/ Money, Shopping, Technology

Microsoft Points – don’t get rid of this virtual currency

Chocolate money

Along with rumours about the next Xbox’s capabilities, another emerged about the way we buy content on the Xbox 360 and other Microsoft devices. It could soon scrap its virtual currency system; Microsoft Points.

The website Inside Mobile Apps last week reported that Microsoft was considering replacing its arbitrary Microsoft Points payment system with local currencies.

For those who haven’t come across them before, Microsoft Points are the company’s own virtual currency, bought by users to purchase online content like games, films and music.

If the rumour is to be believed, all transactions on Xbox LIVE and the Windows Phone Marketplace will be converted to real money by the end of 2012.

So, should we be celebrating the reported death of Microsoft Points? I’m not so sure.

Real or virtual currency

The most vocal argument against Microsoft’s points is that they mask the actual retail price. Pricing something at ‘800 points’ might seem a little abstract, but to me it’s much like tourists getting used to converting their home currency into sterling. Once you get over the hurdle of doing such a quick calculation, Microsoft Points soon lose their mystery.

In fact, without Microsoft’s point system we may see a rise in the cost of our content. As an example, most Xbox Live Arcade games tend to launch at either 800 or 1200 points. Take the recent horror game Amy. It launched at 800 point, which works out at around £6.86. The same title on the PlayStation Network is priced at £7.99.

So without Microsoft Points we can probably assume that Amy won’t be priced at the untidy £6.86. And the cynic in me doesn’t see that price being rounded down…

Another benefit of Microsoft Points is that you can buy points cards from retailers at a discounted price. I’ve certainly made a fair saving over the years by purchasing these cards, and I would be sad to see them go (not to mention worse off).

Left over Microsoft Points

The only issue I really have with Microsoft Points is the inevitable last few hundred that linger in my account. I currently have 140 sitting there, which are good for nothing until I add some more funds.

You might say that introducing a flat currency would remove this problem, but I’m fairly confident that we would see a similar system to the PlayStation Network, which has a minimum deposit of £5. Sony’s sytem also leaves wasted funds in your account, even though it’s in real local currencies. Let me pay the exact amount for the content I want, and I’ll be happy.

At this time, Microsoft is not confirming or denying the rumours, so we’ll have to play the waiting game before we know whether its points system will be phased out. As for me, I’ve become quite attached to this little piece of Microsoft history, and I fear that its replacement could be far less beneficial than you might hope.