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Xbox Game Gifting has huge design flaws that Microsoft needs to fix

Why is it flawed, you might ask? Well friends, it's because it's region locked. The games you gift only work in the currency region you purchased the game for, unlike Steam, which allows you to gift games across any region.

It's great that Microsoft finally delivered one of Xbox UserVoice's most requested features, but the region locking severely restricts its usefulness. It's 2017, people have friends online, what gives?

Perhaps there are complex legal issues or other consequences preventing this from becoming a truly good gifting system. For example, you could potentially abuse regional currencies to acquire games for cheaper (although, why this isn't an issue for Steam, is unclear). In any case, that's not the biggest problem with this system.

The system doesn't prevent you from gifting games outside of your region. There's a tiny warning message that, evidently from the amount of Twitter DMs I've been getting about this, few people are seeing.

There are a few solutions here. Either Microsoft needs a bigger warning about the region locking, or they could, I don't know, just make it region free. Perhaps include some kind of small currency conversion fee, similarly to PayPal cross-region money gifting, if that's the issue here. You can swap your Xbox console region in settings to redeem the codes, but I'm not sure how much Microsoft will want to advertise that fact to the masses, if indeed it is a legal issue preventing region free gifting. Since it's so easy to switch region to redeem the keys, why not just make it region free anyway?

In any case, the current implementation is leading people to spend money on gifts that can't be readily redeemed, which is annoying for the buyer, and disappointing for the recipient. I doubt Microsoft intended to create an intentionally frustrating, misleading system, but here it is. It feels like a rushed implementation, and a bit of a missed opportunity for Xbox gamers to be able to celebrate the global community that is Xbox Live this holiday season.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

