How I Hate Funny-Money

I think I am officially sick and tired of using funny-money for purchasing goods.  No, I'm not talking about Canadian dollar bills, but using point cards to purchase stuff from vendors.  Why am I paying money for virtual dollars to spend on virtual goods?  Why don't I simply spend money directly on those goods?  Save overhead of having to translate it, the coders from having to write that into software, the retailers from having to stock it, the manufacturers from having to make the card, and so on, and so on.

But no, I need to pay money, to up my account, so I can spend money.  Does anyone see problems with this?

Case in point: This past Christmas I got to spend a wonderful holiday season with my in-laws.  Drinking, gaming, and spending time with loved ones; can there be anything better?  My brother-in-law (well, in a few short months anyways) shipped presents from the States, and we all sat around a laptop using Skype to open presents, laugh, drink and be merry.  One of the gifts from my soon to be brother was 1600 MS points.  Excellent!  I could already see Borderlands DLC and Rock Band tracks virtually enabling themselves on my console.  After things subsided, I opened and proceeded to attempt to redeem my points card.

A quick aside, has anyone tried to do this online before?  Why are there two separate places to redeem codes, and you can only use one for Microsoft Points?  That doesn't make any sense!  If you go to "Redeem Code", you can enter your 25 character code, but not if its for Microsoft Points.  No no no, if you want to do that you need to go to "Add Microsoft Points" -> "Redeem Code".  That only exacerbated my problem when my code didn't work.

So yes, back to my story.  Attempting to redeem my code generated the frustratingly vague "Please enter a valid code".  Not "You're dumb and using the wrong form"; or "That's not even close to be a real code, stop trying to guess stuff!  JERKSTORE!"  After some searching, I finally found the illustrious Add MS Points-Redeem Code section.  25 characters later, I hit enter, glad that my ordeal was over.

At least this would have been clear what my problem was

But WAIT, "Please enter a valid code"?  No way!  Trying a few more times yielded the same result.  Once I returned to my abode, I loaded up my 360 and tried one last attempt at redeeming directly on the console to no avail.

A number I know unfortunately much too well was quickly dialed (18004MYXBOX, so many red rings....) and after being passed around a few times, I was informed of my issue.  The cards are region coded. 

Ok, to be fair, I had a sinking suspicion that this was my problem.  But come ON!!  How is this not something they ever took into consideration?  And maybe instead of "Please enter a valid code", maybe "Please use this in the region it was purchased"?  They have no way of gifting content or points cards in their system, so the only way to do it is with the cards.  The CSR on the end of the line said the only way to use the points would be to create a USA based account and redeem the code that way.  Great, but I want them to be on my current account.  Sure, it would have authenticated to my Xbox, and any content I purchased would have been accessible, but what if I don't spend it all.  Would I have 100 to 300 points perpetually in limbo?  I'll get into that in a second...

I wasn't having any of that, and even said I would gladly take the Canadian equivalency in points (20$ in the States nets you a 1600 point card, wherein in Canada its 1400).  The CSR didn't think that would work, but would put in a request none-the-less.  I gave my email address and was told I would be notified within 24 hours.  96 hours passed when I returned from work to find a message on my answering machine informing me that my request was still pending.  Thanks?  I guess I appreciated the call.  Two days later I got the following email.

Popping the code into the "Redeem Code" form online gave me my 1600 points.

So yes, Microsoft did come through for me to make my Christmas a successful one, but the bigger point is this; why are we still using funny-money?  Why not just be able to flat out purchase this content?  At least give us the option to use both.  Before that 1600 MS point was added to my account, I had 190 points.  190!!!  What the fuck am I going to do with 190 points???  And its not like I can buy points in increments of a single point, I'm just always going to have leftovers.  Always.  Imagine if every person had a balance of even 70MS points (I say 70 because I believe that you can't buy anything for under 70MS points).

If 80 Points are equal to 1$ USD, then its easy to say that every point is worth 8 cents.  With Microsoft saying that their XBL install base is close to the 17 million figure, you can already see that, without having to give you ANYTHING, Microsoft has 1.4$ Million USD of consumers money.  All because they use funny money instead of letting you just buy stuff like a regular economy driver.

So yes, my story did end up a (decently) happy one, but imagine if he would have been able to gift me some content instead?  Or just give me a pre-paid credit card?  There would have been no problem crossing borders in that instance, and physical media would work fine across those regions.  But no!  Instead, Microsoft is relying on a terrible way of doing these transactions.  And although it works out well for them when you don't spend all your points, the consumer is the one who has to jump through all sorts of hoops just to spend money.