One might think that such a statement is obvious, but there was a time when that was not necessarily the case.
See, a while back, Microsoft used for their Xbox LIVE and Games for Windows LIVE services, a form of digital currency called Microsoft Points, or MSP for short. I prefered to call them Magical Sexy Points, owing to them not really fitting the acronym used for them. Plus, Magical Sexy Points is just way cooler to say.
Anyway when Magical Sexy Points were a thing, codes were sold for various real-life currency depending on the region they were sold for. In South Africa, you could use one of many resources which I’ll link below, to purchase MSP from these regions, which included US, UK and eventually, ZA, once that was available.
The really neat thing about MSP as they worked back then was that points conversation to real-life currency was not necessarily accurate because it was based on a fixed-point exchange rate which meant that as the Dollar / Pound got stronger, as it inevitably does, we ended up getting more and more MSP for the same price. This was eventually fixed with price adjustments on the purchasing side of things (perhaps the sites just got a little greedy, or perhaps Microsoft started charging more on their side) however on the digital side, things were still unattended to. This meant that you could purchase a voucher worth 800 Magical Sexy Points for around R100, redeem it, and then shop for the equivalent of approximately R120. As you purchased higher increments of MSP, you were afforded higher savings on digital purchases, completely unintended by Microsoft.
You’ve gotta love conversation ratios.
Sadly, when Microsoft announced last year that they’d be moving to digital currency more in-line with real-life currency, our effective gains from this faulty conversion ratio fell away and we were left once again, paying what the rest of the world would pay.
No problem, right? We got some good deals while it lasted, so, fair enough.
The big issue, at least for me, is that the interchangeability of MSP fell away when MSP fell away. See, back when you could buy MSP with real money, the different regions offered different amounts of MSP for you to purchase. You could buy a US code for 1200MSP, or a UK code for 2100MSP, or a ZA code for 1600MSP, and each code worked on any region, usually, meaning that I could have purchased a US or UK code and successfully redeemed it on my ZA account. This gave consumers choice and empowered us to pay only for how much we want. Sometimes, I’d opt for the slightly cheaper but less extravagant 1200MSP over the 1600MSP voucher, whereas other times I’d go for the 2100MSP or 4200MSP UK vouchers instead. They worked, presumably, because the code was redeemable for MSP and wasn’t fussed about where you purchased it.
So when the move to real-life digital currency came, I was first left thinking, “Well, there’s goes my conversion ratio exploit,” followed immediately afterwards by, “Am I restricted only to ZA options now?” As it turns out, I am.
I recently purchased a R300 voucher from a local website, and I had originally intended to use it on my UK account — you know, the one with all the games in the Marketplace. I figured hey, it’ll just convert the currency over and redeem the code without issues. Nope. Not so. It refused to accept the code, forcing me to redeem it only with a ZA account. This frustrated me to no extent, for two reasons:
- I’ve now lost my freedom of choice of how much I want to pay for virtual money.
- I am now disempowered as a consumer.
I can understand the move away from MSP. Virtual currency of any form is silly, and sure it works sometimes but for the most part, why would you exchange money you could use anywhere for money you can only use in one place? That said, the way they handled this shift over has left something to be desired. After all, by redeeming a code, I’m still taking my real money and exchanging it for fake real money that I can only use in one place. But now, I can’t even exercise my right as a consumer to choose between a US, UK or ZA code. I simply cannot purchase anything but a ZA code.
I’ve since emailed the local website and requested a refund and to my delight, they were willing to offer it, with some T&Cs applying. Unfortunately, there is no R300 equivalent in UK codes, so I’ll have to buy two £10 vouchers and deal, once I’m refunded.
Thanks a lot, Microsoft…
Local sites for purchasing digital currency that I’ve used:
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