Microsoft Says There Is No Recourse For Gamers Whose Consoles Were Banned

Are you one of the 1 million gamers that was recently banned from XBOX Live? Too bad, says the BBC. You’ll need to buy a new system.

From the BBC:

Microsoft said barring gamers was part of an ongoing drive to curb piracy.
But a statement from them suggests this latest wave was timed to prevent people from playing pirated versions of the widely-anticipated Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
“We can assure you that if an Xbox Live member follows the Xbox Live terms of use, purchased a retail copy of Modern Warfare 2 and played the game on an unmodified Xbox 360, no action will be taken,” the firm said.
Microsoft said that it had banned a “small percentage” of the 20 million Xbox Live users worldwide.

We’ve heard from at least one reader who says he did not mod his console and got banned anyway. Microsoft says this is impossible:

“We do not reveal specifics, but can say that all consoles have been verified to have violated the terms of use,” the firm said in a statement.
It said that gamers who had been barred were using their modified consoles to “play illegally pirated games”.
“We believe that even one modified console on the system is one too many”.

Do you believe the system for detecting modded boxes is perfect? Or are some innocent people getting banned?

Xbox console ban is ‘permanent’ [BBC] (Thanks, chiieddy!)
(Photo:Hanspecans)

Comments

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  1. Megalomania says:

    How did you go from “small percentage” of 20,000,000 to a million people getting banned?

  2. zentex says:

    Nothing…is perfect.

    I wonder if dude can send his box to StepTo and Team and prove his ‘innocence’?

  3. NitrousO says:

    I wonder how Meg feels about this. *looks at wording of poll* Ah.

    Seriously though, what modder/hacker/pirate isn’t going to say they did nothing wrong? I mean this as an honest question.

    • delphi_ote says:

      @NitrousO: By that logic, we shouldn’t have trials for criminals. What criminal isn’t going to say they did nothing wrong?

    • Ratty says:

      @NitrousO: On U.S. immigration forms, it asks you if you’re a member of a terrorist organization or the nazi party, and if you’re attempting now or in the future to overthrow the U.S. government.

      I’m guessing the number of yes checks is very, very low.

      • sonneillon says:

        @Ratty: But you get an awesome free trip to Cassa De Guantanamo. Who wouldn’t want a 6 month-3year vacation with all the water sports you can handle.

  4. jdmba says:

    They get false positives for serial numbers on their Windows DRM (“WGA”) all the time. This should not be considered any different.

    • GrenadeTestSubject says:

      @jdmba: It is different. They give false positives on Windows serial keys because that key was generated and used by someone else illicitly, with no fault to the legit owner. This, however, is a simple test of whether the box has been modded, it’s not glitch-sensitive like the Windows DRM is.

    • bohemian says:

      @jdmba: I am assuming their “no modding” security system involves a switch in the case that trips if the case is opened. This has been used in business class PC cases for years.

      Everyone is jumping to the piracy conclusion just like Microsoft wants you to. This is a company banning people from using a product on their service because they had the audacity to do something to a piece of equipment they bought and own.

      • logicalnoise says:

        @bohemian: the ONLY thing a modded 360 can do is play backed up games. Hacked consoles can’t run homebrew code they can’t run linux the only reason a 360 is modded is to play back ups.

      • Decubitus says:

        @bohemian: It really wouldn’t be that hard for Microsoft to have a solid check for modded systems. You have a handful of XBOX 360 DVD drives with official firmwares. Update XBOX Live service so that it can check for official firmware behavior, and if it doesn’t comply, ban the console.

  5. Chumas says:

    Zero tolerance will always punish the innocent among the guilty.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Chumas: For the Zero Tolerance folks, even looking guilty is the same as being guilty, since if you were really innocent, wouldn’t you not look guilty?
      (cf. witch-dunking, Spanish Inquisition, et. al)

  6. pmcpa4 says:

    These innocent people could be sometimes just that, innocent, or ignorant. They don’t know they are playing a modded box. They got it pre-owned from game stop, or a great deal on ebay.

    I am willing to bet not one of the “innocently banned” purchased their xbox retail, and never opened the case.

    • dohtem says:

      @pmcpa4: Yup. I remember when I picked up an original xbox to mod from gamestop. I popped open the case and there was a mod chip already soldered in there.

      I had to think of a creative excuse to return the damn thing.

    • Cyberxion101 says:

      @pmcpa4: The thing that sucks about it is that Microsoft basically tells you that you’re up shit creek without a paddle for not buying from an official Microsoft reseller.

      What I wonder is whether or not it’s going to lead unsuspecting users to check and see if their banned consoles can play backups/pirated copies, leading folks who otherwise might not have to pirate out of spite.

      Eh, probably not, but it would be sort of funny.

  7. hobbes84k says:

    I’m certainly not convinced that Microsoft was 100% accurate in their decisions. But I would believe that if they were 100% accurate, we would still hear from people who insist that they were playing on unmodded consoles. I’m satisfied with thinking that if anyone truly believes that they were booted for absolutely no valid reason, then they could easily prove it to a 3rd party observer. I haven’t heard of any such thing happening from the whiners though.

  8. Rick Dobbs says:

    I don’t know how a company who has crippled large amounts of their own corporate customers at times via Windows XP anti-piracy can say that their banning practice on any piece of hardware or console is perfect.

    It clearly shows that they’re going to take the late 90’s AOL approach: We’d rather have 20 million customers and it’s fine if they’re unhappy rather than have 10 million happy customers.

    If they’re going to ban a piece of $300 equipment from their network they need to give people the exact reason it was banned as well as have a review process for re-instatement. Otherwise, they’re basically just telling customers to fuck off and go elsewhere.

    I guarantee that those people who are banned from XBL and believe that they’re innocent won’t be buying another XBox, ever.

    • G.O.B.: Come on! says:

      @Rick Dobbs: “If they’re going to ban a piece of $300 equipment from their network they need to give people the exact reason it was banned as well as have a review process for re-instatement. Otherwise, they’re basically just telling customers to fuck off and go elsewhere.”

