Microsoft Points: A broken marketplace system

Those close to me know that I'm no fan of Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft has done very little that I'm proud of. Often, my hatred of the company is often associated with my love for Apple, Inc and I'm simply accused to being to much of an Apple Fanboy. Now I recently bought an Xbox 360, which I think is proof that if Microsoft can do something right, I'll give them a chance. So far I've been very impressed with the 360 hardware and even the software that operates the device. I was utterly happy until Microsoft Points came into the picture.

For those who aren't owners or 360s or simply don't use the box for anything other than playing the games purchased in a store, Microsoft has implemented something they call the Xbox Live Marketplace. This online store allows users of the service to purchase and download content such as game demos, complete arcade games, television shows, movies, and themes. The problem is that unlike Apple's iTunes Store, Microsoft decided they'd shy away from actual cash transactions and thought it was somehow a good idea to move to a completely obscure points system.

In theory, A points system would be ok if there was an easy way to calculate the dollar amount of a purchase on their site. However this is not the case. Unlike an arcade where a token is equivalent to one quarter, one Microsoft point is equivalent to one and a quarter cents. Let's move on from this though, one can argue that a price by any other name still costs as much. The real problem with the system is in the purchasing.

Microsoft points are only available in increments of 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000 from their website and increments of 1600 and 4000 in retail stores. Here in lies the main problem. After playing the demo for Geometry Wars, I decided I would purchase the full unlocked game, which requires 400 points. So, if I want this game, which is all I want, I have to spend $6.75 to buy 500 points to purchase a 400 point game. If you're bad at math that leaves me with 100 extra points or a wasted $1.25. This is annoying because you can't buy any games for 100 points. I think I could buy tip a tip video for the game I've already beaten, but nothing worth it. Astonishingly, this isn't the worst part.

I finally said screw it and decided to buy the 500 points so I could play my game. I logged in, selected the 500 point package, selected my already confirmed credit card they had on file (you know the one I used to purchase the 3 months of Xbox Live from an hour earlier), and clicked the confirm purchase button. After a moment it gave me back an error. "That's strange" I thought. I wondered if Microsoft was worse than I imagined and forced you to buy the $20 package to start things off, so I click on it. Once again I received an error. Well, I said screw it and just settled for playing more demos all night.

Well the next day, I went out for my lunch break at work. At the register, I attempted to pay with my VISA Check Card. Blamo! Denied. "Do you have another card sir?" the woman behind the counter said. I told her no, she tried it again, and in the end I had to cancel my order. Quite upset and a little embarrassed (to have my card rejected in line at a Del Taco), I walked out to my car pulled out my phone and called my card provider. To make a long story short MY BANK PUT A HOLD ON MY CARD BECAUSE I ATTEMPTED TO MAKE A PURCHASE FROM MICROSOFT'S POINTS SITE.

What the hell? Are you telling me that besides making a stupid, obscure, customer screwing points system for their Xbox Live Marketplace, Microsoft didn't even bother to make sure their service was flagged as a legitimate site by all major banks and credit card providers? What the hell indeed. Oh, and since I cannot add points to my account with my check card without it having a hold placed on it, I had to purchase my points from a retail store which only sold it in the 1600 points for $20 package. Which, again, means buying $15 worth of points I didn't want. Congratulations Microsoft, you've managed to tarnish the one thing that I thought you had done right.

posted by Christopher Schnese