaded the latest iteration of Madden and started it up. I was presented the EA Terms of Service agreement and when I hit the button to accept the terms, I was told I had to be at least 13 to play EA games online.
/CUE RECORD SCRATCH
At no point during my purchase of BF1943 using my son’s account was I warned that there were any age requirements for the game. There’s a standard ESRB rating on the game of T — but those are a guideline to inform parents — not a lawful minimum age to play games online. Halo and Crackdown are both rated M, and I play those with my nine year old all the time; this may not make me the greatest parent ever, but it’s harmless fun and he’s smart enough to know that what’s happening on screen is as real as a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
I contacted EA about the issue and had a less-than-helpful online chat with someone named “Kate.” I requested one of two things: A refund, or for them to make the game playable. She refused both requests. Her bottom-line response was “I am sorry but we are unable to do anything in this regard.”
The only thing Kate said she could offer was a $20 credit to the EA.com Store, which contains a bunch of stuff I don’t want. In fact, I could buy Tommy another Xbox 360 game he couldn’t play online — terrific!
CONTACTING XBOX LIVE SUPPORT
If you think contacting Microsoft went any better, you’d be mistaken. I asked them for pretty much the same thing that I asked EA – refund or make the game work. I got a reply from two support reps now, and both were equally unhelpful.
The first, Bella, responded:
I understand that you would like to either get a refund or change the age on the account. Please know that I understand how important this is to you. Rest assured the I will do my best to help and/or provide you options for this concern.
Please know that purchases made on the Marketplace are final and non-refundable. Prior to downloading an item from the Marketplace, it provides the game rating and classification. And as with the age on the account, please know that it is one important detail that cannot be change. Xbox LIVE determines whether an account is a child account or an adult account based on the age of the account owner. An Xbox LIVE account can only be changed to an adult account after the account owner reaches legal adult age. It is part of Microsoft’s responsibility in providing a fun and safe gaming environment.
I’m pretty sure I haven’t been helped, and have definitely not been provided any options beyond “pound sand”
The second email I got after protesting the first is even less helpful, boiling down to:
I understand that you cannot play games in Xbox live because the type of account and the game that you want to play. Moreover you want to request for a refund or change your age saved in your account. The option that you want us to process is not available. If you have further concern you may submit your feedback at our website.
Let this be a lesson to all of us — don’t use your kids’ real ages when you create Xbox Live Gold accounts for them, or you’ll find yourself with a fine collection of EA games you can’t play online. I’m glad Tommy’s on a 12-month Xbox Live Gold card and I’m going to double- and triple-check that it’s not set to auto-renew because I’m sure as hell not wasting any more money on that.
What pisses me off is that I’ve had a Gold Xbox Live Account for nine years now, and *this* is the level of support I’m getting for an issue that’s completely not my fault? It’s really terrible and I would hope that companies as big as these guys would have some kind of system for dealing with legitimate problems not created by the teenage racist assholes they usually have to deal with but so far that hasn’t been the case. I’m hoping by making this public that someone from either EA or Microsoft contacts me with some kind of solution that will resolve this to my satisfaction.