      You must be new to EULAs. I’m sure the EULA for Xvox Live says they can do as they please without having to tell you shit as to why.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Not being an owner of an Xbox myself, can modded consoles ever be un-modded? It seems like Microsoft should come up with some sort of way to de-mod consoles so they can be used again on Xbox Live. Some may say “who cares?” to those who modded and now regret it, but now they can’t even sell their Xbox to someone else to use without unscrupulosely screwing over that new buyer.

    • semanticantics says:

      @Loias: Accounts get flagged weeks if not months before a ban. They don’t appear to ban week to week, it’s generally been a yearly big ass round up, last year was Halo 3, this year is Modern Warfare 2.

    • MinorAnnoyance says:

      @Loias: Well, since they chose to mod in the first place I doubt that excess scruples are much of a problem for them.

  10. nakkypoo says:

    Obviously nothing is perfect and Microsoft has a vested interest in keeping modified consoles (and pirated games) off the Live! platform.

    However, unilateral draconian decisions with no review process seems very Apple-like. I hope it’s not catching.

    • teke367 says:

      @nakkypoo: This is my concern. I have no problem with them banning modders, heck, they aren’t bricking the system, just preventing them to access a feature.

      But I can’t see how its legal to provide no recourse in the event of a mistake. I’m sure they aren’t refunding the prorated time left on the Live accounts. So if you buy a year of Gold membership, then get banned a week later, you’re basically out $50.

  11. lpranal says:

    Translation: Sorry, innocent peeps. You’re Cannon Fodder in the war against piracy. You lose. You get Nothing. Good Day sir.

    • ktjamm says:

      @lpranal: the war on piracy is a “straw man” attack. The goal is not to curb piracy, but to control access to their product. The banned users are cannon fodder for Microsoft’s increased revenue.

  12. ChemicallyInert says:

    Three Words: CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT.

    The gamers affected should suesuesue. I’m damn near 100% certain that they cannot be deprived of their property without due process- even if it is a private entity.

    Meanwhile- XBox users should avoid COD:MF2 until this is resolved.

    • GrenadeTestSubject says:

      @ChemicallyInert:

      They are not depriving anyone of their property. They are denying a service to people who have not abided (according to MS) by the TOS. They have every right to cut people off – one of the big reasons I’m a PC gamer. =)

      • diasdiem says:

        @GrenadeTestSubject: They don’t have the right to cut of people who aren’t violating the terms of service though. If people with unmodded XBoxes are genuinely getting banned, something should be done.

      • Dave M says:

        @GrenadeTestSubject:

        The problem is that they are selling the hardware with the understanding that you will be allowed to subscribe to XBox Live if you follow the TOS. Then they are saying

        “Hey You – You broke a rule, but we’re not going to specifically tell you what rule you broke, we’re not going to refund your money for your Xbox Live subscription, and now you can’t use the $300 hardware the way we promised you could.”

        That is a perfect reason for someone to file a lawsuit against Microsoft for breaking their contract. If Microsoft then proves the person really did violate the TOS, they don’t have anything to worry about.

        It’s the “We’re kicking you out, keeping your money, and *not telling you why*” that’s the problem.

    • mythago says:

      @ChemicallyInert: YANAL. And you’re thinking of the government. All you can get Microsoft on is not giving you a service you paid for.

    • Arbron says:

      @ChemicallyInert: 1). They are not coming and taking the XBox away, just banning you from their network@diasdiem: they actually have every right to ban people who aren’t violating the terms of service. In the ToS it says the can ban you for any or no reason.

    • Scazza says:

      @ChemicallyInert: Sue for what? The person bought a peice of hardware that can play games. Banned users can still play those games, just not online. Microsoft has cut off the connection between the user and their online service.

      You break the rules that MS uses to govern its online service, it will cut you off. Even if YOU personally didn’t but you own a modded xbox (even through no fault of your own), you will be banned, and rightly so. Otherwise you will get 1000s of people who DO have modded consoles calling in and getting their console unblocked.

      • saigumi says:

        @Scazza: Cutting you off from the service is one thing, and I can understand it.

        However, MS is also locking your saves to the console, making them unusable, as well as breaking the functionality to be able to install games to the system.

        To me, that is a step over the line.

        • Dyscord says:

          @saigumi: How are they unusable? Because you can’t take them to other consoles?

          As for installing games, I don’t think too many people care. The speed gained by installing to the HD is rather minuscule.

  13. james says:

    Release of software via bittorrent to modify/spoof a new MAC address and other “hardware ID” for a banned X-Box in 5… 4… 3… 2…

    • roothorick says:

      @james: The 360 CPU has (apparently) bulletproof on-chip binary authentication, which means that we can’t run anything not explicitly approved by Microsoft on that CPU. Worse, the XBL console ID is buried in that encryption, making direct flashing impossible unless we find a way to somehow extract the private key from the CPU (which honestly, if it was possible, someone would’ve figured it out already). So basically, not gonna happen.

      • Erwos says:

        @roothorick: IIRC, they _have_ extracted the private keys, but it requires a rather in-depth timing attack. By the time you’ve done that, you’ve already violated their TOS anyways, so you’re pretty much back to where you started.

        It amuses me when people think that you can just snap your fingers and break the security on a well-designed device.

  14. ktjamm says:

    Yes, since Microsoft has a history of perfection and *not* getting any false positives *cough*Windows Genuine Advantage*cough* I’m sure there are absolutely no innocent people who got banned at all.

    Come on people, I’ve been a Microsoft systems admin for Waaaaaaay to long to buy any of their bull. This is 100% likely to motivated by increasing profit margins then Microsoft caring about modded consoles.

  15. NICU says:

    Are you implying that Microsoft software might have bugs in it? I mean that is a ridiculous claim! Microsoft has a long storied history of never having any bugs in any software they’ve ever written. I can’t believe you people…

  16. celtlion says:

    One of the problems with live gameplay on the PC has been hacked copies of the games and cheats.

