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Ask X3F: assume the acquisition edition

And so the beginning pages of the Ask X3F saga continue with this, our third installment. This week we take on the health of Microsoft Game Studios, streaming video issues, regional compatibility, and more. In particular, we discuss every gamer's most nagging question: am I n00b? Furthermore, we do our best to help one reader climb out of the pit of n00b-dom to the pinnacle of 1337-ness. Read on for what we hope will pass for wise counsel.

Oh, and don't forget, if you have a question for us or just something you need to share, send it to: ask [at] xbox360fanboy [dawt] com.

Maybe you guys know who would fix streaming video issues.

One big complaint about streaming is that the default display mode, Auto, pushes the edges of videos off the screen. When you use it on videos previously made for the Internet, stuff that shows up on a PC is no longer visible. Switching to Native mode shows the whole video but as a small box in the center of the screen. What should be happening is that the whole video remains on-screen, with a border added to occupy the overscan area. Since the image is being resized by Auto anyway unless it's 1920x1080, it should be doable.

Unless someone at Microsoft gets the message that a change is important, it won't happen.


Honestly, we're not sure what the issue is here, as we're not media streaming afficionados. Still, you're absolutely right, it should definitely be possible. It should probably be an easy fix, and we've forwarded your concern on to Microsoft, but given the biannual schedule of 360 updates it will likely be a while before it's fixed. Unless, of course, a crafty reader has a solution you can implement right now. Anyone?

Why are all your contests for residents of United States exclusively? What about us Canadians who seem to be getting the short end of the sick each time? Is it really that much of a hassle ship to Canadians? To quote somebody from X3F, "[On the subject that we, Canadians, whine to much] We're talking about a region that is literally throwing distance to the region that has it."

The long and short of it is that this is a legal issue and it's out of our hands. We'd love to open up our giveaways to Canada and other countries around the world, but getting through the red tape is too difficult. And, more importantly, our legal department told us we can't.

Hey guys here's the question;

What's happening to the once mighty MS games studio? What's really going on behind the scenes? Bungie / Bizarre who's next Rare? Is MS leaving the games development field and going 3rd party only or are they getting ready to make a major purchase? I for one am a little nervous when Activision is driving Bizarre and EA is flying over Mass Effect, and what will this mean for the competition, Will Mass Effect 2/3 be multi-platform? You guys need to answer what is in the back of every 360 loving owners mind, who's next? Thanks for reading and even if you don't I at least got to do a letter.


If you asked Shane Kim, head honcho of Microsoft Game Studios, he'd probably tell you that the studio is just as mighty as it ever was, and that it's not Microsoft's goal to own developers at all. Sure, there are a couple exceptions, most notably Lionhead and Rare. Kim said as much in an E3 2006 interview with Joystiq: "Acquisition isn't always the right thing. Owning the independent developer isn't always what they want. Every relationship with every development partner -- whether it's an internal studio or an independent developer -- is very different."

By keeping a stable of independent developers, Microsoft gets all the benefits of gamers associating Microsoft Game Studios with good games (Halo 3, Gears of War, Mass Effect, etc.) without the burdens of managing a studio or fronting the entire development cost. Granted, the downside is that nothing keeps said developers from publishing their future games elsewhere, but as long as Microsoft is making money on the games they do publish, we doubt they care all that much. As for who's next, does it matter? As long as a game is good, does it matter whether or not its multiplatform?

As I'm an American gamer living in Japan, region-coding is a huge issue for me. Some games are region free, and others aren't. Who is it that makes this decision? How can we find out ahead of time (or even officially, after-the-fact) which games work in which region? When Rock Band was coming out, I knew I had to have it, but for which system to get it? Of course my PS3 is region-free, but living in Japan, I figured the online play would be hugely important to me, and Live trumps the PSN hands down. So I ended up pre-ordering both versions. Turns out the 360 version is region-locked, but there was never any official word. I only found out when 360 users in Europe had started importing it and claiming it didn't work on their consoles. Another related question: How can we find out what languages are supported in games? Often times a game like Halo 3 will come out in Japan, and it will ONLY support the Japanese language. And yet Gears of War has complete English support in the Japanese version. This is again a real hit-or-miss situation, as nowhere is it officially stated which languages are supported.

So far my only resources for this information has been message boards, but you have to wade through so much crap to find the information you want, if it exists at all. Anyway, if there is any way to catch this information that I'm missing (even non-officially, if the information is collected in one place) I'd be very grateful. Thanks guys, and keep up the great work.

-Rich, in Japan
Gamertag: richinjapan maintains a fairly comprehensive regional compatibility guide. Of course, in many cases, you can't find out what regions a game works with until it releases, which makes pre-ordering sort of difficult. Still, as far as we know, Play-Asia is your best bet to see what versions work with what regions. Their guide lists supported languages too. Anyone else know of any other resources out there?

I've been playin Halo 3 since its release... Great game.

