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This article was published on October 9, 2012

Microsoft fumbles on Points, encapsulating why it’s such a frustrating company

Microsoft fumbles on Points, encapsulating why it’s such a frustrating company
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

Note: All bolding added today, after the fact, by you humble servant.

The writing has been on the wall for Microsoft Points at least since January. In that month, TNW reported the following:

It has been suggested that by the end of 2012, Microsoft will force all transactions to be based on the region set within a user’s purchasing account, requiring Windows Phone owners to purchase apps and games using their credit or debit cards.

Count to ten, scroll to moments later in that month, at which point TNW pointed out how great the coming change to an all-local-currency model would be, for both consumers, and Microsoft’s increasingly unified platforms:

Microsoft Points, in use on the Xbox, Windows Phone, and Zune platforms have always been a bad idea. By forcing the conversion of currency into point units, Microsoft created a desperately odd system that confused users and developers alike; jokes that involve Microsoft Points are a staple on sites such as Reddit that are made up of gamers and the technologically savvy. No one will bemoan their passage.

However, by removing them entirely, Microsoft is clearing the pathway for a very important unification: the coming together of app sales on every single platform that it operates. Windows 8, which will contain the Windows Store, is a radical step for Microsoft, a company that dominates the sales of ‘software in a box.’ Digital distribution of software, through Microsoft channels, is its strategy, but until now it has been a disjointed affair.

I could rewrite all of this for you, but I very much want to point out how not new this story is. You will see why shortly.

Now, to August. TNW, take it away:

Big news in Xbox land: Items in the Xbox Live Marketplace recently showed up in non-Points denominations. Or, for a short period of time it looked like you could buy digital stuff for your Xbox using regular money, instead of Microsoft Points. Points are a hassle to use, making it hard to calculate what a purchase actually costs, and leave users with remainder currency that just sits.

However, according to GamesIndustry, Microsoft is pretending that the episode didn’t matter at all.

As far as accidents go, that was quite the doozy. I’m utterly sure that it was an ‘accident’ that local currency support was coded up for Xbox at all and then pushed live. Maybe Sony was behind it!

Now, to TNW’s October coverage:

Microsoft’s often misunderstood digital currency ‘Microsoft Points’ may soon be dropped from the company’s growing number of media services, after it was revealed that it has been dropped in favor of cash values in Windows 8.

The Verge reports that Microsoft is now showing cash values next to music downloads and movie rentals in its default Windows 8 applications, dropping the Points currency, which often confused users as they tried to work out just how much a digital item would cost them.

Hot damn! Microsoft is moving Windows 8 to local currency support, and we have heard persistent rumors, and seen in the damn wild that Xbox will too be dropping Microsoft Points. I guess, you know, that Microsoft Points are over, right?

We return The Verge, actually, and their confirmation today from Microsoft that contains two key points:

The software giant has now confirmed the change to us, revealing that local currency will be the primary method in Windows 8 to purchase and access Xbox content. “Current Xbox Live customers may also make a purchase using points,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.

Microsoft Points continue to be the currency for purchasing content for the Xbox 360 console,” a spokesperson tells us.

So, Points on your Xbox, and dollars on your Surface. Damn it, Microsoft.

The purchasing of some Xbox content on the Windows 8 platform using one payment system, and another on the an Xbox console, is confusing. It’s also wrongheaded, odd bad product design, and generally annoying.

Here’s the key part, however, as Tom notes: “It seems like a confusing move for end users, but the end of Microsoft Points is certainly closer than ever before.”

Why is that so annoying? Because we all know that this is going to happen. Microsoft Points are over. However, Microsoft, which knows full well that we know that Microsoft Points are dead, and even knows that we know that it knows that we know, is still parading around as if nothing is going to change. It’s stunningly ridiculous.

The cat jumped the bag in January, Redmond.

As the quotes in this post demonstrate, TNW alone has spilled a pint of ink on this issue over the last 10 months. Microsoft, instead of providing guidance, and a roadmap for its users – to at least explain the temporary pain of the payment getup it apparently intends to use – is saying diddly.


Top Image Credit: Stefan Kloo

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