    This is already being seen with the PC version of MW2 and a lot of people are already upset about it.

    Allow hacked copies on consoles and the same problem will start happening there which will dilute the value of the platform.

    Call me naive, but as a software developer for over 25 years I believe Microsoft on this one.

    It wouldn’t be hard to prove Microsoft wrong if someone found themselves unjustly locked out with no modifications and a legal copy of the game…wonder why that hasn’t happened yet? We shall see I guess..

  17. Smashville says:

    Do the math:
    17 million Live subscribers
    1 million banned for modded XBOXes.

    I have a hard time believing that 1 in 17 XBOXes are modded.

  18. skwish says:

    There is a very very small possibility of a false positive in this case.

    Windows gives false positives all the time but there are around a bajillion different hardware, software and driver combinations on your run of the mill PC all of which can mess with the software.

    With the xbox there is only ONE hardware configuration. ONLY ONE SET of active Firmware/OS. and the ONLY way that changes is if someone messed around. basically all they have to do is ping the box. and if one of 3 things does not come back poof its a modded box and its banned.

    now there are SEVERAL reasons that its idiotic to purchase a used xbox.

    1. you dont know if the other guy has modded the hell out of it
    2. the warrenty is NON TRANSFERABLE so if the box RROD’s then your boned.
    3. it could already be banned in which case you might as well have got the money in rolls of coins and thrown it into a lake. At least that would give you some fun for a little while.

    Remember folks just because you get a low bid on something does not mean its the best bid.

    • guspaz says:

      @skwish:

      Really? Only one set of hardware and one firmware/OS?

      Well, if you’re on XBL, sure. But the console itself has dozens of different OS revisions (from launch years ago to the newest NXE today), and a whole bunch of different hardware revisions. The hardware inside the XBox has changed substantially since launch (die shrinks, component consolidation, even different brands of DVD drive). They are also expected shortly to release a model with both the CPU/GPU on a single die.

      They’ve banned 5% of their customers. FIVE PERCENT. Whatever they might claim, banning 5% of your customers is not a “small percentage”, it’s “a significant portion of your customer base representing $50 million dollars per year in revenue!

  19. Rylar says:

    With no transparency Microsoft can ban anyone they choose for any reason or no reason at all. They can ban you for being black, they can ban you for being gay, they can ban you for being a Muslim.

    We will just have to trust the corporate giant to be open and fair just like their track record over the past 20 years has proven them to be…

    Wait, didn’t Microsoft pirate Windows from Xerox?

    • admiral_stabbin says:

      @Rylar: Apple was the one that “borrowed” some concepts from Xerox to release Macintosh. Microsoft was busy ripping off the creator of CP/M.

  20. henrygates says:

    Is there any DRM that actually works right? Honest consumers encounter increasing levels of frustration using their products, and the real pirates just bypass it all anyway.

  21. bigd7387 says:

    The software MS uses looks for any modification to memory, hard drive, ram usage, dvd drive configuration with different firmware, or any type of system firmware changes. Sorry but the program looks for this and like MS said if you are using a retail copy of the game with a non modded console then no problem. The person complaining about the ban may have bought a modded 360 not knowing it, like used from a game store or pawn shop. The are countless stories of people with banned 360s that have been traded to game stores and no one knowing until someone goes online with it to find out that it has a banned console number. I’ve never had a problem like this because I don’t buy used consoles nor do I pirate the games for them.

  22. Outrun1986 says:

    Could this possibly have to do with those who bought the copies of Call of Duty that were available at those gamestop’s that were selling them early, before activision gave permission to? Perhaps these people started to play before midnight (release date for the game) and their system got flagged because microsoft thought they had a pirated copy, which is why they were playing early.

    Perhaps the system was set to flag anyone who started playing the game before midnight.

  23. WeAre138 says:

    Just bought mw2. Can’t wait to get home to play. However I have a feeling I’ll be on of the false positives and get banned as soon as I put my retail disk in. I have the worst luck with xbox live.

  24. katsuyakaiba says:

    There IS innocent people being affected. Just recently Consumerist pointed out a X-Box forum post where somebody was banned for their modded X-Box.

    What was modded? Somebody replaced Microsoft’s crappy fan with a better one. And the moderator’s reply is “Oh well, you deserve the ban for not sending it to us and waiting 3 weeks.”

  25. Eticus says:

    They only punish the innocent. Pretty sure you can spoof your modified system.

  26. zigziggityzoo says:

    One word: Lawsuit. Class-action style.

  27. Paladin_11 says:

    Because of this, think twice before buying any discount XBOXes on Ebay, Craigslist, etc…

  28. tailstoo says:

    Great reason not to support Microsoft. They shot first and ask questions later. Remember the Windows activation server that crashed and locked many out of their legitimate copies of Windows?

  29. golddog says:

    Funny thing is, if you do the rip right, you don’t need to mod the console at all to use pirated media. I don’t have an xbox…do you need a serial # to play online?

  30. roothorick says:

    Considering the sheer amount of misinformation in this thread I feel a need to tell what’s known about the 360.

    First of all: Homebrew (and let’s be honest, thus piracy) on the 360 is made essentially impossible by the CPU having integrated Just-in-Time (JiT) binary decryption and authentication. That means that everything entering the CPU must be cryptographically signed by Microsoft using a key that’s only stored behind Microsoft’s sealed doors. If unsigned data or a bad signature shows up, the processor rejects it outright and the console grinds to a halt. So how does piracy work?

    Current 360 piracy consists ripping encrypted data off legitimate discs and distributing it as-is, to be burned still-encrypted to DVD-Rs. Then modifications are made to the target console’s DVD-ROM to convince the motherboard that the disc is real. The CPU then faithfully JiT-decrypts the data as it would while running a real game.

