Microsoft Points—the virtual currency nobody asked for—may finally be on the way out. Currently users of the Xbox Live and Zune Marketplaces, as well as Windows Phone owners looking to make in-app purchases, are subjected to Microsoft’s own brand currency but that could all be set to change with Inside Mobile Apps reporting that the Redmond giant plans to move to a completely cash-based system by the end of the year.
Microsoft’s quasi-money has earned the ire of many of its users—and not without good reason. The points never translated directly into ‘real’ money, which obfuscated prices and Microsoft’s policy of forcing customers to purchase points in fixed allotments frequently left non-refundable, useless ‘change’ in a user’s account. Fundamentally, it seems the system wasn’t designed with anything resembling customer satisfaction in mind. Rather than something like the Steam Wallet, which stores money in real dollars/pounds/euros and allows users to combine payment options to pay exactly the required amount, Microsoft opted to minimise potential transaction fees and maximise the amount of ‘unspent’, but unrecoverable, money in their possession with purchasable units of arbitrary values.
The rumoured change to cash-based payments would be a slow, but nonetheless very welcome, adoption of what is relatively common practice across the digital distribution platforms of Microsoft’s competitors in the music, gaming and smartphone arenas. All that remains now is for Bioware to ditch their own ridiculous version of this system, and the gaming world will be a significantly better place for gaming consumers everywhere.