A perpetual thorn in the side of big video game publishing has been regional distribution. Console game makers like Nintendo have striven for decades to block customers from importing games from other regions, via lock out chips in cartridges and code in the software itself. With the proliferation of digital distribution, it’s been even more difficult to maintain boundaries on what people in what global markets can legally purchase to play. Microsoft at least is trying to modernize its digital business, allowing Xbox Live members to transfer their accounts between regions.
Neowin reported on Thursday that Microsoft is currently testing a new process for migrating an Xbox Live account to another region once you move. For game developers that travel around the world for work, students that study abroad, or anyone that moves to another part of the world for any reason at all, this comes as good news.
Once every three months, Microsoft will let users access a tool online that will port their Xbox Live account to a new region. This includes your gamer tag, achievements, Microsoft Points, and most importantly an existing Xbox Live Gold subscription.
It’s not all good news. In typically restrictive fashion for the music industry, Xbox Music subscriptions cannot be transferred to a new region. Music licensing issues keep all services like Xbox Music and individual download sales locked to their country of origin. Subscriptions to IPTV through Xbox Live also won’t carry over to a new region, nor will many free promos given out by Microsoft.
The new tool remains in testing for the time being, with only a select number of users around the world invited by Microsoft to participate.
The new tool is a welcome change especially considering what users have had to do in the past to officially change over their accounts. Microsoft’s current process, which it only started offering in October, takes upwards of six weeks to complete.
For most users, the shift isn’t too much of a concern. The Xbox 360 can be connected in many foreign countries without the console restricting online activity. An American console hooked up in Japan for example will still let registered Xbox Live members on the machine sign in and shop around, but only in the North American Marketplace. If that player wants to jump into the Japanese Xbox Live Marketplace and keep their gamertag and info, they were often out of luck. This new service should ease the process.