Xbox Live Video Marketplace…Meh.
I usually hate it when hipster-ish people snarkily say something’s “meh”, but in this case, I think “meh” is pretty appropriate for describing how I feel about buying videos on Xbox Live. 😛
Like just about everyone else, I decided I wanted to try out the video downloads on Xbox Live. I perused the TV show downloads and downloaded a free HD clip of ABC’s Day Break. It was pretty good, along the same lines as watching the show from my OTA HD recording. Since that was an okay experience, I decided to step up to the next level and download an HD movie. I added the least amount of points I could to buy a movie and chose Poseidon since it was one of only two HD movies available for download. V for Vendetta would’ve been a much better choice, but
a) I already have the DVD set for V for Vendetta
b) we haven’t seen Poseidon before
c) Poseidon was a smaller HD download than V, at 4.7 GB, vs. 6.something GB.
So late on the 22nd (almost the 23rd), I started the download for Poseidon and went about my business, thinking it’d download overnight and through the next day, and we’d be able to watch it the following evening. Ha! Wishful thinking.
Firstly, I checked on its progress a little while into the download (can’t remember how long after I started it, though it couldn’t have been more than a couple hours), curious to see how fast/slow the transfer rate was. Good thing, because there was an error dialog on-screen saying that the movie couldn’t be downloaded, and I was supposed to hit ok to confirm that I got this info. Why wouldn’t they just implement some timer to wait before retrying the download automatically? What if I had left it alone all day the next day and checked on it in the evening? What a nasty surprise to see that the download crapped out at the beginning and was waiting for me to manually restart the download! This error happened another 2 or 3 times. Luckily the download resumed after I restarted it, instead of starting all over. I was surprised that I didn’t get some error where the system thought I’d already downloaded the whole movie, leaving me with no choice but to contact customer support, or bite the bullet and just add more MS Points to try downloading the movie again. 😛
On the second day of downloading, after those 2 or 3 more unexplained “can’t download this” errors, the download finally progressed beyond 40%. And even more surprising was that later that evening on the 24th, the download “jumped” to 95% (surprising because of the dreadful transfer rate at the beginning) and was ready to view at that point. So we watched the movie.
The movie itself was equivalent to a made-for-TV, Titanic-ish movie, but I’m not going to dwell on that. The video quality was good, but since the movie was not originally filmed in HD (I assume), it didn’t look like true HD (meaning the same quality as sports events recorded in HD, where you swear the players are right in front of you!). In fact, it didn’t seem that much better than watching a DVD. I sure could see the film grain, if that’s what I’m meant to get out of this HD experience. *smirk* Given that the download size for the HD version is almost 4x the size as the SD (480p, equivalent to DVDs, basically), yet not that much better than watching a DVD, this is rather annoying. I guess details are slightly more crisp, but it all depends on how the movie is remastered into HD anyway. Poseidon didn’t seem like a breathtaking example of a movie redone for HD.
The video playback was decent, though. There was only one playback hiccup near the beginning, but other than that, it was smooth. The sound was pretty good. Since I wasn’t about to waste money renting a DVD of Poseidon to compare video quality to the Xbox download, I decided to try downloading V for Vendetta. I added another 500 MS Points to my account and tried to download V. I got this irritating error:
Why would they set it up to deduct points from the account before making sure the DRM crap could be downloaded properly first? It’s like a shady company charging you for what you ordered, plus shipping before they even check to see if it’s in stock. And if this error occurs, shouldn’t the system reverse the transaction automatically so you can try the download again? Since those points were already deducted, I couldn’t retry the download without adding more points.
I e-mailed Xbox Live customer service and they told me to call the customer service hotline. Why? They should be able to look up my account, verify that I was telling the truth when I told them the download is in my download history but I never actually started the download, and reimburse my account with the 480 points so I can retry the download. They could easily ask me for ID verification over e-mail, like my security question, or whatever it is that I entered when I created the Xbox Live account. Why would they make me call the number? I’m sure I’m not the only one having issues with the video download service, so the call isn’t going to be a 5-minute thing. What is it that they can accomplish on the phone that they can’t accomplish via e-mail?
Sorry, but it’s not worth it to me to waste my time on the phone just to get the points credited back to my account so I can try the download again and babysit it to make sure those stupid “can’t download this” errors don’t rear their ugly heads. I’m just going to eat the cost of that lost download. Until these movie services make the download process more reliable and get it through their thick, anti-P2P heads that BitTorrent or some similar distribution method should be used to speed up these downloads, I’m going to sit back and wait for my Netflix to arrive in my mailbox.
Oh yeah, here’s a link to another similar account of the Xbox Live Marketplace “stealing” points.