I can’t exactly explain it, but somehow Microsoft’s approach to buying things on XBox Live feels weird to me.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the on-line commerce systems used by Sony with the Playstaton Network, and Microsoft with XBox live, here is a brief introduction:
Each company provides an internet-based network through which consoles can connect to each other to utilize multiplayer gaming modes, exchange messages, utilize content delivery systems such as Hulu and Netflix streaming. Both networks offer both free and paid versions, and they both allow console users to purchase games, add-ons, and various other content such as movies, and decorations like themes and avatars to customize your user experience.
For purchases, both networks allow the user to store a credit card number to cover payments. The difference is that Microsoft’s XBox Live network doesn’t use regular currency for transactions, but rather uses MS Points. I suppose it makes sense from a global sales perspective, since MS can simply set a single price anywhere in the world, which is good across any currency, then just change the price of the points depending on where they are sold.
Thing is, I don’t really like that. Part of it that the value of a single MS Point doesn’t really compute for me. At the moment, the smallest quantity of points that Microsoft offers on XBox live is 400 points, for which they will charge you $4.99US. Okay, so some Quick arithmetic tells me that a single MS Point costs about 1.25 cents when purchased in a quantity of 400.
Looking at the menu of options that appears when you are looking to add points to your account, a rather unexpected pattern emerges. Like I said, a 400 point block costs $4.99. An 800 point block costs $9.99, and a 1600 point block costs $19.99.
Hmm, time for some more arithmetic…
I’m not going to compute the cost of a single MS point out to several decimal places, I’m going to come at this from another direction:
2 400 point blocks at $4.99 each comes to a total of $9.98 for 800 points
4 400 point blocks at $4.99 each comes to a total of $19.96 for 1600 points.
Again, a single block of 800 points costs $9.99, and a single block of 1600 points costs $19.99.
That’s right. It is a miniscule amount, but the more points you buy at once, the more expensive they actually are!
This holds true all the way up to the biggest block available on the menu: 6000 points for $74.99. The math here:
15 blocks of 400 points at $4.99 each comes to $74.85
That just seems bizarre to me. Maybe it’s because I live near a Costco, and I’m pretty sure I once read the phrase “Economy of scale”, which I’m pretty sure means that things get cheaper the more you buy at once. I dunno, Mrs. Zennmaster owns a lovely new-and-used bookstore, and for her it’s certainly less expensive to run a credit card once for a big sale than it is to run it 15 times for the same total amount. Then again, they’re Microsoft, so maybe credit card processing is fundamentally different on their planet.
Anyway, the other thing that’s weird about “spending” points is that it seems that “points” should kind of have their own economy, separate and distinct from the regular “Dollars-and-cents” economy. Airline miles, retail reward points, loyalty points, these are all things that can be redeemed, but they are also things that can be traded and earned separately. I guess it just seems to me that MS Points should be the same way, although it generally isn’t.
Now, having said that, I wasn’t quite ready to completely play ball. Feeling like you’re beating the system is, of course, a sweet sensation, and buying points in the smallest possible blocks does add a little bit of fun. However, I was still determined to figure out a way to get points without racking up a huge American Express bill.
So I did some Googling, and discovered that there were in fact a number of offers out there on the internet that promised huge amounts of MS Points for completing various offers, most of which required buying something. (this reminds me of the time Mrs. Zennmaster bought me a couple of pounds of nice coffee as part of her quest to get a “free” Coach bag, which, had she completed all 6 offers, would have cost her about as much as the bag. Of course, we would also have had some nice coffee and a bunch of other stuff)
I actually did finally find a method for scooping some free MS Points, and it only required a little fine-tuning to get it to where I am not getting a lot of spam, and every couple of weeks or so I can order up another block of MS points.
I don’t really like to do a lot of advertising in this blog, but If you look at the bottom of the right-hand column, you’ll find a link to the Points2shop.com sign-up page, and here’s a link to a video explaining my personal method for generating points that can be traded for MS Points, or, for that matter, anything at all from Amazon.com.
Now, here are a couple of caveats:
If I were to apply my hourly wage to the time it takes me to actually earn enough points to snag a block of MS Points, I would definitely be behind. The problem is, I don’t get to add another hour here and there to my work days, so it doesn’t really matter.
I also adhere strictly to the rule that I will only work on this when I have nothing better to do (Like play games!).
Being that this system does in fact involve some effort, it can’t be fairly said that the points are in fact free, but I would actually rather put in a little work and not have to play Microsoft’s silly little game.
I’ll play a completely different silly little game…