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The Almighty Buck Games

The Psychology of Steam Wallet & Microsoft Points 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the nickels-and-dimes dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Ever bought something from Xbox Live Arcade? The first time, you may have been a bit bamboozled by the process because Microsoft doesn't just let you put $15 on your credit card to buy a new game; purchases are done in 'Microsoft Points' that you deposit into a virtual wallet and you use the points to buy stuff. 'Gamers possessed of equal parts suspicion and curiosity may wonder why our gaming overlords adopted such a strange system instead of just letting us pay real money for our purchases,' writes game psychologist James Madigan. He says the real reason for Microsoft Points is that sometimes you are going to have some points left over in your account. Leaving money on the table or in your Xbox Live account makes most of us a bit uncomfortable (PDF) because it feels wasteful. 'It's similar to overeating at a buffet or doubling your paper towel use after buying the 124 roll jumbo pack,' says Madigan. 'Even though you could just let those paper towels or Nintendo Points sit there until you have a good reason to use them, spending real money on something else seems wasteful.' And Microsoft isn't the only one – Sony and Nintendo have similar systems, and Valve has even rolled out a 'Steam Wallet' for in-game microtransactions."
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The Psychology of Steam Wallet & Microsoft Points

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  • Not to mention (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hermanas (1665329) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:35AM (#36080670)
    The extra money lying around in their bank accounts, while not spent by the customer, could earn them millions in interest.
    • by sgbett (739519)

      This is the number one reason for doing it imho. The psychology part is a nice, but the 20million users who all paid, say, an extra $5 more than they would if they could buy things for the dollar price, is far more interesting to shareholders.

      • by Cinder6 (894572)

        I would be curious to see a study on which type of payment system nets more profit - points or real money. Anecdotal and all, but for myself, I cannot stand the MS points (or Nintendo points) systems. It's related to the psychology aspect, but in reverse--I hate knowing that I'll have points left over, and I don't want to spend any more money. So I already feel robbed for having to pay extra in the first place, and then that extra just sits there. There's also an aspect where I feel like MS is being dis

      • The reason that companies do this isn't to take advantage of some sort of psychological compulsive need to use up points. It is so that when they sell a game in 15 differing countries with 15 differing currencies their pricing doesn't look like some sort of nightmarish stock exchange. The point cost for a title is fixed across all countries and currencies, and the cost of buying cards or points can be floated against the current exchange rate.

        I'm sure that some people will compulsively try to maximize th
    • I typically buy a $50 (4000MP) card at my local brick & mortar store and the throw the points on my console... I don't see how that would really help MS gain interest on my purchase.

      I do this for 2 reasons:
      1. 1. Using a points card means I don't have to have a CC associated with my online account
      2. 2. I can more easily keep track of my spending, if I'm limit myself to buying say 1 card every 6 months then when I'm low on points I'm less likely to make impulse purchases since I can't just add more points fr
      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        Honestly I really don't give a sh*t if someone is making interest on my $50... it's worth what? a few pennies TOPS. Good for them if they're smart enough to leverage that advantage, at least they're putting that money to better use than anything I'm doing with it (buying virtual garbage).

        And that is the attitude that lets biggest swindlers of all times in financial world net billions. And who could blame them - the true responsibility SHOULD lie with people who pack this attitude.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          I buy points cards and prepaid cards for one simple reason - they go on SALE.

          When I can get a "free" 25% discount by buying a $20 points card for $15, it's a net win to me. Ditto Xbox Live Gold membership - regular price $60, discounted price $50 without looking too hard. Hell, Microsoft even runs Live Gold specials from time to time. But Dell, Amazon, etc., they often have tons of sales on the stuff.

          Also, I don't see leftovers being a huge win for Microsoft in the end - firstly, getting stuck with over 100

      • I typically buy a $50 (4000MP) card at my local brick & mortar store and the throw the points on my console... I don't see how that would really help MS gain interest on my purchase.

