"Your console has been banned." For many gaming enthusiasts, perhaps nothing is more unnerving than the prospect of losing the ability to duel with friends and strangers over the Internet for hours on end. Yet earlier this month, this fear became a reality for many Xbox owners when Microsoft banned a large number of consoles from its Xbox Live service. The move effectively prevents the machines from playing games online, and according to reports so far, the ban allegedly only affects consoles that have been modified by users in order to play pirated games. While Microsoft has not said how many machines were affected (other than shooting down the initially reported figure of 1 million), the sheer quantity of banned Xbox 360s that have shown up for resale on sites like eBay and craigslist suggests the number is still quite large. Corresponding with one of the most anticipated multiplayer title releases of the year, the ban sends a strong that Microsoft is not afraid to hit users where it hurts when it comes to their bottom line.
Yet, while the obvious lesson some may take away from this is, "Don't steal games," there is a much more subtle point to be made here about the power of online service providers wield over their users through their Terms of Service Agreements (or TOS).