This morning, one of the big stories on the gaming interwebs seems to be the rumor that Microsoft will be phasing out their hated “points,” which is the company’s dumb currency used to buy items and content on Xbox LIVE, the Zune Marketplace, and the Windows Phone.
The rumor comes courtesy of a post on Inside Mobile Apps, which cites an anonymous source “with knowledge of the company’s decision.”
The post notes that, “by the end of 2012, all transactions will be based on the region set on the purchasing account and real money will be used to purchase all Windows Phone content.” The post also goes on to explain that the move would also likely affect the Zune Marketplace and Xbox LIVE transactions.
I have a feeling that most people would be pretty happy about this change. The conversion ratio between dollars and MS points is confusing, at best, and always annoying. It’d be nice to be able to buy Xbox content with actual money, without having to go through the steps of buying chunks of points and having awkward leftover balances (I have 20 unused and unusable points sitting on my account—hackers, have at them).
Not to get all “conspiracy theory” on you, but it’s likely that the points system was first implemented to a) force gamers to buy more points than they wanted through the different chunks ($5 for 400 points, $10 for 800 points, etc.), thereby earning more money than is actually being “spent” on content when balances are left over, and b) to confuse gamers to believe that content is less expensive than it is. So if a game is only 400 points, it feels like it’s only four bucks, when in reality it’s a dollar more. The same goes for games that are 1200 points—that sure seems a lot cheaper than the same game that sells for $15 over on the PSN, when in reality it’s the exact same price. I’m not saying that the “lower” price will induce a gamer to buy on one network over another, but rather that even a subconscious perception of a low price will induce consumers to buy more in general. Things feel like a bargain when they’re not.
The post speculates that the decision behind this supposed phase-out of the points system is to bring the Windows Phone more in line with the Android Market and App Store. If the move is true, it’s probably borne out of a need to want to feel like more of a competitor in the mobile phone market, whereas now, I’d guess that most people say, “Oh, Windows has a phone now? Is it Android?”
Inside Mobile Apps sought comment from Microsoft on the supposed phase-out, to which they received a pretty stock reply: “we do not comment on rumors or speculation.”