        Did Microsoft give your local store the card for free, and say "If you sell it, just keep the $50?" That's how they get interest even from you. If something costs $10, and you pay $10 on the spot for it via credit card, then they get the money as you need to spend it. By selling pre-paid cards to stores and pre-selling others points they collect the money earlier in the process, which yes, could earn interest.

        They would accordingly earn less interest if they just sold you stuff on "credit", and mailed yo

    • by Obyron (615547)
      I'm not sure it works that way. I don't think XBL points are like the gold standard. I mean, you pay $20USD for however many points-- say 500 (Totally made up numbers here, but $0.04 USD per point). The transaction is done at that point, and Microsoft banks the cash, even if you don't spend your points for six months. It's not like you buy your premium horse armor for 415 points, but Microsoft still has to keep $3.40 in escrow to cover the "value" of your unspent points.

      In my opinion the number one reaso
      • I'm not sure it works that way. I don't think XBL points are like the gold standard. I mean, you pay $20USD for 1600 points ($0.80 USD per point). The transaction is done at that point, and Microsoft banks the cash, even if you don't spend your points for six months. It's not like you buy your premium horse armor for 200 points, but Microsoft still has to keep $17.50 in escrow to cover the "value" of your unspent points.

        In my opinion the number one reason to do this is to decouple the idea of physical value from points. You don't have $17.50 in your XBL wallet, you have 1400 points, and when you spend those 1400 points to buy some pretty pixels on your screen you're not thinking about the fact that it was once $17.50. The second reason is exactly so they DON'T have to do what you're saying-- have fractional portions of a customer's unspent money laying around. If you still have $17.50 in your account at some point and you stop playing XBL, you're going to try to finagle a refund. When you have 1400 Points it's easier for you to let go, because you're already been separated from the idea of it having physical value. The third big reason is that it allows a microtransaction model without paying tons of credit car processing fees. They'd rather sell you 1000 points up front even if you only spend them 100 at a time, rather than pay 10 times the processing fees using credit cards up front for every purchase.

        FTFY

        However, the problem is also that the point values that games and things aren't always round amounts. Some amounts are easy to figure out how they map to real world money, such as:
        80 - $1.00
        200 - $2.50
        400 - $5
        800 - $10
        1200 - $15
        1600 - $20
        2000 - $25

        But then, every so often, you have something thrown in at some in-between price.

        However, there's one other significant niggle here:

        The more expensive items on Xbox Live (the "Games on Demand" store section) are listed in dollars, and you cannot spend MS Point

      • by Golddess (1361003)

        The transaction is done at that point

        From your perspective and Microsoft's, yes. Not from the perspective of non-MS developer's/publisher's though.

        It's not like you buy your premium horse armor for 415 points, but Microsoft still has to keep $3.40 in escrow to cover the "value" of your unspent points.

        But if 6 months down the line you then buy some 85 point item from a non-MS developer/publisher, MS does have to give that remaining $3.40 (or some fraction thereof) to that developer/publisher. So in a sense, they do need to keep it "in escrow", since they need to be able to pay the non-MS developer/publisher you bought your item from.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      could earn them millions in interest.

      Yeah - hey wait, have you seen what banks are paying in interest lately? I think even Berkshire Hathaway would be hard pressed to earn "millions in interest" from a bank account. Especially when you deduct all those fees banks like to charge for the difficult task of having to hold your money. You could possibly earn millions from bonds if you had enough capital, but now you have introduced an element of risk...

      • by metacell (523607)

        Well, even if you don't actually put it in the bank, you can earn money from having capital at your disposal.

        For example, a firm that's taking deposits from their customers can use them to...

        * Pay back some of their bank loans, so they need to pay less interest to the bank
        * Stock their inventory so they can sell more
        * Invest in a machine which makes their work more efficient ... and so on.