    These drive modifications come in two flavors: One, flashing firmware onto the DVD-ROM to make it claim burned games are official copies, and two, modchips that install on the drive itself, changing values in the firmware that make it run the disk as real. Either method, if done well, is undetectable — a rogue firmware can “feign” a flashing, returning a valid firmware and silently ignoring the new firmware, and a modchip can shut itself off when probes go out. Of course, not all methods were done correctly, especially early attempts that some pirates likely left in place, and I have no doubt MS already has probes in place to detect and block those early attempts. But the new devices and firmwares are completely undetectable. This leaves MS with fuzzy heuristics such as looking for people who ran games pre-release-date. Sound infallible? Consider: if the console wasn’t connected to XBL at the time the game was run, they only have the console’s RTC to go by, which like any network-isolated clock, can very easily be *wrong*, and if the console’s RTC battery is weak or dead, it almost certainly is.

  31. nelsonj1998 says:

    Does having a banned console only stop you from playing games online against other users? Can you still play the games that you own offline? Does it stop you from downloading updates to the firmware, and are updates sometimes required to play new games that you purchase?

    If the only consequence is that I wouldn’t be able to play online then I don’t know if I’d care so much.

    • Das Kommunist says:

      @nelsonj1998: In general, banning a console with prevent you from accessing XBL.

      It will not prevent you from playing games offline. You just will not be able to connect to the XBL service at all for any reason. As for Games on Demand games that are purchased through XBL, I’m not too sure.

      Overall, I think it’s a great thing. People are complaining and defending those who pirate media, use Microsoft’s services to play said pirated media online and getting punished for doing exactly what they shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.

  32. jarhead906 says:

    I’m assuming that simply modifying your 360 to use any HDD you want is considered to be against MS’s policies.

    Gotta love standardized accessories.

  33. SarahKH says:

    I find it fascinating how twisted some of the console people can get. For example yesterdays article about a guy having two consoles banned someone in the comments linked to an article about a guy being banned; yet had an upgraded fan. Note, it wasn’t the same guy.

    The 360 has no case intrusion mechanism beyond a sticker. Microsoft don’t know you’ve opened it from afar. So a new uprated fan(s) being in there they can’t tell unless they look at one thing and one thing only.

    Well, there you go. Amongst other things they’re looking at current draw. Awesome so a machine built to the minimum of quality, using the cheapest of components to make a price point… is having its VRM remote monitored as part of anti-piracy.

    Yeah. I can see that being acurate. One dodgy component in the internal power system and as it drifts further from the MS allowed norms your banned from online play. And yes, excess heat (or cold) can shift such figures around.

    @Rylar: Yes, Microsoft did heavily borrow from Xerox Parc. Although they were picking over the left overs after Apple got their first. But itt’s also fair to say that Win3 and 3.1 owe a lot to System 6 and 7.

    If Microsoft won’t reveal their methods and they won’t review bannings in case of false positives and we’re told that despite proof it’s not the hardware is 100% in all respects, then really, using a 360 online will eventually at some point result in a ban.

    AFIC you Americans would decide that’s time for a good traditional sueing… apparently not.

  34. Adhominem says:

    I don’t know if anybody said this yet but it’s pretty easy to see if someone is using a modded console.

    Modern Warfare 2 was released 11/10. Some stores broke street date and sold as early as 11/5.

    MS can do a query over XBL to see which consoles have generated Modern Warfare 2 related data(saves etc) prior to 11/1/2009. If you were playing the game prior to that date, it’s pretty safe to say that your console was modded.

  35. Southern says:

    I was actually thinking about purchasing a 360 strictly to stream Netflix, but now that Netflix has PS3 compatibility I don’t need one.. Still, I’m curious – would using a banned/modded 360 prevent one from watching NetFlix movies?

  36. redkamel says:

    ….its as if a millions Xbox accounts cried out in anguish, then were suddenly silenced.

  37. mjlagger says:

    Missing answer from poll:

    “People who pay money to Microsoft, or purchase Microsoft products, deserve whatever Microsoft gives them. People considering whether to purchase Microsoft products would do well to remember this”

  38. Michael Kohne says:

    That Microsoft, of all companies, should say that a piece of software (whatever they use to detect mods) can’t be wrong is laughable. I’d have to suggest that those banned with un-modded xboxes need to start some actions in small claims court for the money they’ve spent on live items they can no longer access. A couple thousand small claims to defend against and M$ might start to listen.

  39. DonHefe says:

    I am going to take microsoft’s side on this. They are not breaking consoles, they are just banning them from live. I don’t want all types of cheaters messing with games. I want live to work well without hackers. If you mod your xbox, play your pirated games offline.

  40. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    Now here will come the glut of unusable consoles on eBay, Craigslist, etc by these gamers hoping to unload their modded boxes to the unsuspecting public and recoup a little $ so they can buy a new one. Just in time for Christmas.

  41. whytcolr says:

    Wouldn’t it be extremely easy to flawlessly detect a modded console? Since only a modded console will run un-signed code, couldn’t Microsoft just create an unsigned script that, if run successfully, creates a variable “modded=yes.” Then the update checks to see if the variable exists. If it does, then — well, you’ve got a modded console.

    Is there any way that this could create a false positive?

    • wsupfoo says:

      @whytcolr:

      There’s lots of ways to do it with 100% accuracy. If someone got banned, I highly doubt it wasn’t for good cause. The only people I have sympathy for are the ones who bought it used, but that is the fault of the seller of the used product, not M$.

      I haven’t used my xbox in a year or so, but I seem to recall a big, easy to see message that said “you will be banned from xbox live if you use modified software or hardware” or something to that effect. I specifically remember it because almost everyone I know who has an xbox modded it.

  42. Transient says:

    I know a good number of gamers that have modded boxes that haven’t been banned. Only one of the players denies pirating games, the others brag about it. Previously, Xbox Live user accounts were banned. Folks turned around, got new accounts, and kept it all up as a big joke. That behavior and the sense of entitlement craps all over the industry. Turnabout is fair play.

