Microsoft's CD Replacement Policy

By Eric — 3 minute read

I noticed a while back that my Rise of Nations game CD had a big crack through it. This was likely owing to it being on the floor in close proximity to the wheels of the chair at the boys' computer. Any hopes that it might still be readable were quickly dispelled when Windows Explorer locked up in the attempt. I figured Microsoft might have some kind of replacement policy, and in fact they do. What I didn't realize is that their policy was carefully crafted for stupidity.

My first stop at getting a replacement disk was at a knowledge base article entitled Games That Require That the Original Product CD Is in the CD-ROM Drive to Play. There, aside from a friendly note that circumventing the copy protection on the CD is illegal, was a number to call to get a replacement CD. I started to wonder what they would charge me... fifty cents for materials, a couple of bucks for postage... it can't be more than five bucks, and that might be worth it.

After some phone menu navigation and a transfer, I talked to Joanne. I told her I'd like to see about replacing my CD -- kids destroyed it and all -- and would that be possible? Sure, she says, but there's a fee for that. It will be \$23.95 for the disk plus \$5.00 for shipping plus tax. I was sort of speechless.

"I think that's probably more than the game is worth," I finally managed.

"Yeah, probably," she replied.

"I guess I'm out of luck then."

"No, I can replace it for you for \$23.95."

"Um, no thanks."

I had a look on Amazon, where the game is selling new for \$17.99. Even on Microsoft's own site the game sells for \$19.99. Are they serious? I had to call back.

This time I talked to Kristin. I explained that I had just called in a few minutes ago, and wanted to verify that I'd gotten the story straight. I wasn't mad at this point, just fascinated by the absurdity. She confirmed the cost. I also had her clarify that the replacement would be just the disk, not a completely new retail package.

"That seems kind of strange considering Microsoft sells the game on their web site for just \$19.99," I pointed out.

Kristin noted that they would gladly replace the disk for free if it had been defective. That's fine, and I fully recognize that I'm to blame here for having let the disk get broken.

I went over my "not more than five bucks" cost estimate with her. I don't have the distorted view that software's primary cost is the disk on which it is distributed, but I had already paid for the development and marketing of the game when I bought it the first time.

I asked Kristin if I, hypothetically, wanted to order the replacement, she would actually sell it to me. She said that the service reps are supposed to recommend just buying a new copy of the game since it is cheaper.

So there you have it. Microsoft's replacement strategy is to sell you the same game you've already bought, or charge even more if you happen to be slightly clueless about market value.

I've heard that the Gold Edition of Rise of Nations is pretty good. Maybe I'll have to pick up a copy so I can play the game again. After all, it's cheaper than the replacement.