        It's not negligible. The gain may only be a small percentage of the total deposits, but since it's easy to keep deposits

        • by Dunbal (464142) *

          I understand that - but I think Hermanas was forgetting the significance of a 0-.25% interest rate. When I was younger, you could easily get a 13% interest rate on a savings account. Inflation was around 10% or so. That meant that you were about 3% ahead of inflation. Today, inflation is (supposedly) around 3% (but probably more), you are lucky to get 1% interest on a savings account, so you actually LOSE money by keeping cash lying around. Without considering bank fees at all.

          Of course this is by design.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Indeed, and they refuse to let you have your money back. I ended up reporting their fraudulent points program to the Attorney General's office because not only do they require you to buy points, but they won't sell them to you in just the increments necessary to make a purchase and carry differing sizes of bundles between their store sites. That has presumably changed, but the whole system was set up in such a way that the consumer is unable to buy just one thing in many cases without overpaying.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:37AM (#36080684)

    The psychology is great, but a more simple explanation is that you have to pick a currency to price things in. Why not a virtual one rather than a real one? I can't imagine Americans tolerating Euro prices or vice versa. This way, everything's priced in points and we're happy.

    • by Xest (935314)

      Yes, we've been through this whole Microsoft points thing here previously about 10 times, and as I pointed out then the cost of Microsoft points means purchases made in currencies such as the British pound are, depending on exchange rates, sometimes even better than the US pricing, but generally fairly close.

      This is far better than online stores that use real money and charge the same numeric value in pounds as they do dollars which can be a 60% or more hike in price for those of us in the UK.

      Whatever you t

      • currency variations can be dealt with in-shop. Apple charges $1 for US based app-buys, while us europeans pay €0,79 for the same app

        same goes for the android store

        • by delinear (991444)
          Not only that, MS also price their "Games on Demand" in real currency, not MS points (at least they do here in the UK, I assume it's the same everywhere), so they're already having to deal with currency variations and accepting payments in different currencies, so MS points does nothing to solve that. No, I think the OP has it right, this is about making people more comfortable with leaving their money in the accounts of these companies.
          • by Moryath (553296)

            Another factor: Credit card transaction fees can be ridiculously high.

            Ever gone to a Chinese restaurant and seen "minimum credit card purchase: $20" on a sign? Guess why - they're being charged $4 or more per transaction, if you buy a $10 lunch, they just lost money after the credit card company takes their bite.

            So you can understand why Microsoft, Steam, et al would want to do it similarly. They may have negotiated a lower transaction fee through large-house power, but the Visa/Monstercard monopoly is a mo

            • Guess why - they're being charged $4 or more per transaction

              No they're not. They're probably being charged something along the lines of $0.30 + 3% of the transaction amount. So for a $10 lunch that would be more along the lines of $0.60. Still a pretty large chunk of change but it's nowhere near several dollars for a transaction that small.

              • Stop talking out of your ass.

                Large retail chains, or even some larger independant stores, will get those sorts of fees. I've personally negotiated a 2% flat fee with our processor because we do millions in CC transactions every year.

                Now, thats here, in North America. Its fairly normal across the continent, excepting a few places.

                Those places often get nailed with flat fees of $1.50+ per transaction, plus 3-5%. I can easily imagine it being much higher in China as the worst place I've personally seen here th

                • Atleast in India, most CC transactions are charged at 2%, and thats for small shops which make maybe 10-15 transactions a month

                  • by jedidiah (1196)

                    3% or 5% is many businesses is still enough to make accepting credit cards more trouble than they are worth.

                    You simply don't have to make up bogus large numbers in order to scare people. The real numbers are suitably bad.

                    Some establishments will even go so far and violate the merchant agreement and charge you the processing fee so they don't have to absorb it.

                • by hedwards (940851)

                  No, he's correct, and any store that posts such minimums for service is in violation of their agreement with the Visa or Mastercard. The GGP wasn't referring to a Chineses restaurant in China, those places are unlikely to take credit at all, but in the US presumably. And they don't get charged that much in terms of processing fees.

            • Another factor: Credit card transaction fees can be ridiculously high.