    On the flip side, it would suck to unknowingly have a modded console. Such as an eBay or GameStop special. I feel for those folks. It’s a tough call to make, but it needs to be made.

  43. ModernTenshi04 says:

    My only concern would be for retailers who deal in used systems. With 1 million (and possibly 2 million from another article I saw earlier today) systems now rendered useless for Xbox Live gaming, there could be a spike in trade-ins, and thus a spike in consumers buying systems they can’t fully utilize, but had no idea they couldn’t before buying them.

    I’d think technically the stores would be obligated to replace the system or refund it (most places have a 30 day used hardware warranty), but this could be a major headache for used system retailers.

  44. trujunglist says:

    you guys are completely missing the point about whether or not MS makes mistakes with the actual banning process. MS is probably not banning unmodded consoles, because of how they check for the mods. however, the fact of the matter remains that MS has sent out modded RRODs refurbed. so, they’re basically completely full of shit when it comes to suggesting that no innocent people will be banned and that there is no recourse. fuck MS, take them to small claims and see what the judge has to say about it.

  45. Yhe says:

    Thus is the downside to consoles. You have to play under their terms of service, which means they can do stuff like this. Even if you modded for other reasons (I don’t know what other reasons, but I’ve seen claims on other sites with this story about those modding but not pirating), you’re toast for online gaming with it.

    Had someone pirated with a home computer on PC versions of these games.. no such problem, likely.

    What concerns me more, and why I don’t buy these primarily-online games, is that they depend on the existence of the Xbox-Live system.. if 10 years ago they go away (like, say, MSN Gaming Zone did..) then that game you bought has effectively expired. Might as well have rented the right to play the game for a limited time, than buying a licensed copy indefinitely.

  46. badr says:

    I have a first generation console that has never been modified. The other day i turn it on and I discover it has been banned. For me the holidays are ruined… My wife and I used our console to watch netflix and play a sporadic game here and there. Now we can’t do it.

    Well here is what I am going to do. Microsoft wants to think I had a modified console, well I am going to go ahead and modify my banned console, I don’t want microsoft to go ahead and think they did mine without any good results and buy myself a new Arcade version when time and money permits so we can still enjoy watching our movies over netflix.

  47. james says:

    As I predicted here:
    [consumerist.com]

    There is now a process to “unban” one’s banned X-Box.

    [consoletech.net]

    Just in case the posting is DCMAed into the bit bucket, here is the process, verbatim:

    =============================

    What is needed:

    Your 8955 live console + cpu key
    A 2nd unbanned console
    nandpro b + flash cable
    xell loader
    degraded
    1888 fs
    robinsod’s flashtool

    Apparently the full process of this fix is as follows;

    Use nandpro and dump nand from unbanned console.
    flash xell and use jtag hack to obtain cpu key.
    use flashtool to extract file system.

    dump nand from 8955 console.
    use flashtool to patch nand dump with kv.bin from unbanned console.
    save patched file (patched_kv.bin).

    open degraded + 1888 fs.
    create 1888 downgrader image (downgrader.bin) from your patched_kv.bin file.

    flash downgrader.bin to 8955 console.
    attach hdd + ethernet cable and boot console.

    connect to live and update to 8955 dashboard.

    console is now fully working and unbanned!

    =================================

    Don’t ask me what any of it means, the last video game machine I owned was an Atari 2600. Wow, am I oooold!

    • Southern says:

      @james:

      That was pretty much goobledygook to me, James, but I can see a side industry on Craigslist popping up offering to unban banned consoles.

      This looks like it might unban the console at the cost of copying the UNBANNED consoles CPU key though, so if the box gets banned AGAIN (and since it’s modded, it probably will), that probably means that BOTH boxes would be banned..

      But I dunno, that’s just what it looks like to me.

  48. smiling1809 says:

    Again, it’s a ploy to get people to buy a new X-Box so they can use their account. It is their word against the consumer’s.

  49. sn1per says:

    @coren: I’m pretty sure the TOS state that they can ban you at any time for any reason, and most likely also state that MS can change the terms at any time without notifying you. Everyone does that with their TOS nowadays.

  50. Parapraxis says:

    @coren:

    but the question is, area all of you and your friends equally dishonest?

  51. Kishi says:

    @coren: Eh, if someone ate 5% of your french fries, would you necessarily notice?

    You know, assuming that it was a nice, even number, and you didn’t have one french fry with marks on it because the person had to make sure that it was exactly 5%.

  52. Keen314 says:

    @coren: Look at the forums on xbox.com for bannings. They’re full of people claiming innocence until the MS people call them on exactly what they were caught doing. I have no doubt MS banned only consoled that were modded.

  53. sinfuly Delicious says:

    @coren: OR how bout the guys that bought their used xbox from gamestop and it was modded. However you never knew since you didnt try playing a burned game. and NOW are banned. No recourse avail.

  54. Stephmo says:

    @coren: You know, I re-read that guy’s post again last night, and he comes across as a guy that’s e-mailing consumerist because he’s a right guilty guy who got caught and forgot that MS said a while ago they’d catch your spare if you were playing it on the same network for piracy.

    See here’s the issue:

    My console and my fiance’s console were caught up in the Mass Banning going on by Microsoft in their latest Pirate Witch Hunt. My fiance is a chef, and plays games like Viva Pinata, Arcade Games, and can’t figure out how to remove the battery pack, much less tear apart her system to “mod” anything.

