Xbox Live Gold, free, only it isn’t

Xbox Live Gold, free, only it isn’t

This was a frustrating experience, but first, a little history. For many years, my most used (and possibly… favourite?) console was my Xbox 360. I’ve over 200 games for it, and I was an Xbox Live Gold member from the very start of its appearance on the original Xbox (let’s call that the, ooh, Xbox 1) until some time in 2013 when it became clear I was spending most of my time playing Wii U games and not 360 games, and I just let Gold expire naturally[ref]By “naturally”, of course, I mean I had to change a load of settings in my Microsoft Profile and remove my credit card from my account, otherwise the swines would renew it automatically.[/ref]. The Xbox 360 fell out of favour a bit.

The last couple of months of my now unused Gold subscription overlapped with the start of Microsoft’s Games With Gold programme, so I picked up a handful of (still unplayed, and two already owned) titles there, and after that, Gold was Gone. In 2015 I was offered a month’s Gold for a quid and took up the offer to get some cheap games with some free credit I’d picked up, and in January this year I did the same again. Lego Lord of the Rings for £3? Except actually free because the credit was free? Don’t mind if I do.

Which brings us to this week. I’ve still got credit remaining, and I noticed that Forza Horizon was on offer. I’d enjoyed the demo and the free Fast and Furious spin-off, so decided to go for it. I powered up my 360 (which takes about ten minutes these days) and there, on the dashboard, was an offer for a month’s free Gold. Excellent, I thought. I can get that, and a month of Games With Gold (not that they’re inspiring – I’ve already got three free copies of Peggle), and a few quid off the cost of Forza Horizon. Sold.

I click the “Sign Up” button, go to purchase content, aaaaand… error code 80153021. Looking this up:

This may mean one of the following:

  • The Xbox Live service is temporarily unavailable.
  • There’s something wrong with your account:
    • You may have an outstanding balance.
    • You Microsoft account country/region may not match your PayPal country/region.
    • Your billing information might be incomplete.

Great. Live is probably broken. Remember when it used to be PSN that was always broken and Live was rock solid? Anyway, I went through the other suggestions – yes, I have an outstanding balance. I have money in my account. Unless you mean an outstanding negative balance – which I neither have, nor know how that could ever happen. I don’t have PayPal set up. My billing information is incomplete, as I have none. The month’s free (note the word “free”) Gold is free. Free, as in, free.

Of course, Microsoft’s stupid system requires you to have a payment option on file even for free items, even though I have credit in my account. Fine. I’ll add one with the intention of removing it immediately after purchasing my free (note the word “free”) month of Gold. Except of course, I can’t get into the Account bit on my Xbox because I get another error message. I forgot to write that number down though. Clearly Live was suffering some problem, although the status for Live didn’t show any issues, so I left it for half an hour.

I came back to the console and tried to purchase the free (note the word “free”) month’s Gold again. This time, before the option of “confirm” even appears, I get this error code: 80190128. The suggestions to fix this were to delete my cache (so I did that) and redownload my profile (and that too). Obviously these didn’t work.

I went back to the billing problem. My 360 still wouldn’t let me access that section of my profile, but would. I added both my card and my Paypal account, restarted my 360 and tried again.


(At this point, someone at Microsoft shouted House! and won a fluffy Blinx the Timesweeper cuddly toy)

This new error code concerns problems with billing and stuff. Oddly, it comes up before I get the chance to confirm my free (note the word “free”) month’s Gold “purchase”, but doesn’t come up if I get that far buying an actual game. I went through the list of “fixes”, stopping short of actually calling my bank because that seemed ludicrously unnecessary especially since I also had PayPal set up and a pile of credit already on my account. For a free purchase, remember. I removed my card details – from the 360 itself, as that section of it then magically started working – but that didn’t help, and then removed PayPal too. Still I got the error code 83820065. I gave up.

Trawling the internet and Twitter, it seems over the last month there have been one hell of a lot of people who have been offered this free (note the word “free”) month’s Gold membership but haven’t been able to take Microsoft up on their suspiciously broken deal. Most have been getting some or all of the same error messages as me, but I can’t find a single person who has had the problem resolved. It looks to me like the offer shouldn’t appear for me or these other people, but it does, and because it isn’t designed for me to access, I can’t “buy” it.

I put this to the Xbox Support online chat, and they told me I certainly should be able to claim the free (note the word “free”) month. They couldn’t help further, as they couldn’t see a reason for it not working and suggested trying again later (which didn’t work) or use another payment card (I don’t have any others), in addition to the steps I’d already been through.

The deal on Forza ran out soon after these problems so I ended up missing out on it. I’d probably never play it anyway, no matter how good, as the 360 is pretty much dead to me these days. Goodnight, sweet prince.


  1. That’s nothing. My Gold account expires next month, and on the dashboard I’ve got that offer of a month’s Gold for a quid. Great, I have about £1.50 in my account that I’ll probably never use (what can you buy for a pound on Xbox?); might as well take them up on that.

    Nope. Can’t. No error messages, but an MS account just isn’t a “valid payment method” for a Gold account apparently.

    I knew getting mixed up with Microsoft was Trouble back when I bought my 360, but hey… it’s only games, right? Well, screw ’em. I was debating with myself whether to stay on for another year because it’s really only Games With Gold that’s keeping me if I’m honest, but that’s put the tin lid on it. MS’s plan to keep me on Gold has actually led to me leaving, purely through their own, typically Microsoftian, hamfisted execution.

    “By “naturally”, of course, I mean I had to change a load of settings in my Microsoft Profile and remove my credit card from my account, otherwise the swines would renew it automatically.”

    Oh, yeah. Tell me about it. I have never had as much trouble dealing with any company as Microsoft. My 360 is the only MS product I’ve ever owned. It’ll stay that way.

    Which is a shame, because apart from the company’s byzantine bureaucracy, I liked the console. It’s probably – no, definitely – my favourite of all. It could have been the thing that showed me that MS aren’t that bad after all. I preferred its update system to the PS3’s. And the controller. (I’m still using one on my PC.) The uncharacteristically generous update that allows you to attach any USB storage device was a godsend: I have all my GWG games on an external drive. It’s a great machine. If only it wasn’t made by a company I wouldn’t trust to run the proverbial piss-up in a brewery.

    Duncan Snowden

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