Anyways... I was wondering what's the deal with the ranking and skill gains in multi player. I understand the basics, just wondering if I'm not gaining rank/skill as much as I would if I played other game variants. I pretty much just play ranked team slayer. My highest skill is 14 currently down to 13 and I'm at lieutenant grade 3. Would playing other game variants greatly effect my rank/skill in team slayer ???


The thing to wrap your head around is the difference between skill and rank. Rank -- your military insigne -- is designed to give other players an idea of your overall experience with Halo 3 and is independent of your skill level. Your skill level -- i.e. the number 1-50 -- is different for each ranked playlist. In other words, your 13 skill rating in Team Slayer won't change unless you start winning some Team Slayer games. Your military rank, on the other hand, will increase no matter what playlist you play -- even social playlists -- so long as you finish in the top 49% and don't quit. This is where it gets tricky though, because there are certain military ranks that require you to be at a certain skill level in order to obtain them. If you have a profile on, then you can open up your Halo 3 stats and see the requirements of obtaining each rank by clicking on the experience required for your next rating.

I have a question about Divx playback. Say I have my videos on an external usb hard drive connected to my computer, will the 360 still play the videos or do I have to transfer them over to the computers main hard drive for the 360 to find them. Also, my brother can transfer songs onto his PS3's hard drive from any computer in the house. My 360 only streams them but is there any chance that the Xbox will download from computers on a network in the future?

We're not positive about this, but as long as you configure your media sharing settings properly, it should work fine. Assuming your computer simply treats it as another volume on your computer, you should be able to configure it to work using Windows Media Player. In response to your second question, there's always a chance that Microsoft could incorporate wireless downloading from a PC, but we doubt it. As most 360s come with a meager 20 gigabyte hard drive (or no hard drive at all), streaming audio is an advantageous, space-saving solution. Of course, Microsoft doesn't keep people from ripping CDs to their HDD, so who knows?

I want to purchase MS points.
My credit card is not expired.
My credit card has money.
My billing/points page shows that my credit card's status is 'good'.
My billing address matches my credit card address.
I have purchased points before using this credit card.

So why does Microsoft not want to take my money?? I'm rich, I will buy lots of points I promise. It's probably a country/region thing and my country is not officialy supported by MS, but it's time MS recognizes the 'other' millions of people.

Abdullah Al-Awadhi

You have answered your own question. Unfortunately, if Xbox Live hasn't been officially rolled out in your country of origin, you'll be unable to purchase any MS Points at all, at least not officially. We spoke with Joystiq's South African darling Ludwig Kietzmann for advise on your problem, so here we go. There are a few options for 360 gamers in unsupported countries. If you have a US account and your Gamertag is associated with a Live ID, then you can actually purchase MS Points online directly from Microsoft at this link. If you have a UK account, there are sites such as that email you MS Point redemption codes for a price. If that doesn't work, there's always eBay, though we'd recommend the first two methods first. Anyone out there have other sites they can recommend?

I would Like to Ask the same thing as the image asks:- I got pwned in Halo 3 and I am by no means a good player but there was nothing redeeming about my play. I did decently better on TF2 but still I suck. What do I do to improve my situation. Unlike most of the kids on Live I can't spend more than 1 hr a day honing my skills because of my job. Is there no respite for me? no chance of redemption and perhaps even some revenge?

We asked our local Halo 3 guru Dustin Burg, who sports a hefty ranking of 45, to see what your options are. According to him, the best shot you have is finding a stable group of people with whom you can play on a regular basis. If possible, you could try to find some high ranking friends that are willing to show you the ropes. Also, you should spend a little time in the Lone Wolves playlist, which is a free-for-all playlist. The Halo 3 matchmaking should keep you among players close to your level of skill, so you should be able to slowly increase your skills without constantly being crushed by superior players.

As for Team Fortress 2, the advice is pretty much the same. Also, remember that you have to play as a team if you plan to win. This is even more important in TF2 than in Halo 3.

Hey guys! Ciaran here. I am planning on purchasing and Xbox 360. I have an average budget but I don't know what Xbox I should get. I want to connect wireless to the Xbox 360 so should the Elite be good for that? Have any advice?

Thanks, Ciaran!

It all depends on what you plan on doing with your 360. If you're a media hound and you plan on downloading lots of television shows and HD movies off of Marketplace, then the Elite with its 120 gig hard drive sounds like the system for you. If you do any serious gaming at all, we'd suggest the standard Xbox 360 over the Arcade, as the standard Xbox 360 comes with a hard drive. As for connecting wireless, you can do that with any Xbox 360, though you'll have to provide your own wireless adapter to do so (Microsoft sells one for $99, but there are scads of compatible ethernet 802.11g adapters for much less). The only difference between the standard 360 and the Elite is the 120GB hard drive and a bundled HDMI cable. If you can live without those, we say go for the standard.

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