A few days back, we highlighted the latest batch of free Xbox Games With Gold (these being for the month of June) and asked the question: are they any good? As anyone who read that piece will tell you, the answer is a definite “yes,” as it’s hard to turn up one’s nose at the chance to play Super Meat Boy, The Crew, and others for the cost of an ongoing Gold membership. OK, sure, Goat Simulator is absolute rubbish after a handful of minutes, but at least you didn’t really pay for it, right? Not technically, at least.

Anyway, looking back at that post made me think more about Microsoft’s approach to rewarding its users and why it works so well. And part of the answer to that particular thought is quite simple, actually: rewards help to retain consumers and create a loyal following. By giving back to the consumers who fatten the company’s pockets, the company is keeping those consumers happy. That, in turn, will clearly lead said consumers to continue spending money and, even better, convince others to become Team Xbox.

At least, that’s what one study found when it looked into why loyalty programs work. The focus, the study claims, customer retention, because satisfied customers will bring in new players. It makes a lot of sense when you think about even on the most basic level of tweeting about how happy you are that Microsoft chose some killer options for Games With Gold. Or maybe you went on Facebook to sound off about how you were able to get a new game through the Xbox Live Rewards program. Either way, you’re doing exactly what Microsoft (and others) are hoping for: you’re building out the audience for them, rather than them going out of their way to attract new users.

What Microsoft (and its console competition) has done is essentially caught up to the loyalty programs and incentives that have been offered to online gamers for years. This is particularly true of the casino and bingo industry, which largely shifted to the internet with the goal of capturing real-life experiences in a virtual setting. And just as you may enjoy various rewards while playing a game of bingo in a brick-and-mortar location, online platforms are very much accomplishing the same thing. Proving that point is Gala Bingo, which specifically highlights its game-related and daily rewards while also showcasing its pop culture-themed options. The company plays up its various promotions not only to bring in new users, but also to keep its existing userbase happy and loyal.

It’s that clearly defined goal in maintaining and supporting current and perhaps longtime users that Microsoft has sought out to achieve and in many ways replicate through its own programs. And like those on the web, the Xbox Live Rewards system gives back to those most loyal consumers. Yes, you can earn points through activities such as filling out surveys supplied by the company. However, the majority of the points will be earned through opening you wallet. First, there are the points gained through purchasing games through the Xbox Store, and then there are those received by completing specific missions (that you can obviously only complete after purchasing a game). And once you earn enough points, they transform into money you can use to buy new games, movies, or whatever else you want in the Xbox Store.

To reiterate, this all works to accomplish the aforementioned goal of retention, which naturally lends itself to acquisition. And seeing how Xbox Ones apparently aren’t flying off the shelves, Microsoft may just need to beef up its rewards in the coming months. It’s not like anyone expects the Games With Gold to start dishing out top-tier titles, but a few stronger installments could help to sway anyone unsure whether they should buy the One.

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