    I have purchased (2) Xbox 360 consoles (one for each of us), 68 games, several hundred dollars worth of Live content and DLC, another several hundred on disks that were scratched by faulty first gen consoles, a faulty 20 gig drive that Microsoft refused to warranty, and extra controllers / etc. All together I have dropped over $5200 supporting Microsoft, which I don’t have a problem with …

    Here’s the deal:

    - He goes on and on about how his fiance couldn’t possibly mod an XBox because she’s a chef and plays fluffy games.
    – He then launches into the paragraph of, “look at how much I’ve really spent!”
    – There’s a ton of frivolous detail.
    – There’s NEVER a flat-out denial that HE doesn’t know how to mod, never heard of modding, couldn’t have modded or pirated anything. Just this:

    The only “mod” I have ever done to my Xbox 360 was replace the crapped out 20 gig drive with an official 120 gig drive I purchased at Best Buy (I know, don’t hate on me for buying at Best Buy…) and that was almost 5 months ago. Of course I had a RRoD, but that was over a year ago (whic was another horror story all together).

    -Hey, “I” didn’t do the “mod” – and maybe some rogue Best Buy guy reformatted it! (It’s plug and play and sealed – and I’ve swapped HDs on mine…and I’m still playing, by the by.)
    – The RRoD story – but nevermind that (or it was a rogue replacement!).

    Seriously, I may not be a human lie detector, but I’ve seen a few episodes of Lie to Me and there’s shenanigans all over this guy.

    If he offered up his gamertag, I’d love to see the badge history on it.

    If there’s not a single gamerpoint for CODMW2 on it pre-launch date, I’ll start buying some of his story – of course, after I don’t see any ridiculous point jumps in his history (i.e. 2,000 points in 1 day that don’t include Avatar).

  55. DoubleEcho says:

    @shades_of_blue: Well, I’m looking at buying something to play when I don’t feel like playing Wii. From what I’ve seen with Microsoft support on the XBOX these past few years, there’s no fucking way I’m buying one. PS3 all the way.

  56. Chumas says:

    @Keen314: Since MS provides no explanation of what they are using in order to ‘prove’ the machines were modified it only leaves an explanation that their methods are not infallible.
    Mistakes are always made.

  57. Rask says:

    @DoubleEcho: Let’s assume a 1% false positive rate for this particular issue.

    Why would these modders/pirates go to the PS3? There’s no mod that I’m aware of and the BR games haven’t been cracked. These people would have to start actually buying stuff. Not really gonna happen. The large portion of the people affected were looking for a free ride and got caught. Odds are they’re going to get another 360 arcade, mod that one and stay on live until the next wave of bannings.

  58. Keen314 says:

    @Chumas: Given the vast amount of minute to minute information they make public about each 360 in use, please, paint us a picture of how they could screw this up. Go on.

  59. lmarconi says:

    @dohtem: I guess I’m confused. I know a lot of the best first person shooters are available on 360, but if they have a high rate of failure and the company lacks respect for its customers, why do people keep buying them? Better yet, why haven’t Nintendo and Sony gained market share off this fiasco?

    That said, this reminds me a lot of the RIAA. You can buy a CD at a store and use it as the RIAA intends you to, but downloading is easy and cheap. Rather than pissing off their target market by outright banning modded systems, it seems like they need to be a bit more creative and figure out a business plan that will make players and the bottom line happy.

  60. Stoli says:

    @Rylar: Pretty certain that you’ll know why you were banned. I don’t believe they ban lightly.

  61. Chilijohn says:

    @Bob Lu: Careful with that idea. Lack of access to Xbox Live for game patches should be a dealbreaker. Since XBL is your only source for updates, you’re boned if you can’t connect. I can’t recall a game being totally broken in single-player mode, but given what seems to be a gradual decline in retail release QA I won’t be surprised when that does occur.

  62. Parapraxis says:

    @coren: I meant it more as an analysis of statistics question- if your friends are not totally chosen at random, then the sampling base is random.

    On the other hand, if you were polling from a group that was extremely dishonest, the number of people banned would most likey be significantly higher (since they are more likely to use a modded Xbox). Then I’m making the assumption that dishonest people use modded Xboxes, and well, you get the picture.

  63. palmerkun says:

    @bohemian: Yes, you can use this hardware on the “touted Live platform” – if you follow the rules! Modifying the hardware is against the rules, not to mention outright illegal in many places.

    Anyone who buys a new 360 is more than welcome to use Live… if they follow the same rules everyone else does.

    If you’re deprived of access to a service, it’s because of YOUR action. This is ultimately no different than “No shirt, no shoes, no service”.

    Nobody who follows the rules is being prevented from using Live. And anyone who claims the rules are unreasonable needs their head checked. Last I heard, “Obey the law” is considered quite reasonable.

  64. coren says:

    @sinfuly Delicious: Possible. Not likely: He said yesterday or whenever he had two faulty first gens (his and fiances) which sounds like a return. Even if not, he RROD his at some point as well, so if he got one back and he didn’t mod it but it was modded – well, you can see where I’m going.

  65. PLAAND88 says:

    @coren: I played a legit copy of MW pre-stree, no banhammer for me.

    Unlikely that he would have got a modded console back from MS. If their service centre had caught a modded console it would have been shipped back unrepaired to the original owner forTOS violations.

  66. mizelle59 says:

    @Scatter:
    Why would it matter if some “innocent person” accidentally bought a modded Xbox from Gamestop and got banned for it? Is it Microsoft’s fault that you bought a faulty system? Should they sift through the no-doubt hundreds of thousands of claims of “butbut…i’m totally innocent! you gotta trust me”? If anything, blame Gamestop or whatever company you bought the modded system from.

    For the record, if someone trades-in a banned console to Gamestop and you happen to buy it and bring it home and see the big ol’ banhammer, all you have to do is bring it back and they will exchange it.

  67. Das Kommunist says:

    @Southern: That’s not what Adhominem is saying. Microsoft can check to see if the game is a legitimate disc or a pirated .iso file. If their software that monitors consoles with XBL and detects that the game is running off the HDD without a proper license (assuming said game was purchased from XBL’s Games on Demand), it can be flagged as a modded console.