              Ever gone to a Chinese restaurant and seen "minimum credit card purchase: $20" on a sign? Guess why - they're being charged $4 or more per transaction, if you buy a $10 lunch, they just lost money after the credit card company takes their bite.

              So you can understand why Microsoft, Steam, et al would want to do it similarly. They may have negotiated a lower transaction fee through large-house power, but the Visa/Monstercard monopoly is a monopoly even worse than MS, and even if they got the fee down to $1 per transaction, $1 times millions of transactions still = Millions of Dollars.

              $10 is a more common minimum where I go, but no, they are not charged $4 or more per transaction. There's a small (usually 25 cents or less in America) transaction fee, plus a percentage of the total bill. Specifically, restaurants get a lower percentage, by nature of the lower number of chargebacks, and the fact that every card is typically swiped, not keyed in. That's why in urban areas, restaurant deliverymen typically bring a carbon receipt and swipe your card, it's because of the agreement between rest

        • by Xest (935314)

          I know they can be, but quite often they're not, and rarely are they ever to a fair extent and that's the fundamental point. At current exchange rates you're still paying â0.10 euros more per app than Americans, when the dollar was even weaker and the euro stronger that was exagerated even more greatly. My point is that historically Microsoft has been very very good at minimising exchange rate differences using Microsoft points- more so than stores that just change currencies to suit, which, for some g

          • by DrXym (126579)
            If Microsoft have been fairer with exchange rates (and I'll take your word for it), that is in spite of using points. Points are just another layer of opacity that is intended to confuse users and break the association between a purchase and how much it would cost in real world money.

            It's easier to figure out if you're being ripped off if the price a service charges is in real world money. You can draw comparison to the price on Amazon, or even compare prices to another region. It's not easy at all to do

            • by Xest (935314)

              As I say I don't disagree that those things can happen, just that in 5 years they haven't, which is a pretty decent track record.

              I don't find it too hard understanding how much I'm paying for things with Microsoft points, you know how much you bought them for in your local currency, and with fixed price points on most things you buy like XBLA games of 400, 800 and 1200 points it's not hard to divide up your points and get a rough idea of how much you're paying although I fully accept some people aren't savv

    • by meist3r (1061628)

      I can't imagine Americans tolerating Euro prices or vice versa. This way, everything's priced in points and we're happy.

      I'd very much tolerate USD prices since it's usually cheaper. I buy all my physical video games from the UK because the conversion rate saves me about 20-30% for new games (Portal 2 Xbox360 - German Amazon 55€ - UK Amazon 42€) even after the German VAT is added. Also I don't have to deal with the terrible dubbed versions. If the points were any cheaper to set off the differences I'd be ok but that's not the case. 2000 MSP cost about 25USD (17€) as far as I know. In Germany 2000MSP cost 24

      • by binkzz (779594)

        I can't imagine Americans tolerating Euro prices or vice versa. This way, everything's priced in points and we're happy.

        I'd very much tolerate USD prices since it's usually cheaper. I buy all my physical video games from the UK because the conversion rate saves me about 20-30% for new games (Portal 2 Xbox360 - German Amazon 55â - UK Amazon 42â) even after the German VAT is added. Also I don't have to deal with the terrible dubbed versions. If the points were any cheaper to set off the differences

    • by Aladrin (926209)

      Most services already show prices in local currency anyhow. This is above and beyond that.

    • Exactly: I don't see this as having to be a big complicated conspiracy theory. I'm sure they are trying to cash in on a psychological phenomenon as well as solve the problem of which universal currency to use. However, a little self control on the part of the consumer completely negates the problem. Be okay with having a little bit of money left over in your account for another future purchase. Yes they probably use it as capital, but it's not like you were going to make that much money off of 2-3 dollars,

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:37AM (#36080686)
    I hate any system where you can buy "points" but have no way of changing points back to money. Thye know that they are on to a good thing - either you spend it, which often means adding more, or you leave it as a zero-interest loan to them (which also falls outside any financial regulations or compensation schemes should they go bust).
    • by sosume (680416)

      I absolutely refuse to buy any virtual currency. If that's the way they want to do business, then there will be no business at all.
      This raises the question, which is more: the extra points spent on rubbish purchases, or the loss in potential revenue from
      customers who do not participate in such transactions?

