Microsoft, Why Are You Still Using Microsoft Points?

Posted by on January 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm

We all know about Microsoft Points. They’re the annoying currency system that Microsoft uses in their Xbox Live Marketplace, Games for Windows and Zune stores. If you’ve ever bought a song on Zune or a game over Xbox Live, you’ve used Microsoft points.

What I don’t know is why Microsoft continues to force us to use them.

There are a number of gripes that people have with Microsoft points, but the biggest has got to be how inconvenient they are. If you want to buy a $1 song using your Zune software, you can’t just buy it for a $1. You have to spend $5 to buy 400 points. It’s stupid and archaic.

Never mind that it’s plain inconvenient to have to calculate in your head, “Umm, how much does 400 points equal again?” The really annoying thing is that Microsoft is making its consumers spend more than necessary just to buy something from them.

Of course, there are several reasons why Microsoft does this. For starters, it allows Microsoft to limit the number of credit card transaction fees that they have to pay. I don’t know why Microsoft – a company worth gazillions of dollars – has to make this cost their customer’s problem. Amazon doesn’t do it. Apple doesn’t do it.

Microsoft also does it because the subtle deceptiveness of Microsoft Points works in their favor. A full season of 30 Rock on Zune costs 3200 Microsoft Points. You see that and think, “Hey, that costs a little over $30.” It’s just the way our minds work. You have to go to an online Microsoft points converter to work out that 3200 Microsoft Points actually equals $40, not a little over $30. There’s a great article over at Gamasutra about the tricky psychology of Microsoft Points.

To Microsoft’s credit, they at least stopped one of the worst aspects of Microsoft Points. For a few years they sold them in increments of 500 points while selling items on Xbox Live at costs of 400 and 800 points. After a transaction, you would always have a couple hundred leftover points that you couldn’t spend on anything unless you bought more points (this was in the days before avatar shirts). Microsoft subtly moved to selling in 400 point increments in 2010.

Microsoft isn’t even consistent with their use of Microsoft Points. Full games on Xbox Live are sold in dollar amounts rather than Microsoft Points. Red Dead Redemption costs $39.99 on Xbox Live. But to buy a season of The Big Bang Theory costs 3200 Microsoft Points, or $40. It’s the same cost to me, but Microsoft makes the process convoluted for one and not the other. Why?

If I buy a $1 game on my Windows Phone, I’m charged an actual dollar. There’s no fussing with Microsoft Points on Windows Phone at all. If I buy a song in Zune on my Windows Phone, my credit card is charged $1.29. But If I buy that same song in Zune on my PC, I have to buy 400 Microsoft Points to buy a song that costs 100 points, or $1.25. Huh?

Microsoft, it’s time to do away with the annoying and unnecessary currency system that is Microsoft Points. Money’s money. If I want to give you some of it to buy a song or a game or a TV show, shouldn’t you make it as easy for me as possible? Shouldn’t you clearly state what you are charging me? Shouldn’t you only charge me to buy the item I want to buy?

Have some respect for your customers – especially those willing to pay you directly through your various services – and do away with Microsoft Points already.

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