Brian Condry (800 Microsoft point Gamertag: Medium Dave): Micropayments. Microrapements. Microsoft points and Wii point. MS Funbucks. Shamebucks. Real, actual money. Everyone has a name for the green we spend on after the fact game accoutrements, old school arcade titles, trip down memory lane games and random shit that has no business costing anything. Ooops, sorry for the bias.

I like additions to my games. I really do. And if it’s good, well, I have no problem paying a reasonable amount of money for it. Ah, that’s a tricky word. “Reasonable.” A smorgasbord of new weapons and vehicles and modes for 10 dollars? Good job, Crackdown. 3 random songs for $6.25 (or is it .75? We’ll get back to YOU, MS points.)? Fuck you, Guitar Hero 2. Unlike stores, be they brick and mortar or online, for the most part, this stuff in our console marketplaces doesn’t come down in price. It does happen, occasionally. But for the most part, those song packs are going to stay a stupid price.

Along with this price stranglehold, which I don’t mean to sound as negative as it does, there comes the proprietary monetary system. Wii points and MS points. Both of these companies are nice enough to offer you the ability to buy stuff from them…but not flat out. It’s not much of an exaggeration to claim that instead of buying that new arcade game for 400 points (5 bucks), you have to first buy a pack of extra points to top off the current 150 points you have to get the 500 you need. So, instead of just dropping 5 dollars, it’s whatever extra is needed to make Daddy Marketplace happy. At least Sony is nice enough to let us buy our stuff straight out. I guess after what you paid for the system, it’s the least they could do.

And then we get to my favorite part of the Console Marketplaces (is there a catchall yet for all three systems marketplaces?): random, useless shit. This, at least for now, is pretty much an all Microsoft thing. Want a new desktop for your 360? A dollar. New pictures for your gamertag? Give us some money. Want to buy cheats from us? Thanks, EA!

So, what does this mean to all of you? It may be evident that I’m just a touch peeved with state of affairs. But how do you guys like to pay for your overpriced add ons?

Robert Cummings (Cheap-ass Gamertag: Jacob Singer 45) "Don’t eat the rolls! That’s how they get’cha!" — Couldn’t agree more, Brian. When I first heard of the idea of "Microsoft Points" I thought, great, they’re gonna let us earn points in games that we can use to spend on downloadable content! Sweet! Imagine my dismay, of course, when it turns out to be completely different, and just a bit underhanded to boot. I’m constantly finding myself 80-150 points shy of some arcade game or map pack, and it drives me nuts. Hell, at least let me earn interest on the points that are just sitting there, maybe toss me a free ten points every week or so that those points go un-spent.

Of course, I have to admit, their system works on me, dammit. It’s a lot easier to justify spending that five or ten bucks on some nostalgic arcade game when I’m just giving them points, right? I mean, it’s not like it’s real money or anything, right?

Microsoft saw guys like me coming a mile away…

Kurt Miller (Boner County Chili Cookoff Winner Gamertag: Barnaby Fist): I don’t mind the actual use of “Points”. I’ve got enough fingers and toes to figure out how much money I’m spending before I buy something over the Live Marketplace. And when it comes to nostalgia games, the free trial versions are a welcome reality check before I spend $5-$10 on some crap game I used to play when I was a kid. What’s squirrelly is their non-refundable status. You can’t cash-out if you decide you’ve had enough, so there’s perpetually this oddball number of points you will never, ever be able to spend. Sure, it may only equate to a buck or two, but spread that over the entire Live user base, and Microsoft has a cool, refreshing revenue stream for providing neither a good nor a service. What they ought to do is offer something for the chicken feed you’ve got left at the end of the day—a plastic comb, an army guy, a fake moustache. If they had some sort of virtual five-and-dime, I’d say the method was sound.

Alex Riviello (Blue Collar Gamertag: Creature Corner): It’s also not as bad to buy something when you’ve got points already in your account. It’s not cash money, it’s just points that you already have! Might as well use them!

I refuse to pay for map packs and such. Absolutely refuse. It’s ridiculous that they make most of them free after a few months, as if they know that no one’s going to want to pay for this in the long run and just want to cash in on people needing a quick fix.

Even Crackdown I feel is a ripoff, as those new features should have been in the fucking game in the first place! It’s not like there was a lot to do in it after you finished the main quest. The races were uniformly horrible and I’ll be damned if I can find those last 20 or so green orbs. What’s worse is that now whenever I play it I see weapons and mission circles that you’d think would be available to you, but no! It just gives you a message saying that you’re trying to access new content- click here to download it. Get the fuck out of my game, now. It honestly makes me not want to play the damn thing.