      In the end, I will buy my games in the local shop, and then transfer them to Steam.

      But most on /. already know that marketing is one of the greatest evils ever.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Short of silly useless crap like DLC and a new cyber hat for your cyber avatar you do not need to spend money on their fake money. all the good games in the "arcade" section are available 6 months later on a Disc at EB games.

    • by weicco (645927)

      I hate any system where you can buy "points" but have no way of changing points back to money.

      It would be a great way to avoid inflation. And you could use it for currency trade, buy in euros, sell in dollars (or something like that).

    • To be fair, inflation seems to occur on the money->points side not the points->games side, meaning it's inflation immune.

    • I hate any system where you can buy "points" but have no way of changing points back to money. Thye know that they are on to a good thing - either you spend it, which often means adding more, or you leave it as a zero-interest loan to them (which also falls outside any financial regulations or compensation schemes should they go bust).

      Point taken -- However, MS does (or at least they did when I did it) let you link your credit card to your XBL account. Thus, you can complain to your credit card company about undelivered product, and have the charges removed -- I wonder if digital goods are covered under the purchase insurance?

      I'd like to offer another POV: It's nice to allow kids without bank accounts or credit cards to spend their allowance on MS points & XBL subscriptions so they are not excluded from the online world (which i

    • by Solandri (704621)

      I hate any system where you can buy "points" but have no way of changing points back to money.

      While I agree that points systems are mostly a psychological scam to get people to spend more money, there actually is one good reason for not letting you change points back to money. Many places have laws restricting or prohibiting online gambling. If a system worked on dollars or euros or whatever, and let you play a minigame where you could win or lose money, suddenly it's gambling and subject to a whole bunc

  • I disagree. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tei (520358) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:38AM (#36080698) Journal

    Lets suppose you have a website that sell Second Life avatars. You want a avatar to cost 0.30 $, but the credit card 'tax' is 0.20 $. And people buy maybe 20 in a year.
    What you can do, is to make so the user buy 30 "points" paying 10 $. And make so every new avatar cost 1 point. You are still paying 0.20$ to the credit card company, but only once. With the other option you pay 0.20 * 20 = 4 $. So is paying 0.20 $ versus paying 4.00 $. Is really better to run with points.

    Also, is also better for the user, so he do only one transaction, and from there, he don't have to enter his credit card details. ..that can be annoying.

    • Re:I disagree. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:45AM (#36080724) Homepage Journal

      What you're describing is basically a prepayment system. Replace avatar with phone call and you have a situation that's been in use for years. Yet the phone companies, retarded though they are, seem to able to cope without resorting to points or similar silliness; they just account for your credit in units of cash.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      The same benefit could be more easily attained by post-charging on, say, a yearly basis.

      IMHO, the key here is two-fold; Batch purchases (part of which will likely not be spent immediately or at all) and a cognitive inability to consider virtual money as having real value.

      • If you post-charge then you have the issue of high fee percentages for those customers who didn't buy much that year. You also have all the costs of actually getting people to pay (This is especially true for anyone who relies on a third party payment gateway and hence can't easilly collect credit card details first and charge them later)

    • The main problem is that they only let you buy points in certain quantities, and then make sure that you always end up with leftovers

      If something costs 190 points, you can bet on it that you won't be able to buy exactly 190 points, you'll always have some leftovers.

      I think people wouldn't mind the system if you could just buy the exact number of points they want to make their purchases, but you'll never be able to.

      It's a small detail that the summary left out, that makes the system work, and that it annoys

      • by Tei (520358)

        If you allow people to buy 1 point, it don't work.

