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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Genius of the XBox Live Money Machine

I could hardly believe this when I saw it. It's a move of pure genius which proves beyond any doubt that you will never go broke, to paraphrase, underestimating the intelligence of the American consumer. If you sell it, they will buy.

As you know, I recently became an XBox owner. And, within the very few weeks that I've been a part of this game console culture I have come to realize that the XBox is the perfect consumer product. Probably better than cell phones in terms of being a revenue engine. Buying the console is just the beginning. Of course you've got the endless stream of new game releases to buy, not to mention lots of accessories like programmable controllers and chargers and cooling fans and storage cabinets, etc. etc. etc. But, that's just the tip of the iceberg!

One of the primary attractions (to many) of XBox is the whole XBox Live! scene. For a mere $8.00 or so per month, you can buy access to a vast new virtual world. A sort of Internet within the Internet. (You've got to have Internet access to get to XBox Live! but I can only wonder how long it might be before XBox starts its own ISP.) First, there's NetFlix and several other online content streaming services - all of which charge for access after the obligatory free trial period. And, I can hardly imagine that Microsoft isn't getting a little commission on each and every one of those sales.

I've just begun to explore this world, mainly just editing my online avatar, a mythical animated representation of myself which doesn't seem to appear to anyone except me but is all kinds of fun to play with. But, I've seen enough to know that once you've shelled out the monthly $8.00 access fee, you have only opened the door to a multitude of spending opportunities!

XBox Live! has its own little online economy where you can buy (for real money) "points" to spend within the XBox Live! world. Much like buying game tokens at Chucky Cheese. Currently, 400 points cost $4.99 USD. Interestingly, 800 points will set you back $9.99 - so it's actually $0.01 cheaper to make two 400 point purchases. But, how many people would actually do this even if they realized that they're being ripped off, however minutely? Guaranteed MS is making thousands just off of this little pricing glitch! If I could get every XBox owner in the country to give me a penny every few days? Hell! I could quit my job!

Points can be used to buy all sort of stuff. I bought 400 points the other night so that I could purchase an additional song for our Rocksmith game. Each song add-on goes for 240 points or approximately $2.99. Not bad, really. You'd pay a helluva lot more than that to get a guitar teacher to teach you how to play Don't Look Back by Boston - IF you could find a guitar teacher these days who's even heard of Boston. So, I don't consider this whole XBox Live! thing a ripoff. I'm simply amazed at the profit-making potential. Because there is just sooooo much stuff being sold for "points." Which you buy for REAL money.

The disconnect between real money and points is genius in and of itself. Points have got to spend easier than actual money, right? They're not even "real." Let the spending begin!

Apparently you can also buy virtual gadgets for use within specific games, too. Although I haven't pursued that and cannot imagine that I ever would, the idea that I could sell stuff which requires absolutely no manufacturing, no testing, no actual engineering is staggering.

Not to mention the gift-giving opportunities created here. Need a birthday present for your kids' friend's birthday or your grandkids for Christmas? I'm sure there's a way you can buy XBox Live! points for others. I know for a fact you can buy pre-paid XBox Live! gift-cards.

But, what absolutely blew my mind was what I found while editing my avatar. There's all kinds of stuff you can do with your avatar for free, but I found this tab entitled "Marvel Superheros" on the editing page so I clicked to check it out. In exchange for points - which, remember, you buy for REAL money - you can get your avatar any of a number of licensed Marvel comics superhero T-shirts or accessories. I kid you not. You can spend real money to buy imaginary clothing for digital paper dolls.

Amazing.

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