At some point following our gala 48-hour Xbox 360 gamathon, we got the idea to check some funny gamertags to see if they were available. For the sake of this example, let's say we picked "xXDr.UweBollXx" just to have some kicks and play with the free 30-day Xbox Live Gold membership. During the signup process the system requires a Microsoft .NET Passport account to link to the gamertag. The request (though having a slightly Big Brother feel) was understandable, so I entered in my 8-year old Hotmail account (which I've had since it was called HoTMaiL). Recently I undertook the task of transferring my original Xbox gamertag, "persnfrmporlok", to the 360. Here's where it gets ugly.

During the transfer process I was again required to link my gamertag to a .NET Passport account, so I naturally punched in my trusty Hotmail address. I was informed that the account already had a gamertag linked to it and only one was allowed. No red flags yet; surely this could be solved simply. I would only need to switch the .NET Passport for "Uwe Boll" to a newly created address (let's call it uweiswonderful@hotmail.com) thus freeing my original Hotmail account to be linked to "persnfrmporlok." Now if only I could figure out how to do it...

Right about now you should see where this story is going: I could not change the email address and needed to open a new .NET Passport account for my "persnfrmporlok" gamertag. After several calls to 1-800-4MY-XBOX I was told by a very helpful representative that the linking was "permanent." You see, Microsoft was "cracking down" on people switching email addresses, a practice that was previously allowed on the original Xbox.

Cracking down? What does that mean? How could this be abused? The functionality is for our convenience, not for billing; they already have my credit card number, address, and real name! I can assure them that's a much better way of commucating with subscribers than a easily forgotten free webmail account. The sad truth is, despite my long history with that Hotmail account, the increasingly irrelevant Hotmail service is still the slowest, ugliest, and most spammed webmail account I have. For a console that trumpets loud and wide, "It's all about choice" the decision to remove this choice is inscrutable.

Xbox 360 annoyances: 001, 002, 003, 004, 005, 006, 007, 008, 009

Other Xbox 360 delights: 001, 002, 003, 004

This article was originally published on Joystiq.