You may have heard recently that Microsoft updated its Xbox Live Rewards program to offer gamers discounts on content from the XBox Live Marketplace. It’s a nice idea, but in my opinion, a complete ruse on Microsoft’s part. I’ll explain that in a moment.
Here’s the meat of the deal: After signing up for the rewards program, if you earn at least 3,000 GamerScore on your account, you reach the first tier of the program, “Contender”. This unlocks a gift to be sent to you during your birth month. Reach 10,000 GamerScore and you’re a “Champion”, which unlocks the previous reward in addition to a permanent 1% discount on all purchases through Xbox Live Marketplace. And finally, if you reach the lofty heights of a 25,000 GamerScore, you become a “Legend” and that previous 1% discount gets bumped up to a 2% discount.
Now, that sounds like a good deal at first, especially since signing up is free, and come on, who doesn’t love discounts, right?
But the problems lie mainly in the logic and the fine print of the program. Let’s tackle the latter first. This is straight from Microsoft’s Rewards Program page:** You must have and maintain an eligible Xbox LIVE Gold membership and the applicable Gamerscore for the appropriate tier by the first of every month in order to be eligible. Limit:Up to 30,000 Microsoft Points can be earned per account for the entire Offer Period. Please see Terms and Conditions for details.
Not surprisingly, the fine print is more confusing than the rest of the page. The near-top of the page mentions rewarding players for the “years they’ve been earning GamerScore”. So instantly, this would seem to appeal to early-adopters or the most hardcore of core gamers. But what about those who fall below the Contender bracket?
And here is where the ruse lies: in order to get that kind of a GamerScore, somebody is going to have to play a lot of games, and therefore, buy a lot of games. The average retail game can have, at most, 1000 GamerScore to earn, with an added max of 750 GamerScore for DLC. Without taking DLC into consideration, you’ll need to earn all the achievements in at least 25 games, for a measely birthday gift and a 2% Market discount. Let’s say somebody has to buy those games to get there – that’s around $1500 assuming they’re full-priced retail games.
[EDIT] And let’s break down that discount a bit while we’re at it. I’m going to give a few sample items you can buy on the Marketplace, how much they cost before the 2% discount, and afterwards.
Avatar costume (complete): 320 MS Points. After discount: 313.8 Points.
Avatar Prop: 80 MS Points. After discount: 78.4 Points.
Geometry Wars Evolved: 400 MS Points. After discount: 392 points.
Borderlands 2 Season Pass: 2400 MS Points. After discount: 2352 MS Points.
Now consider the fact that you buy MS Points in bundles, and the smallest denomination you can purchase is 400. In order to accrue enough discounts to have earned 400 MS Points for free, you’d need to buy 250 props, 63 Avatar costumes, 50 copies of Geometry Wars Evolved, and 9 Borderlands 2 Season Passes. If you only got up to the 1% discount, you can double those amounts.
Most of you probably realize this is the sort of thing you earn while just enjoying your games normally. And this is just an added plus for Achievement hunters, who will be doing whatever it takes to boost up their GamerScore anyway. But what about those people who might actually fall for this? Sure, we could say they deserve it, but do we really want Microsoft to succeed at pulling the wool over their customers’ eyes? They’ve been toying with the idea of rewarding gamers based on GamerScore since the Achievement system was first introduced; is this a simple cop-out just so they can say they did it?
Either way, this rewards program is just too little, too late. Their original rewards program is a nice gesture to loyal Xbox fans, but this new addition just feels like an empty addition. Hopefully the program doesn’t prompt tons of uninformed gamers to waste money on games they probably otherwise wouldn’t have bought.
Special thanks to videogamer.com for covering this new program.
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