        Anyway allow people to buy 5, 10, 20 and 100 points still work. But not as good as only allowing people to buy 50 points.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Lets suppose you have a website that sell Second Life avatars.

      Wait, let me kill myself first.

  • I am in the process of selling my Wii and thus had to format the memory, back up my savegames and also remove my WiiWare shop account. I realized while doing this that I still "own" 400 points. The least expensive purchases in the Wiiware store are 500 points so I couldn't use those points no matter what without forking over some more cash. Is there a real life equivalent where a company can take my money, convert it into some fantasy credits system and refuse to pay out the excess once I close the account?
    • buying beer coins at a festival/concert?

      I never really tried this, but i could see the organisation refusing to buy back unspent coins

      • buying beer coins at a festival/concert?

        I never really tried this, but i could see the organisation refusing to buy back unspent coins

        I have been to a lot of music festivals, and no, they usually don't. I still prefer tokens as opposed to cash for a few reasons:

        The queues go a lot faster when the staff don't have to bother with change, and everyone has the "correct" amount. It *really* makes a difference, and it has a huge effect on your enjoyment.

        I can keep my wallet somewhere safe, and only keep tokens on my person. This is safer when I am in huge crowds all the time, usually in various states of inebriety.

        Outlets for tokens are usually

    • It obviously vary by country, but I think prepaid phone systems have that policy of not wanting to return your cash. If you dump your money, they are gone.
      One reason for not paying back (MS points in this case, as i'm most familiar with those), is that the exchange rate varies a lot, depending where you buy them. Sometimes they are even giving them away (in retail games etc). So they don't have one distinct value, and not all the money go to MS.

      • by delinear (991444)
        They could mitigate it by allowing points or purchases to be transferred. That way if you want to leave the system you can sell the points on to a third party. The danger there is someone sets up a company allowing micro-transactions of less than the minimum points spend and they manage this by grouping payments up so the games company is only getting the amount of the purchase and doesn't have a slush of currency sitting in their account earning interest, for that reason I doubt we'll ever see this happen.
      • by js_sebastian (946118) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @08:04AM (#36081120)

        It obviously vary by country, but I think prepaid phone systems have that policy of not wanting to return your cash. If you dump your money, they are gone.

        In Italy the cell-phone companies have been forced to treat money in your prepaid account as real money a few years ago. This means that:

        a) they cannot charge you extra money for recharging your account. If you pay 30 euros to get 25 euros credit, that means you end up paying your minutes more than the advertised rates. Not allowed.

        b) they have to give you any leftover money back when they close the account.

        c) they cannot in practice do promotions where you get free credit with restrictive conditions (as in "Get 100 euros* of credit with your new account". *only valid for calls done on february 29th and lasting between 13 and 14 minutes). Of course, they can and do use some kind of point system for that as well, but they're not allowed to mislead you by calling it money anymore.

  • by pinkushun (1467193) * on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:55AM (#36080762) Journal

    The fantasy of having your own currency (points) is alluring to people, in thought, but the reality is less fun. With so many monetaries for each network, don't you get confused between their value systems?

    I hate it when companies try to be clever by making something complicated.

  • Leaving money on the table or in your Xbox Live account makes most of us a bit uncomfortable (PDF) because it feels wasteful.

    This is why you buy points in bundles of 1000, but games are in multiples of 600. It's also why sausages are sold in packs of 8 and finger rolls in packs of 12. People like symmetry and find things which are unequal disconcerting. It's basic retail psychology.

    I'm not in any way involved in this kind of thing, but it's so obvious it barely requires mentioning.

    • This is why you buy points in bundles of 1000, but games are in multiples of 600

      Actually, this is wrong. You buy points in multiples of 400 (800, 1200, 1600, 2000), while games are priced in multiples of 80.

      I'm not saying that you don't end up with excess points, but if you find enough 80-point things (indie games, cosmetic crud like avatar stuff and themes), you can zero it out.

