Regardless of how you might feel about the game, the launch of Halo 4 will go down in history as a magnificent, unprecedented display of wanton spectacle channelled entirely toward convincing every gamer on the planet that they absolutely must buy the game as soon as humanly possible. To wit: Microsoft effectively rented a country for a day purely so a group of Halo fans and international media could stomp through its historical architecture while pretending to solve riddles that vaguely tie in to Halo lore.
Obviously if Microsoft was willing to go to such great lengths to ensure that we purchase Halo 4, the firm must have some interest in keeping us playing as long as possible, no? Of course it does, and it’s also got a keen promotional stunt lined up to make sure that we all spend our every waking moment shooting aliens.
A new addition to the Xbox Live Rewards program, the newly revealed “Halo 4 Combat Tour” builds on the idea of rewarding Xbox Live gamers with free Microsoft points, but instead of subjecting users to endless surveys the Combat Tour hands out bonus points merely for playing Halo 4. Points earned in any of these Xbox Live Rewards programs can be used to purchase items on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and should not be mistaken for Achievement points. Those are an entirely separate thing, and have no real monetary value.
Anyway, according to the official Halo 4 Combat Tour page, points are being handed out both for how much time you spend within Halo 4, and how much of your real-world cash you spend on items for the game (read: downloadable content additions, premium themes, etc). Spend 35 hours or more playing Halo 4′s multiplayer modes and you’ll pick up an extra 100 points. 70-plus hours will net you 300 points, and those who play for more than 140 hours will earn 600 points. Likewise, those who spend 1500 Microsoft points in the Xbox Live Marketplace on Halo 4 content will earn 100 free points, and those who spend over 3000 points will see a 200 point return. All told, there’s a massive 800 Microsoft points on offer here.
For the record, that “massive” was sarcastic. 800 points seems like a large number out of context, but if you do the math it only works out to about $10. “Oh, well, I’d still like a free $10,” you think, before realizing that to earn that money, you would have to spend at least $37.50 on downloadable Halo 4 content, and have spent over 140 hours in the game’s online multiplayer modes by themselves. Any time you spend playing the single-player campaign is completely ignored. Even if we discount that aforementioned cash outlay, players who take advantage of this scheme are only earning about seven cents an hour — which, again, can only be spent on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
So maybe it’s not exactly a foolproof get rich quick scheme, but for those of you who will inevitably rack up 140-plus hours in Halo 4′s multiplayer and are quite likely to buy all of the game’s DLC, it does seem like a nice sign of gratitude from Microsoft in the form of a useful, thematically appropriate rebate. You’d be a fool to turn that down, so if you for some baffling reason aren’t already enrolled in the Xbox Live Reward service, click through to the sign up page and make sure you’re getting all the free Microsoft points you’ve got coming.