One of the more infuriating elements for users of Microsoft services is the company’s insistence on using a unified virtual currency system across patches of its digital empire – Microsoft Points. Many purchases on the Xbox LIVE and Zune Marketplace stores can only be paid for with MS Points, but it’s now been revealed that the company is preparing to abandon its digital currency, in favour of embracing purchases made with real world currencies.
The transition is set to be completed by the end of 2012, according to Inside Mobile Apps, citing an unnamed but well-placed source. By year’s end, purchases across all Microsoft stores will be paid for using money, in the currency set within the user’s account. Any customers that have not spent their full balance of Microsoft Points by then will reportedly have their balance converted into their local currency.
Microsoft has apparently already begun to reach out to developers across its various platforms, to ensure that they’re prepared for the switch. Currently, full Xbox LIVE games are sold in currency, but downloadable content is paid for with Points. On Windows Phone, games in the Marketplace are also paid for with money, but in-app purchases can be made with Points.
The lack of consistency across Microsoft properties will no doubt have influenced the decision to unify all payment around a cash-based payment system, especially given that consumers are demonstrably comfortable with this arrangement, given the prevalence of cash payments on rival stores such as the Android Market and iTunes App Store.
The new arrangement will also negate the need to inflict Points on areas that haven’t yet been touched by them – can you imagine how confusing it would be if Skype credit and features had to be paid for with Points?
Microsoft Points probably won’t be missed by many – but if you think you’ll have a tough time going on without them, at least you’ve got plenty of time to say goodbye.