      However, there are also promotions that give out strange numbers of points... I had Visa give me 300 MS Points just because I bou

  • Could another effect be lowering of their transaction fees? You're no longer paying $0.99, you're now paying $9.99 or so. Plus, this allows easier sale of prepaid cards, doesn't it?

    So, they're not ONLY trying to affect your mind, they're also making it cheaper and/or easier for themselves to take your money.

  • 1. People spend more when using credit/buying credit in blocks/using anything other than one-time transactions

    2. Once you buy a certain amount, you can't get it back, so it makes you spend more than the advertised price for whatever you buy.

    3. Most people would rather buy another block of points than let the small amount of leftover points go to waste, which starts the revenue loop again.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      4. No refunds allowed! The money is spent on points. Various laws of various lands require the ability to refund under various condition. But since you are just buying points, the medium of exchange becomes "not money" and so those laws tend not to apply. What's more, you cannot "sell" the stuff you buy with MS points to other players and so there is no resale value either.

      This all goes to show at a miniature scale what the US Federal Reserve does on a global scale. The medium of exchange on the global

  • It's the old 6-buns, 8 sausages trick.

  • I'll never buy games from MSGFW. It feels wasteful.

    • This is Xbox Live Marketplace...for Xbox Live Arcade and DLC content. Full games from Xbox On Demand of GFW can be paid directly with a credit card for the exact cash value without any need to use the points system.
  • Leaving money on the table or in your Xbox Live account makes most of us a bit uncomfortable

    But having to create such an account would not make us feel uncomfortable then? Having to pay up over the internet to play a game would not make us uncomfortable either? So since when does that matter?

  • On Steam, you CAN pay in real money. There is a minimum of $5 for Steam Wallet additions and the TF2/Portal 2 stores require Steam Wallet and won't let you purchase directly, but all GAMES on Steam can be purchased for the exact cost without having to deal with virtual currency.

    Plus my own usage pattern is to put $5 into my wallet and buy 2 keys for TF2, so I'm left with $0.02. That doesn't make me uncomfortable.

    In addition if I buy a game all the money in my Steam Wallet goes toward the purchase BEFORE it resorts to prompting for a credit card number. So whenever I buy a game it routinely cleans out my Steam Wallet anyway (whether I have $2.51 or $0.02) since I don't keep more than $5 in there at any one time (except when those Japan charity hats were available).

    Of course the Wii Store is another deal altogether, I think I still have points on there. Of course that doesn't seem to make me uncomfortable either, I consider it wasted money (as if I lit it on fire and threw it away) until I find something worth spending it on.

  • It's interesting to me that Impulse started out this way (Stardock Central / TotalGaming.net) & then switched back to real money.

  • by dr.newton (648217) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @08:15AM (#36081178) Homepage

    Sony actually doesn't have a similar system. There are two differences:

    1. If your purchase is over $5, you can opt to be charged exactly the amount of your purchase.
    2. I see prices in my local currency.

    Back in the day when I thought Sony were trying to be the good guys with the PS3 (allowed linux without a fight, let us plug in regular USB peripherals, supported SD and CF cards, supported user-upgradeable hard disks) this was one of the things that made me glad I had bought one.

    Seems things have changed a lot in 4 years, but they don't make it difficult to get to a zero balance in my PSN account (when I can access it at all ;) ).

    • let us plug in regular USB peripherals, supported SD and CF cards, supported user-upgradeable hard disks

      They still do those things. Even if you don't have a deluxe model "Fat" PS3, you can plug in a CF/SD card reader via USB.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @08:22AM (#36081224) Homepage

    Gift cards are the same game. It's an older game than we know I'm sure. (Tickets at a carnival come to mind as an even older example.) Once money is turned into "not money" there is also a certain disconnect that enables people to spend it more easily in addition to people not wanting to waste the leftovers. (I always give away my left over tickets when leaving a carnival...)

