Doing Away With Microsoft Points: An Argument For and Against

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The Xbox Live Marketplace is pretty cool if you think about it.  You can download games, movies, programs, and other buyable items within a matter of seconds by setting up Microsoft points in your account, turning them around to buy the things that you want so you can get right back into gaming.  This system has been in effect since Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 console over five years ago, and it’s really served the public rather well, especially with the company being able to sell point cards in such retailers as Best Buy and Gamestop, providing a new way for players to activate their points, but that system isn’t likely to last long. 

Though the company hasn’t confirmed anything as of yet, Microsoft is looking at possibly eliminating its point system as soon as the end of this year, paving the way for direct purchases for all its online transactions, including games and add-ons.  What this basically means is that you’d need some form of online payment to get your game on, namely a debit or credit card.  While they didn’t quite explain why, it’s probably a means of simplicity, with less stress on the company’s part when it comes to activating a 25-digit access code, which the Xbox Live cards require now in order to get transactions moving.

Is this really a smart move?  Well, in a way, yes, but in another way, no.  Let’s go ahead and explain the argument for the elimination of Microsoft points, as well as an argument against.  Might as well look at both sides of the matter and see where it makes sense, right?

Regarding the argument for…

Simplicity In Purchases

When it comes to needing to purchase Microsoft points, it can be considered just another hurdle in getting you where you need to go.  Let’s say you want to buy Rock Band songs, but then you receive an alert indicating that you don’t have enough currency in your account to pick them up.  You’re then re-routed to another screen, where you have to check your credit card information, make the purchase, and then wait for the transaction to clear.  Considering the impatience of most gamers these days (who doesn’t just want to get in there and play games?), this can be a rather unnecessary step.

Buying What You Need, When You Need It

Another problem with pre-set points purchases is that you’re required to set aside a pre-set point value when you buy them.  You can’t buy just the right amount of points that you need in order to get what you want.  Instead, you’re forced to buy a certain amount, be it 400 Microsoft points ($5), 800 Microsoft points ($10) and so on.  Sure, that covers your purchase, but what about the leftover points?  Once you’re done buying, they merely linger on your account until you’re ready to buy something else.

With a direct purchase plan, you buy what you need, exactly when you need it, and don’t need to worry about spending excess cash on points that won’t be used right away.  You’ll see the total of your transaction, approve the sale, and be on your merry little way to downloading what it is that you want, without any additional value hanging over the side.  It’s simpler, and saves you money in the long run.  And hey, when you want to make the next purchase, you just go right back into the process without having to worry about spending that extra couple of dollars just to get the right point value.

Okay, so we get the right idea of what works in favor of this program.  But what works against it?  Well, some big factors, actually.  Here’s the argument against removing the Points program…

Authorization Problems

Let’s say that you’ve got a purchase in mind on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and your credit card is ready to go.  But, knowing how credit cards can be iffy these days (damn financial institutions), you can easily run into a problem with your purchase, mainly when it comes to authorization.  As a result, the purchase can’t be verified, and you’re left locked out from getting what you want.  Now, with the points program, your points are already verified, so you don’t need to worry about that extra step in being verified.  It’s a little simpler, just as long as no one else is tapping into your account to make unnecessary purchases.

Security Issues

Online security with credit cards is a bigger issue than ever before.  Just take a look at what happened with the PlayStation Network last summer when some hackers were able to bring down the network for more than a month, putting credit card information at risk – despite what Sony had to say on the matter.  And though Xbox Live is certainly more secure, there are slight issues that can easily bring security into question, mainly what’s been happening with the FIFA Soccer 12 hacks.

By purchasing points in stores, players are able to keep their credit card information off-line, while using the optional currency system to buy what they want and link it to their account, so even if something does happen and a hack takes place, their history is kept intact, so they can either re-download it or show justifiable means that they shouldn’t be charged again.  Buying the same assets with a credit card, they might need to produce an online receipt through their bank to prove their purchase – an extra hurdle if there ever was one.

So, you see, when it comes to discussing both sides of the matter, there’s more than enough reason to argue keeping or removing the Microsoft points system.  One side points to simplicity, while another talks about the security and welfare of one’s credit card information.  Either way, there are viable points to each argument, and it’s something Microsoft should take into heavy consideration before they decide to do away with the system entirely later this year.  Let’s see which way they lean…

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Robert Workman
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