It’s always surprising when a massive corporation decides to introduce consumer friendly policies. Obviously Sony wants people to buy more PS Vitas, but it’s still impressive that it’s just giving away Vita versions of games like Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time with PS3 versions that are going to be sold for $60 regardless. On Monday, it appeared that Microsoft would finally reconsider some of the more byzantine and vicious monetization policies in its entertainment business. It would still charge people to play together online through Xbox Live, but it would finally stop using Microsoft Points, its virtual currency, for downloadable purchases. The reasoning was sound: The Windows 8 platform would unify all Microsofts platforms—PC, Windows Phone, and the still unannounced Xbox 720—and digital shopping transparency would speed adoption of the platform.
Turns out that Microsoft won’t be engaging in any consumer friendly activity after all, as the company confirmed on Wednesday that it was not just keeping Microsoft Points, it would further confuse its audience by using real money prices on other platforms.
“Microsoft Points continue to be the currency for purchasing content for the Xbox 360 console,” a Microsoft spokesman told The Verge. When it releases on Oct. 26, though, Windows 8 will let users purchase goods, even through Xbox Live, using local currency or Microsoft points. “Current Xbox Live customers may also make a purchase using points.”
Any customers looking for parity between their Xbox Music and Xbox Video accounts between their Xbox 360 in the living room and, for example, a Windows 8 laptop taken on the road will be out of luck.
Microsoft’s confirmation that Microsoft Points are here to stay on the Xbox 360 does not mean that its policy won’t change when the next console arrives. The Xbox 720, sometimes called Durango, will run on the Windows 8 operating system according to Microsoft’s Brian Hall, so it’s reasonable to expect that by the time it releases in 2013/2014, Microsoft will finally stop charging consumers for virtual currency packs that leave them with credit they can’t spend.
The time for Microsoft to begin changing its policies is now though. If Windows 8 is going to be successful as a core for the company’s growing entertainment businesses, it needs parity across all platforms. Restricting options on the Xbox 360, and continuing to charge for services like online play as part of Xbox Gold, is only going to alienate consumers increasingly accustomed to free play and real money pricing on platforms like iOS.