Amazon Xbox LIVE Store

Just this past weekend you may have read our article on what this year may hold for the PS3, in which we quoted SCEE’s President, David Reeves, saying of the PSN Store “we need better payment methods”. Now this is pure speculation on our part at the moment, but we may have just seen a hint of what one of those payment methods could be.

Yesterday, Amazon.com launched the Amazon Xbox LIVE Store beta. A new area on the Amazon.com site where shoppers can buy Microsoft Points cards, Xbox LIVE subscription cards and around 100 Xbox LIVE Arcade games. The beta is a purely digital service, so if you order one of the cards you will not receive one in the post. When any of the products are purchased, the customer will immediately be able to view the Xbox LIVE code for it. They will also be able to have the code emailed to themselves or to someone else if the purchase is a gift.

It is only in the instance when you might be giving a gift that I can see this new Amazon and Xbox LIVE collaboration being of any use. People without their own Xbox LIVE account will now be able to buy a specific game as a gift. Being able to buy Points and subscription cards is nothing new, even on our own Amazon.co.uk, though that has always been purchases of the physical cards. But the lucky recipient of the gift will still need to be able to go online on their Xbox console, using their Xbox LIVE account to download the game, which is what they do already anyway.

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One interesting aspect of this new service from Amazon is that games are purchased in real currency rather than those Mickey Mouse Microsoft Points. So how do the dollar prices compare to what you pay in Points? Let’s look at two games that most readers will have at least heard of; Braid as an example of a more expensive game and Worms as an example of a cheaper one. On the Xbox LIVE Marketplace Braid sells for 1200 Points and Worms for 400. On Amazon’s service they are priced at $15 and $10 respectively. Anyone spot the problem yet? With a 1600 Points card selling for $19.99 on both the Marketplace and Amazon’s new service, the dollar-equivalent cost of the two games on the Marketplace is $15 and $5. So right now on Amazon.com, Worms is twice the price that it is on the LIVE Marketplace.

Now it is probable that I just got ‘lucky’ picking Worms as an example game and have found a genuine mistake, as having now checked other 400 Point games, like Zuma, they are $5 on Amazon. Pricing errors like this will be much more likely on Amazon than they are on the Marketplace and Amazon does not list the Points cost of the games along the dollar cost, so a savvy buyer cannot even double-check the cost for themselves on Amazon. Though barring errors, it does appear that the dollar and Points prices are equivalent.

How is any of this relevant to PlayStation though? Remember we are now re-entering the realm of pure speculation. Amazon.com are starting to work harder to capture more of the gaming market. Already earlier this year they have started trading in pre-owned games where they will exchange your game for a gift card. Amazon.com customers have been able to buy PC games for download for a while and now there is this partnership with Microsoft. What is to stop them offering a similar service for Wii and PlayStation software?

Returning to where I started this ramble, how could this be a better payment method? If you are without a credit or debit card that you can use on your PSN account, you are currently out of luck here in Europe where we cannot buy PSN Cards. Asking someone to let you put their credit or debit card details on your PSN account so you can buy stuff off of the Store is also not always an option. But wouldn’t it be easier to persuade a friend or relative to buy you something using their Amazon account and you give them the money, or they could buy you an Amazon gift certificate that you could then use on a hypothetical Amazon PlayStation Store as though it was a PSN Card. It certainly still would not be as good as having our own PSN Cards, but it would offer us more options than we currently have.

It will be interesting to see how this beta turns out for Amazon.com as initiatives that work over on that side of the Atlantic are likely to wash up on our shores sooner or later.

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