  68. Southern says:

    @Southern:

    FollowUp – Found this article on the ‘net:

    (June 24th, 2009) – The company’s Entertainment and Devices Division, which contains its games business, as well as the Zune and other miscellaneous items, saw a 25 percent year-over-year fourth quarter revenue decrease to $1.19 billion. Xbox 360 platform and PC game revenue decreased $110 million or 12%. The company shipped 1.2 million Xbox 360 consoles in the quarter, slightly down compared with 1.3 million Xbox 360 consoles during the same timeframe last year.

    That came from [www.xbox-scene.com]

    Now, there’s ANOTHER article at [www.joystiq.com] which reports (As of Oct 30th, 2009) that Microsoft is making 2x the amount of PROFIT on each console over what they were a year ago, thanks to “decreased Xbox 360 platform costs” (Meaning each box is much cheaper to make).

    They sold (according to the article, anyway), 2.1 Million 360’s this last quarter.

    *Tin Foil Hat ON* – Is this MS’s way of selling an additional 1 Million 360s to replace the banned ones, to bump their numbers, now that they make 2x the amount of profit on each box?

    Makes for some interesting thoughts. :)

  69. Scatter says:

    @mizelle59:

    So what happens to the person who purchased a modified 360 from Gamestop and then got banned because of it six months later?

  70. Rat_Race says:

    @Keen314: Considering the Red Ring of Death, MS hasn’t exaclty been flawless with the execution of the 360.

  71. wild homes loves you but chooses darkness! says:

    @MamaBug: Gene WILDER! Gene Wilder! Gene Hackman is awesome, but if you blend those two types of awesome I’m going to have nightmares of buying Fizzy Lifting Drinks from Home Depot!

  72. Michael Belisle says:

    @PLAAND88: A witchunt is actually a highly apt comparison. If she floats, she’s a witch and we burn her at the stake. If she sinks and drowns, she wasn’t, but she shouldn’t have looked so damn guilty to have herself tried in the first place.

    Anywho, some example for discussion:

    1) Wherein an otherwise honest sap bought a used console, and didn’t know it was modified in someway. Is that worthy of a ban?

    2) Wherein someone upgrades their hard drive without Microsoft’s permission.

    3) Unforseen. We don’t know what criteria Microsoft is using. Mmm…. I smell a lawsuit baking in the oven.

  73. Southern says:

    @Michael Belisle:

    I don’t Michael. It’s their service, and quite frankly they can ban anyone they want from it, for basically any reason. Now if they had disabled the box itself, so you couldn’t even use it in STANDALONE mode then hell ya, lawsuit waiting to happen. Although I’m still waiting to see one as the result of the Nintendo Wii bricking – [consumerist.com]

    Disclaimer – I don’t run any modded consoles – but as far as I’m concerned, they have no right to disable anyones hardware due to any modifications done to said hardware. That would be like (Ford, Chevy, Honda, etc) saying that if you buy a car/truck/van, and add anything to your it that wasn’t shipped to you from the factory, they reserve the right to disable the vehicle so that it no longer runs.

    If you were LEASING the console (or the vehicle, for that example above) then ya, I could see them having a case — but if you OWN the hardware, its yours. You should be able to do anything you want with it, and they should have absolutely no right to disable it.

    *Shrug*

  74. Powerlurker says:

    @Stephmo:

    Replacing the hard drive with a non-OEM part is what did him in.

  75. Kishi says:

    @LeChiffre: Well, since the original question was “How did you go from “small percentage” of 20,000,000 to a million people getting banned?”, I feel justified.

    @Southern: The joke is on you- I’m a student! 5% of nothin’ is nothin’.

  76. thisistobehelpful says:

    @LeChiffre: That’s a general line for statistical significance. So if you want to go into what means nothing in statistics, technically if they get to 5.1% it’s all of a sudden relevant.

  77. Jthon says:

    @Southern: To stream Netflix on a 360 you need an XBOX Live gold membership which will cost you an additional $50 a year on top of your Netflix subscription. With the PS3 you just need the console and a Netflix subscription.

    Skip the 360 and go with the PS 3.

  78. Powerlurker says:

    @Scatter:

    They need to take it up with Gamestop, not MS.

  79. PriceIsWrong says:

    @Das Kommunist:
    The thing is, that they are disabling the hardware. Your box is not only banned from live, but they also cripple certain other features, such as Windows Media Center and HDD loading for games (copying games to the hard drive.)

    Also some content that could normally be played offline, that uses the updates you have to purchase from Live (maps, etc) is shut off, even though it was already paid for.

  80. Southern says:

    @Das Kommunist:

    Right, DK.. I (think) I pretty much said that exact thing, except in a more long-winded fashion. :-)

  81. Stephmo says:

    @Dyscord: Because you hope if someone turns it into a customer service issue that everything will get turned on instead of investigated?

    He’s got a ton of redflags of anyone in any game that got caught for cheating and thought they had an out if it ever happened. This isn’t just MS – this is any online game that has had mass-bannings.

    And, by the by, where’s Consumerists outrage when a game like Warcraft does mass bannings – or when PS3 bans you for something called being “disruptive” – [www.eurogamer.net]

    Or is this just the hard-on for XBox?

    And, to be honest, what would the reaction be if the headline were this:

    Microsoft says, “We Will Never Ban a Console Member for Cheating During the OnLine Gaming Experience – Dude, Don’t You Know They Paid 5 Bucks a Month to Ruin Your OnLine Gaming Experience – Learn to Crack Your Console if You Want to Play with the Big Dogs!”

    Because that’s a lot more un-customer-friendly.

    These are cheaters who are ruining an on-line experience for others. And they’re pirates. Everyone here wants to assume that because someone says “I didn’t deserve the banhammer!” that it means “I’m innocent.” The two statements could never be further apart from one another.

    People that mod and pirate have all sorts of justifications for what they do. Way at the top of the list is “I’ve spent so much money with them already” followed very closely by a combination of “everyone else does it”/”it’s so simple to do, they know everyone does it.”

    A lot of non-gamers are on this issue because it’s fun to hate. And yet they don’t understand the issue at all. Nor do they understand how many years MS has been adapting to the various cheating technologies – because every time they shut one avenue down, these tools are busy developing new and fun ways to suck the life out of something that’s supposed to be fun.