Remember when an expansion pack for a PC game was like 20 new levels, weapons, characters and a whole new story? Nothing like that any more… console add-ons are almost completely worthless.

Games are a different deal, of course- 5 or even 10 bucks for a game is not that bad a deal, especially with the updated versions we’ve been offered by almost everyone (um, Sega? What are you doing?) and the demos in place.

Jon Cassady (Dime-A-Dozen Gamertag/Online ID: Jlcquest) While the Marketplace does trump the Playstation®Network, I do appreciate having actual prices attached to the downloads.

As for Alex’s point, I’d be fine with all the minor game expansions if there was a way to earn them. I’ve proposed this before, but why not give the player the option of either shelling out the dough or performing some in-game task to unlock the new level? Have the new level barred by some “magical gate” that can only be opened by collecting 25 crystals or 10,000 kills. Hell, they could make up for the lost revenue by filling the collection quest with *shutter* in game advertising.

Microsoft and to some extent (as we’ve discussed) the gaming community have utilized Gamerpoints as a “game within the game”. Instead of awarding arbitrary and ultimately useless point values for the Gamerpoint goals, reward those individuals whose neurotic sense of completion compel them touch upon every bit of data available, while allowing those too lazy (or married) to purchase it.

Ian Arbuckle (Extravagant Gamertag: ArbuckleIan): I am an advocate of the devil. I freely admit to not being aware of the value of a dollar. I work fifty hours a week, but I have no neural connection to bridge between “effort” and “cashmonies.” Therefore, I haven’t yet found cause to get all sloppy with my testosterone over the issue of micropayments. Kinda the opposite, actually.

One of the bigger dust-ups in this arena recently regarded the pricing of the Guitar Hero 2 three-song packs. Apparently, those gamers more thrifty than I felt that the cost well exceeded the value, because the packs sold poorly. I, on the other hand, did a little bit of comparative math, and said to myself, “Gee whiz! I get another couple hours of entertainment for less than the price of a movie ticket, and only slightly more than the music would cost from iTunes? Sign me up!”

(I was raised in the country. “Gee whiz” is entirely appropriate in this situation.)

I can cut a lot of slack to most of the dudes pursuing micropayments as a business model, because they’re working out exactly how to balance cost and value for an optimized percentage of gamers. In the meantime, I’m still trying to five star “Bark at the Moon” on Expert, and enjoying the pretty armor on my horse, thank you very much.

I mean, hell, it’s only money, right? If you don’t spend it, the President gets petulant.

Kurt Miller: Value is in the wallet of the beholder, I guess. But I tend to be cynical like Alex and suspect that they were just holding back on that extra map, weapon, or pair of pants so they could dip their slender pickpocket hands into my bank account again. That’s all just old man griping from me though. To be fair, I haven’t come across any games that seem gimped without extra downloads.

Brian Condry: I don’t think that cynicism is unplaced. Too many times now it seems like the newest map pack comes out just too soon. What, you couldn’t have held the game back a day?

And that’s probably what pisses me off the most about this new frontier in video gaming. A thin sheen of scorn for the gamer appears before me on every download that comes out 2 months after a game is released. I hear the companies mocking every time I think about getting those last couple of song packs. “Oh, come on. You already dropped the cash on the game. We know you play too much. Just give us the money and no one gets hurt. Oh, and expect these same prices next time because we know that even if YOU don’t pay, everyone else with a credit card and a gleam in their eye will gladly do it.” I didn’t buy the newest Halo 2 maps. I’ve played the game twice in 2 years. But I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Oh, it’s only five bucks. Just buy them. Look, I’ll give you the money.” Thanks. That’s sweet. But I’m not buying something (that should be free) that I will play once. How many gamers have done that and then wish they hadn’t. Oh well. No refunds. Tough shit. Buy more next time and you’ll feel better. Wait. Is Microsoft run by the aliens from They Live?
I can stop myself from paying; I have that much self control. But I can’t stop everyone else. So why not just give in? I think I need some horse armor, now.

Alex Riviello: Don’t do it. Reasoning like that lets them charge stupid amounts of money for old Guitar Hero tracks. Because people figure it’s cheap and worth it. Sorry, Ian, it did sell well. That’s why they didn’t make the song packs for that game cheaper- so many people bought the damn things. But all this can do to us in the long run is hurt us, because companies will continue to hold off materials they know they could have implemented in order to wring some more cash out of us. It’s like if Half-Life 2 came out for the Xbox 360 sans Portal and Team Fortress 2. It’s not the full game, it’s not the full experience, and it’s disgusting that they’d treat people who spent hard-earned cash on their product this way.