    That game no longer works on me. The reality is that the money is already spent -- you don't get it back. I think this is a better mentality to follow as it disables this "uncomfortable" feeling of waste and things left over. The first thing a person must accept is that when you lend someone money, never expect to see it again and at the same time, not be bitter about it. You gave money. It's gone. Once you get past that obstacle of selfishness, the rest is easy.

    Learning self discipline and control is difficult. Our parents were supposed to teach us those things but over the past generations, those ideals were forgotten along with the lessons learned from the great depression. (You know, ideas like being is debt is a sin and on and on...) My mother hadn't quite forgotten what her mother taught her and shared a bit of that with me. I still had to learn a lot on my own but not so much as everyone else it seems. The lemmings out there are just eating whatever is being fed to them aren't they...

  • I think there is a part of the psychology that the creators didn't spot: To me, it feels like i'm spending my money two times. First time when i'm exchanging my real-world money for points. And the second time when i'm spending my points on a game.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @09:01AM (#36081552)

    The OTHER reason Microsoft does this is that it wants something to cost the same amount everywhere in the world.

    So something that costs 400 points in the US will also cost 400 points in Canada, 400 points in Europe, 400 points in Australia and so on with the points costing different amounts in each country.

  • Paying cash 'hurts'. Paying by credit card hardly hits on the psychological level. Companies know this, you'll buy more when using a credit card. A study http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/142336/do_we_really_spend_more_with_credit.html showed that McDonalds, for example, people spent 12-18% more when paying by credit as opposed to cash. It gets even worse with cell phone transactions where you just 'wave' your phone.

    Now you have these points where they don't want you to even think of it as cash. This

  • I know I lasted with Live about a year..the thing that pissed me off the most was having to buy either 400-800 or 1600 point cards...when the cheapest thing actually worth money was 500 and most games were 1200 so no matter what you either had too few or too many points. I understand why they do it, but I found it particularly annoying and know I cant be alone in that. To me is seemed rather shady and dishonest making me much more conscious about spending money with them.

  • ...but when I buy things from Steam I get the option to buy chunks of £25 or the option to put in the exact amount of money for the current transaction; there's nothing forcing me to put in any more money than I need to like the summary and TFA appear to imply.

    Never used the MS or Sony game store things, but I've got a veto on buying anything on a "gift card" basis anyway.

  • Geez people, this isn't new.

    Congratulations, you just "figured out" the psychology behind carnival ride tickets.

    It's not like it's something every scary, toothless carny has understood for 60+ years.

  • ... Thank you, Captain Obvious
  • having to sign up for online accounts so you can "register" the game before playing it, bullshit. having to convert currency into proprietary nonrefundable "points" to lock someone in, bullshit. the game distribution/investment industry makes billions of dollars a year. they do not need to squeeze every last penny out of every last customer to profit. fuck them. they are complete and total piles of shit. needless to say, i USED to buy games. the only time i'll put a game cd/dvd into my computer is if

  • Disclaimer: I work in a related industry. When I first came on, I asked the question of why we deal with virtual "points" rather than currency directly. Almost everyone agreed that they'd rather bypass the hassle and deal straight with dollars, and convert incoming currency. Unfortunately, doing so would subject us to much stricter, more invasive, and more costly banking and credit card processing regulations. By selling valueless "points" instead of currency, we're simply trading goods like any other merch
  • I'm more concerned about "rounding error", at least for the USD market.
    Most people probably use a rough "point = penny" heuristic in their head and call a, say, 1000 point game "about ten bucks". In reality it's about 12.50 though, so they consistently underestimate the cost of everything by about 20%...

    it's to videogames what the "and 9/10 of a cent" is to gas... maybe a little more weasle-ish than that.

  • If I but $20 worth of points and purchase $20 worth of content, how am I "getting bamboozled"? This just sounds like people looking for a reason to complain.

    Not to mention that you can often find sales on cards so that you can get $20 worth of content for the price of a $15 card.

You can bring any calculator you like to the midterm, as long as it doesn't dim the lights when you turn it on. -- Hepler, Systems Design 182

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