  82. bogart27 says:

    @P_Smith: I am in awe of your terrible, terrible puns and use of bold. Out of curiosity, are you a Linux user? Mac? What about games? Certainly not a PC gamer, PS3 maybe?

  83. LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

    @P_Smith: “This time it’ll be different, trust me.”

  84. Kishi says:

    @P_Smith: Seriously, people, I’m not arguing in favor of Microsoft here, I don’t have an XBox, I don’t care either way. I’m just saying that 5% is a small percentage. Statistically speaking.

  85. amillians says:

    @wild homes loves you but chooses darkness!: LOWES!

    I said good day!

  86. SonicMan says:

    @LadySiren: I am going to have to check all my consoles now.

    3 out of 4 of of my 360s have been sent to MS for repair, and I got different consoles back. Hopefully none were modified.

  87. BlackMage66652 says:

    @PriceIsWrong:

    The logic, however, is that by modding the Xbox most people do it to be able to install games to a gigantic hard drive and make them able to play pirated copies of games.

    So while it sounds extreme to remove them from those services, they honestly should’ve known the risks and punishments that come with being caught with their mods.

    Sure, they might’ve bought maps or DLC for their games, but if they’re just pirating the games then it’s their own damn fault and they will just have to live without Xbox Live.

  88. sicknick says:

    @Dyscord: I dunno about registering it, but I got one of the refurb Gamestop Arvade’s with a 20gb HD and two controllers as a gift. Bought a year Live Gold card. Got on easily.

  89. akuma_x says:

    @Powerlurker: He bought the real 120GB hard drive from Best Buy. That is what I assume he meant.

  90. Optimus says:

    @Stephmo: Hmmm… MS shill? Or do you also blame rape victims for what their rapist did?

    First, there are plenty of perfectly good reasons to mod an XBox. Most of them involve never playing games on them again, but they are perfectly good reasons, none the less.

    The fact that you seem to be a magnet for XBox cheaters is no reason to get all prejudiced about people who enjoy modifying dedicated hardware to make it multipurposed. Every inventor in existence has modded something to make it do something else.

    Secondly, no software solution is ever 100% perfect. Some of these banned consoles are not modded. Hard drives are not 100% perfect. Don’t believe me? Ask Steve Gibson over at Gibson Research Corporation (www.grc.com). Dude makes a mint selling *A* hard drive data recovery tool.

    If even one particular bad bit on that drive happens to read back flipped, and it just happens to make that data chunk read to the mod search software as part of a mod signature, then that console would be banned, because of a bad hard drive bit. In a sample size of 1,000,000, that is highly likely to happen at least once. Even if only 0.1% of the banned consoles are in this situation, that’s still 1,000 users banned unfairly.

    Do not trust your content providers to continue to provide to you. As soon as it is more profitable for them to drop you, regardless of any contractual obligation, they will drop you.

  91. Stephmo says:

    @Optimus: I’m not a shill.

    And your “there are legit reasons to mod” is pretty much reason #3 given. “I modded, but not to cheat – it was for something totally legit and yet, I was banned.”

    He cheated. He knew what the consequences were – and you and he can make up scenarios all day where the mods are good and fine. Just like the guys that think that talking about the 1% of legitimate open source things they torrent in a month somehow magically transforms the 99% of copyrighted movies, songs, books, software and television shows (and 360 games!) into “perfectly okay to download.”

  92. JeffM says:

    @Das Kommunist: @akuma_x: I have a 120GB Xbox HDD I hobbled together and had no problems on XBL today.

    $55 + 1 hour is cheaper than $150- and 20GB a useless amount of storage. :)

  93. P_Smith says:

    @Kishi: In your “thinking”, 5% is a “small percentage”? “Statistically speaking”?

    To call 5% a “small percentage” tells me that you’ve never taken even a basic course in statistics. Five percent of data on a bell curve happen outside only two standard deviations from the average, which statistically speaking, is not far or unusual.

    [en.wikipedia.org]

    If 5% of airplanes crahsed, there would be worldwide uproar and the airline industry would be dead. Not even the worst run airlines in Africa and South America have a 5% crash rate.

    If 5% of cars behaved like the Toyota SUV and an Audi 5000, the public outcry would make Ralph Nader’s crusade sound like a whisper.

    If 5% of computers or CPUs failed catastrophically, a computer or chip maker would go out of business. People would be screaming for refunds for machines that cost as, much as or more than, an XBOX.

    [www.afterdawn.com]

    Two million ex-XBOXes have been sold in the UK, so 5% is 100,000. US$500 is a VERY conservative estimate (as is 5% of users being cheated) of what each owner spent only on the ex-XBOXes and software, that is US$50 million that honest people have been cheated out of without any wrongdoing, and no recourse.

    You go and tell them that they should “get over it” and write off the money they’ve spent. Tell me what sort of reaction they give back to you after you do it. It will probably look like a backwards “peace sign”.

    The only piracy going on with ex-XBOXes is being perpetrated by Microshaft.

  94. Kishi says:

    @P_Smith: Fine, the phrase “statistically speaking”, which was included as a joke, was the wrong choice. I am incorrect in my belief that 5% is a small percentage. It is a large percentage, and percentages even larger may classified to reflect this- 10% may be a huge percentage, 26% might be a gargantuan percentage, 75% could be an infinite percentage.

    Furthermore, Microsoft is at fault- not just for this, but for everything, including the death of Archduke Ferdinand. Bill Gates should be burnt at the stake for his collective crimes against the universe- and possibly multiple universes. Afterwards, 20 randomly chosen XBox users who were banned will each be given a large percentage of his charred corpse.

  95. GlassWalker says:

    @Dyscord: Not quite, Dyscord – it’s a firmware based issue. For the purposes of the discussion it is, sort of, the gray area between a Hard/Software issue.