50 Comments
  • Good point! Pretty embarrassing for Microsoft.
  • Yawn. This would probably affect.0.5% of people using the service. An issue yes, but not as catastrophic as this article... rant... would lead one to believe.
  • I disagree, but I have friends internationally, and would like to gift them occasionally.
  • Microsoft is getting there.  Slowly.  Now for those outrageous UWP game pricing...
  • The system is also a little clunky, and more long winded than necessary. The recipient should really have an Xbox notification on the console. Doing via email and then requiring a code redemption is rather antiquated, and a step back from a Live message. Weird implementation. The region locking is also poor, should be clearer.
  • It does this when you gift to a Live Gamer Tag. Email version accounts for someone who has not yet set a Live account.
  • Untrue drswoboda. When I attemped to gift a friend in the UK I specifically used his gamertag, and yet the code was sent via his email address. I specifically did not choose to use the email address option in the gifting service.
  • I gifted during insider alpha preview to a couple of friends. There were two insider quests. One to email only, and one to gamer tag. The gamer tagged friend got an Xbox Live message and an email. They redeemed via console message. The email friend only received an email, and no Live message since the email was not associated to a gamer tag. YMMV.
  • Oh, I did the same, but mine went only via email.
  • Does the recipient have any custom settings on their account?
  • My gifts to two Xbox live users went through email as well. You want to complain about implementation, this is a much bigger fault than international gifting and it actually affects everyone who uses it.
  • Nope. Always emails.
  • if the console itself is region free then it seems moronic to lock codes. I tried giving away a spare code for a game I already had when I bought another system and to my surprise it wouldn't work for my Canadian friend on a game that wouldn't even have any royalty issues since it was itself published by Microsoft everywhere
  • If he changed his console region it would have worked. Then he can just change it back and it's his.
  • kamran: you are missing the point
  • Pretty embarrassing for the international community that none of us actually know how international trade works... 🙄
  • Ah, corky Microsoft.
  • "Huge design flaws", "Deeply flawed"...  Come on Jez, can you be any more hyperbolic?  You are right to call attention to this issue, but let's try to maintain a professional tone. For a company the size of Microsoft, there are complex issues surrounding operating storefronts across multiple regions. This problem will affect a small number of people in relative terms, so they have some time to address this.  Would you rather they held back this feature for months or years until they figure it out?  
  • To answer your question, I would rather simply be allowed to buy a friend a gift regardless of which region they were in. At the very least the limitation must be made all the more prominent (much bigger and significant warnings that the purchases are only available in the purchasers original region), so that people are not caught out and confused by the issue. So now we continue to not gift via the store if the recipient is not in your region, but go online, change the MicrosoftStore location to another region and purchase an electronic gift card, or change the console location to suit the region the recipient is in and purchase the gift that way... Has anyone tried this workaround?
  • Slightly over egging this one Jez...
  • Thank you for bringing this up! About time. I tried to gift (from Australia) to a friend in the UK and this is the problem we faced. Am I not allowed to have friends OS. The service must be made region free. Hell I even changed my console 'location' to the US so I could download Neverwinter before it became available to us in Australia. Once downloaded I simply changed my location back to Australia and continued playing. XBL is global, so must the gifting be.
  • Steam gifts are often region locked. I've got numerous region locked titles in my inventory i can't use without a vpn. 
  • Same here. I can't use a gift from my account's region just because I moved to another country. Looks like Jez never used the gift feature in Steam.
  • Almost the same thing with Steam. I have one friend who gift me games from times to times but I cannot gift him games because the region lock is one way. Where I live games are cheaper than where he lives; also Steam Support is useless even if I want to pay more and in a different currency for being able to gift the game, luckly there are Steam pre-paid cards which I can buy in my friend's country of residence from retailers (I guess it is better than nothing).
  • So? A flaw on one system doesn't justify a flaw on another.
  • First I want to say I'm against region lock, as I played lots of Japanese games on different platforms. I guess (or hope) the real issue is not region-lock itself, but more of a payment system issue. Currently you can't buy a ditigal game from other region store even if you change youre system region, unless you have a local creadit card as well, or buy non-M games with redeem code. If gifting is region free, that means the limitation by the payment system is disappeared (I could by a gift game to myself). I don't know the reason behind this payment system limitation. Nintendo doesn't have that. Maybe it's not only something regarding gaming, but also other Microsoft services, and redesigning that and make it suitable for Xbox is not high priority, or need more time.
  • You used to be able to...for the whole first year of having an Xbox one my Aussie card worked fine with region set to US....now I just buy Xbox codes from pcgamesupply. Am I frick paying Aussie prices for games. We get ripped off hard.
  • I wouldn't consider this a DEEP flaw, kind of blown out of proportion if you ask me.
  • There's a reason for this. Certain regions regularly run sales on games that are not on sale in other regions. So someone could theoretically set up a scheme were one party would send money to someone via PayPal for a game on sale and in return the other person would "gift" them said game. They're trying to avoid abuse of the system.
  • They already can. They just need to include in the instructions "change your Xbox region to xxxx to receive your gift"....so....your point is moot.
  • Not moot at all. That's the reason why and it's the same reason Steam does it as well. That and some games are censored in certain regions. If people want to change regions as a workaround, fine. At that point MS is not liable. This complaint is akin to a baby crying for milk after he already had his fill.
  • So we're taking the MSPowerUser method to article writing here now too? I HATE (and I'm not using that word lightly...it's a deep seething burning hatred) MSPowerUser due to that level of BS. Do we really need this here from otherwise talented writers?
  • Damage control byt the usual people. Any criticism is attacked or damage controlled... lol
  • Yes you certainly do like to brown nose a lot...
  • I am sorry but the writer is comparing this to Steam and in my experience Steam is also region locked. Thus I find no difference in the way Microsoft or Steam handles gifting and do not see the "deep flaw" in the system. And Yes, I can provide screenshot proof showing that steam gifting is region locked.
  • Windows central recently say Microsoft should stop selling games through Windows store and live with steam. I think that's ridiculous. We consumers need choices, not a monopoly.
    I think Windows central should think again on their position on this.
    Steam is good, but it should not become our only choice.
  • Or the developer forgetting or deliberately unchecking a checkbox. Nobody wants to accidentally ship Christmas 🎅 content to Islamic-only countries. Region limitations exist for a reason.
  • It's not just pricing. It's also about games being banned/censored in certain regions (which can open MS up to government scrutiny if gifting was region free) or, through licensing, are made unavailable for certain regions (which can open MS up to getting sued for licensing agreement breaches if gifting was region free).
  • Another great point.
  • in steam its also region locks...the same reason like microsoft store....different price in different region. Some regions have 2, 3 times cheaper than others.
  • Couldn't there be an exchange rate issue, etc.?  I am not going to act like I know what in the hell I am talking about but it seems like that could be part of the problem. 
  • This issue is part of all of Microsoft's services and stores. How come Apple or Google can sell all movies in all regions while Microsoft has the movies service available in only around 20 countries? Same for store.microsoft.com, if I open the Bulgarian store I can only buy MS Office and a few other applications apart from Windows. Go to the UK, German or Spanish version and now you have laptops, desktops, games, consoles, accessories and much more. Even Nokia had Maps and Music available all across the globe at the time Microsoft bought it. I couldn't have bought Project Scorpio, or any Xbox if I didn't go and buy it from the UK store and have it delivered to Bulgaria. I still need a UK account with PayPal to be able to get a Live Gold subscription and play online. Why all the hassle? At least the EU should have one single store with many currencies to select from. Microsoft's mission to empower every organization and person on the planet is focused only on 20 to 40 countries. While all other companies are going global and pushing the licenses they have to be global as opposed to limited by countries. Why does the EU have to force companies to apply region free services across the union (info here) when this thinking should already be there within companies?
  • Google cannot sell movie to all region. I cannot buy Movie, Music or Books from US store. The lineup is all different too. Movie in Japan store has no language options, it's either *** or Eng+*** caption, no switching after purchase.
    AND, movie in Japan is always MUCH MUCH slower than every other country in the world, like HALF a year slow! (I still go watch the block busters tho, to show some support) People like us, who receives information internationally, have friends around the globe, will move around countries... I was Google's customer until I discovered that I can hot-swap-store-region in xbox / win10 / web store and buy digital movie from US (or Brazil, any country) without VPN, with... no efforts... Google is a lotta stricter with regional detection.
  • Some companies go with selling everything in Dollars and at the same price; some other companies sell at different prices in different countries (those are the ones with region locked stores).
  • @Jez Corden: THANK YOU FOR HITTING THE BIG NAIL!
  • > although, why this isn't an
    > issue for Steam, is unclear
    I don't know about Steam gifting, but Steam store is indeed regional locked and it's fairly strict, once discovered you've cross-region-bought something (through VPN), your account will be locked. What PalZer0 said is correct. Music, Movie, Book, Comic, Uber is restricted, App (from AppStore or PlayStore) is not. App's in world market once upload, plus, there's no app retailer traditionally, no one's loosing their profits.. I think one way to work around is by using MS Points from that region, which you can get it (digital code) fairly easily from online stores.
  • Odd that it is region locked... yet Xbox one / Xbox one x games are not... what if a family member or friend lives outside the U.S.? Yes. This needs to be addressed.
  • if you gift across a region what game does the receiver get?  the game from your region or the game from theirs?
  • I often give MS digital gift cards to my nephews who are in a different country, this would be perfect for me instead of having to try and buy local giftcard codes for them internationally.
  • Jeeez, calm down. Steam also did not have gifting from the very start and resolving some problems took them years. Not to speak about problems they keep ignoring. Xbox/Microsoft store (along with GOG) is my preferred way of digital game shopping. No novelty is perfect the first day. Well except babies, they are born perfect.