By Jared Newman | Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 9:11 am
One major problem with Xbox Live Arcade, Microsoft’s downloadable game service, is that you must deal in “Microsoft Points,” and they come in increments that usually cost more than the price of a game alone. A lawyer has now filed a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft for this practice.
Samuel Lassoff, of Horsham, Penn., argues that the Microsoft Points system effectively charges you for purchases you can’t make, because the leftover points are rarely enough to buy another game, InformationWeek reports. He calls this “a scheme” for Microsoft to “unjustly enrich itself through their fraudulent handling” of his account. It’s not clear how much money he’s seeking.
This issue of point systems — which applies to Nintendo’s Wii Shop channel as well — has been a pet peeve of mine and other gamers ever since Microsoft introduced Xbox Live Arcade. It’s as if you walked into Subway, and instead of paying $5 for a sandwich, you’re required to pay $6.25, and use the rest on a future purchase. And you’re charged $6.25 on the next visit as well, making it tough to escape the cycle of leftover credit.
In fairness, Microsoft lets you pay in exact dollars for its Games on Demand service, which offers large-scale games such as Mass Effect and Bioshock for download, but the company won’t commit to charging dollars for Xbox Live Arcade.
Last week, Xbox group product manager Aaron Greenberg told G4 that the point system was never meant to mislead customers, and that currency fluctuations and technical complexities make a switch challenging. Greenberg dodged the issue of overcharging in points, an issue that has nothing to do with currency.
I’m not a judge, but calling this method “fraudulent” seems like a long shot. “Greedy and unfair” seems more fitting, even though that won’t fly in court. Still, I’m glad someone’s ruffling Microsoft’s feathers over this. The point system can stay if it means consumers can pay exactly what they want, but I’m at the point where the current system is a deterrent, because I don’t want to get stuck with the extra credits. Maybe Lassoff’s lawsuit is the kick in the pants Microsoft needs.