New Zealand's a small country. We all know that it's a bit player in the world economy - but a harder pill to swallow is that as gamers and digital consumers we pay out not insubstantial monthly/yearly subscriptions to services such as iTunes and Xbox Live and get a pretty lacklustre service in return if compared with other parts of the world.
In the US, for example, users of Apple TV get access to TV shows whereas we're restricted to an OK selection of movies and a handful of less-than-stellar online video servics such as Vimeo, WSJ Online and MLB.TV. Australian Xbox Live users get better additional content through their consoles than New Zealand users do (though they'll rightly complain that their services are poor; sorry, Australian cousins, our Xbox Live additional content is worse than yours).
For some ridiculous reason, the powers that devise these services thought it would be a smart idea to "region-restrict" content, meaning if I live in New Zealand I can't get the same breadth of content as the US does. I know it's all to do with complex licence agreements and that sort of thing but where is the harm in me watching past seasons of Dexter via Xbox Live or Apple TV just because I live in another country? It just isn't fair.
So you'd think, logically, that if you moved from one country to another you should be able to reap the benefits of living in that new country? Wrong, as fellow gaming writer Chris Leggett found out after moving to Seattle a month ago: because he has a New Zealand Xbox Live profile he now can't access a lot of the content that he has legitimately paid for.
Here's some of what Chris had to say on his blog (if you're an expat Kiwi I suggest you read it): "The variety of other services on the NZ marketplace is, similarly, pitiful when stacked up against its US counterpart. In some cases, we even miss out on full games if the publisher doesn't feel like a release in our territory is worth the effort - Telltale's The Walking Dead is but the latest frustrating example.
"Now that I live in America, you'd think that I could move on from all of this. There are loads of great services that, by rights, I should now be able to take advantage of: Comcast Xfinity, HBO GO, Amazon Instant Video and much more - not to mention the games that never made it our way.
"But there's one debilitating problem: Xbox Live won't permit me to change the region of my account. So these services are still unavailable to me despite the fact that I now legitimately live in a region in which they are offered."
Xbox, there's something fundamentally wrong with your policy here! Chris isn't wanting to "scam" the system so he can access region-based content from another country: he just wants to access content in the new region he is living in.
What makes this situation more farcical is that I can easily change my Gamertag by paying a certain amount of Microsoft Points to you to do so, so why can't an expat transfer over their profile from one region to another in a similar fashion? It seems to make a great deal of sense - Chris isn't the only person who has moved from their country of birth to live in another one!
Here's what an Xbox customer rep told Chris to remedy the situation: "To turn my back on my current Xbox Live account and start a new one." That sort of misses the point, really.
I don't expect Xbox to change its policy over this - after all, the plight of a few expat Kiwi gamers living in others countries isn't going to register on its radar - but it needs to do something about this. I'm sure a US Xbox gamer who moves from the US to New Zealand doesn't suddenly have their Xbox Live services hobbled because they've moved to another country! It shouldn't happen to gamers from other countries, either.
I know this blog has a few overseas readers so I'd really like to hear your experiences - good or bad - about migrating to another country and accessing online services such as Xbox Live or PSN. Let's see if we can make some noise and get someone's attention!
Stuff you might also find interesting: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here. It's updated at least once a week.
**Apologies for my crap job using Paint in the image]
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