Blurring the Lines: Gamers Find Alternatives to Avoid FIFA Hackers
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 9th Feb 2012
The wave of FIFA hacking that have been pounding upon the shores of the Xbox LIVE network have reached a saturation point that leaves little doubt that something is seriously wrong in the land of Xbox, and while fans of Microsoft's console are not walking away from it in large numbers, they are no longer willing to trust either their credit card or their money on the service.
"I bought a prepaid credit card from my local convenience store and I am using that when I need to make a purchase on LIVE now," says Rudy Webber, a hardcore Xbox fan. "Don't get me wrong, I love my Xbox, but I got hacked and then Microsoft punished me by locking me out of my account for nearly a month," Webber complains.
"There is something wrong here, but nobody will say what it is. The one thing we have been able to figure out is that the accounts that are being targeted are ones with Microsoft Points banked on them or with a credit card that can be used to make purchases, so you just have to be sure that does not describe you," Webber advises.
"I have been waiting impatiently for the release of the new Gotham City Imposters game," Xbox gamer Karen Sullivan confides while standing in line at the local GameStop. "But I have not been waiting to buy it online; I am getting it here because I don't have a credit card on my Gamer Tag anymore, it is too risky."
Like a lot of gamers, Sullivan has found what she considers a safer alternative to the risks posed by the online services that are increasingly being targeted by crackers from organized crime rings. Purchasing prepaid subscription cards for Gold Membership, and DLC and game codes at GameStop is part of that strategy.
The GameStop Alternative
GameStop is the world's largest multichannel video game retailer, having a network and family of brands that includes 6,627 company-operated stores in 17 countries worldwide, and an online presence at www.GameStop.com as well as other sites through which game sales are made, but its expansion beyond the digital distribution of PC games online is causing gamers to stand up and take notice.
The company originally made its bones on its wide retail selection of used games, allowing gamers to trade-in their old games and apply their value towards new games -- or used games at a significant discount. Combining its used game sales with new game sales and game hardware sales, GameStop carved out a niche for itself in the retail side of gaming, but soon came under fire from game publishers who resent the fact that they are not receiving a piece of the pie when their games are resold. The one area that most publishers had a solid lock on that it did not appear GameStop could leverage was in sales of DLC and online Arcade games for the Xbox 360 and PS3... Until last year that is.
The route for obtaining DLC or Xbox LIVE Arcade games has traditionally involved the use of Microsoft Points or a credit card attached to the individual gamer tag, but the recent waves of Xbox Gamer Tag hacks have soured a significant percentage of gamers on the practice. It is not clear whether this was part of the motivation behind the expansion to provide point-of-sale services for DLC and Arcade games over at GameStop, but the end result is the same: gamers can now walk into their local GameStop and plop down cash -- or pay by credit card -- and walk out with a valid code for their Arcade game or DLC on the spot.
The service is not restricted to Xbox LIVE either; the same content can be purchased for the PlayStation Network, and considering the massive data theft that Sony suffered in the recent past that may very well be a good thing for gamers.
"Buying your DLC or games for LIVE or PSN is really very easy," says Bill, the local GameStop Elf. "You get a code printed on your receipt that is just like the codes you scratch off the Microsoft Points cards -- you take that home and enter it into your console and you have your game or DLC."
Prepaid Credit Cards
While hitting up your local GameStop works fine for scoring yourself the latest DLC and Arcade game, what about paying for your family Gold membership on Xbox LIVE? You cannot do that with a prepaid card -- there isn't one -- you need to do it online, via your console, and that means entering a credit card into your GamerTag.
While details surrounding how the FIFA Hack works are slim, the one common denominator is that the crackers look for and abuse accounts that have a valid credit card on them, purchasing large amounts of Microsoft Points and then using the Points to buy card packs in FIFA, which they then open and trade to other accounts that sell the cards to legitimate gamers on the service for real money.
Opting for the Family Gold Plan on LIVE is a no-brainer -- you pay for two Gold subs and you receive four, not to mention the ability to move MS Points to the other accounts that are under your Family Plan as well as keep an eye on what your kids are doing from the master account. But that means having a valid credit card attached to the controlling Gamer Tag.
Fortunately for gamers the availability of prepaid credit cards has never been so wide and convenient, with banks, gas stations, convenience stores, and even Walmart offering what amounts to pay-as-you-go services. Gamers can obtain a card, charge it with just what they need to make their purchases, and add the card to their Gamer Tag. Once they pay for their subscription there is no balance on the card to be stolen, so even if their account is hacked, the cracker gets nothing.
It is a sad commentary that something as basic as a Gamer Tag account for a game console comes with the same level of concerns for fraud that a bank account carries, but then it is also a sign of the times. The question these days is not whether you are paranoid, but whether you are paranoid enough.