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Fighting for Loyalty

Steve Watts | 8 Apr 2012 12:00
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The problem gets even more confusing once we place values on the prizes based on their purchase price. Nintendo recently began offering game downloads for Wii, DSi, and 3DS, offering wildly different values. One recent crop of the downloadable titles includes Kirby's Dreamland and Dr. Mario Online Rx for 100 Coins each, and Dr. Mario Express and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask for 150 Coins each. In doing so, Nintendo is quietly assigning new values to its own titles. Kirby costs $3.99 for purchase, while Dr. Mario Online costs $10 -- a difference of more than double for the same Coin value. Dr. Mario Express costs $4.99, while Majora's Mask is $10 -- again, a difference of double for identical Coin rates. Without dropping the prices in its actual storefronts, Nintendo is assigning greater value to some games than others.

If Nintendo offers inconsistent point values with plenty of opportunity, Microsoft has just the opposite problem.

When you take the two inconsistencies and apply them together, this means that you could purchase two Wii Selects titles for $39.99 and claim a 100 Coin prize. Or, you could spend three times that amount on 3DS games and come up short. Club Nintendo also offers various other rewards like styluses, Game & Watch cartridges, and more, but doesn't offer those rewards for sale through normal means. The exclusivity of certain products has a value of its own.

If Nintendo offers inconsistent point values with plenty of opportunity, Microsoft has just the opposite problem. Its values are extremely rigid, but it has very few opportunities to earn them. No rewards are given for purchasing games, whether Microsoft-published or not. Instead, the company doles out its rewards for buying peripheral products, like various Gold-level subscriptions to Xbox Live. Surveys are offered for bonuses as well, but without the same level of regularity.

For the time being, the much-maligned artificial currency of Microsoft Points offers a solid structure for the service to offer easy point value equations. The company may be ditching MS Points later this year, so we'll offer real-money conversions as well. Since we know that 80 MSP equals one American dollar, it's easy to see the value of each reward opportunity. And that value? Not much, apparently. One month of Xbox Live Gold service, at an MSRP of $9.99, earns you a whopping 10 MSP (12 cents). Three months at MSRP $24.99 gets 30 MSP (37 cents). This all seems engineered to push users towards the full year of Gold Service ($59.99) or a Family Pack ($99.99), worth a much greater 400 MSP ($5). The disparity is so large it makes the lower tiers functionally worthless. Not only that, but it's curious why a Family Pack can cost almost twice as much but result in no greater reward.

Meanwhile, the other methods promise 20 MSP (25 cents) per survey, and 100 MSP ($1.25) for referring a friend. A few surveys might be able to buy you an Xbox Live Indie game or two, but for larger purchases like Xbox Live Arcade games, you'd need to recommend eight friends -- netting Microsoft an easy $480 -- to earn enough to buy one $10 game.

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