There are plenty of reasons why you might want to have a VPN connection. The biggest one for people outside the US is to access US-only media like Hulu, Netflix and gaming services. As an American with an American credit card who wants to purchase American content even though I live overseas, the policies of the companies I want to give money to can be extremely frustrating at times. My first such experience was with Playstation Network. For the first couple years of its existence, PSN played nice. By logging into my American account and using my American credit card, PSN allowed me to buy and download content just like anyone else back in America. Then about 18 months ago, Sony changed its system to disallow credit cards being used outside their area. Thus, my American credit card couldn’t be used from Japan. The best way to get around this was to buy PSN point cards on Amazon and redeem the code. Once redeemed, PSN would allow me to purchase whatever I wanted. It wasn’t the content that was restricted, but the payment method. I never tried using a Japanese credit card with it, so I don’t know if they would’ve accepted an overseas card from the overseas region either. I ran into the same problem with Steam as well on the Mac, but the US Steam store works with foreign credit cards, as long as you’re in the region that card is from.
Then I got an Xbox 360. The first thing I wanted to do was buy Mass Effect from Games on Demand. Xbox Live wouldn’t allow it. But it let me buy Shadow Complex, so I assumed Games on Demand was off limits overseas. Then one day, I happened to attempt buying Splinter Cell: Conviction from Games on Demand, and it worked! I thought Microsoft had loosened up. Then over the summer I bought the Gears of War Triple Pack and tried to redeem the DLC code inside the box. Didn’t work. Turns out that Microsoft published games and the DLC (free and paid) attached to them are region locked. It’s why Mass Effect couldn’t be purchased, but Mass Effect 2’s DLC downloaded just fine. (Because EA published Mass Effect 2, and thankfully Mass Effect 3.)
The only way to circumvent Microsoft’s roadblocks is to access Xbox Live through a VPN. I’ve known a lot of people who went about this by trying to log into a service like Hotspot Shield and then use OS X’s Internet Sharing feature through a wired Ethernet connection to their Xbox 360. It works to share your Internet connection, just not the one you want to share. This will not work. No matter how long you bang your head against, thinking you can make it work, you will not make this work. I spent hours and people I know have spent hours trying to share a VPN connection through this method. It won’t get you anywhere.
So how do you share a VPN? You need to dial in over PPTP. I haven’t found a free VPN that will let you connect through PPTP, so be prepared to open your wallet (or purse) a little bit. The VPN service I settled on was Hide My Ass. It’s got a silly name, but they have the ability to connect to their service through PPTP and OpenVPN. I didn’t have any luck with OpenVPN, but PPTP worked like a charm. Once you have set up a PPTP connection, you then share not your usual connection but the virtual connection you just created out to your Xbox 360 over Ethernet. Your Xbox 360 will not connect to Xbox Live through a connection that Live thinks is in the US. There are plenty of places you can choose to have your connection come out of, so choose whichever has the lightest load.
While HMA works, the speed isn’t great. It’s probably about 1Mbps. I’m quite used to 100Mbps here in Japan, and while 1Mbps was screaming fast when I was in high school, it’s painfully slow now. Downloading Gears of War map packs took way longer than it would have normally. There’s a quirk to Xbox Live that may be beneficial in your use of VPNs though. Xbox Live only checks region at the beginning and end of downloads. The fastest solution to downloading content is to:
- Purchase locked content through Xbox.com and then let it download from your queue.
- Keep an eye on it and switch over to the PPTP connection at about 97% completion.
This should allow you to download almost all of the content at your fastest speed, and then bypass the region check at the end.