Article by contributor Scott Gable.
Have you ever seen those jokes in TV shows and movies where a third-world country gets American television shows years after they actually aired in America? Some American runs into a guy in Eastern Europe who has his car painted like the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard, and he tries telling the American that he can’t wait for the next new episode. When I start trying to compare Sony and Microsoft’s free games programs, this is what I feel is going on. PlayStation Plus is the American, and Games with Gold is the Eastern European, because Microsoft’s idea of giving free games to their users who have an Xbox Live Gold Membership is to give them games that are more than two years old.
When Microsoft first announced the Games with Gold program, a lot of gamers on Xbox believed that they would be getting a program that would rival PlayStation Plus for the PlayStation 3. Microsoft would offer two games each month to anyone with a Xbox Live Gold Membership (less than the number of games Sony offers monthly). If you didn’t renew your membership, you were still able to keep the games unlike PlayStation Plus.
Ten months into the Games with Gold program, and “disappointment” seems to put it mildly when it comes to what has been released. Since its inception, no game that has been a part of the program has been released prior to 2012, and of the three games from 2012, only Sleeping Dogs was a retail release. If we look at the full list of games…
- June 2013 — Fable III (2010) – Retail
- July 2013 — Defense Grid: The Awakening (2009) – XBLA; Assassin’s Creed II (2009) – Retail
- August 2013 — Crackdown (2007) – Retail; Dead Rising 2 (2010) – Retail; Dead Rising 2: Case Zero (2010) – XBLA
- September 2013 — Magic the Gathering: Dual of the Planeswalker 2013 (2012) – XBLA; Rainbow Six: Vegas (2006) – Retail
- October 2013 — Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (2009) – XBLA; Halo 3 (2007) – Retail
- November 2013 — A World of Keflings (2008) – XBLA; Iron Brigade (2011) – XBLA
- December 2013 — Gears of War (2006) – Retail; Shoot Many Robots (2012) – XBLA
- January 2014 — Sleeping Dogs (2012) – Retail; Lara Croft & the Guardian of Light (2010) – XBLA
- February 2014 — Dead Island (2011) – Retail; Toy Soldiers: Cod War (2011) – XBLA
- March 2014 — Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution (2008) – Retail; Dungeon Defenders (2010) – XBLA
…there have been ten retail titles used in the program, and ten Xbox Live Arcade titles. Two games were from 2006, two from 2007, two from 2008, three from 2009, four from 2010, three from 2011, and three from 2012 (no games from 2013 or 2014 have been released so far). On a personal note, I had played 10 of these 20 games prior to the Games with Gold program being created, including eight of the ten retail titles.
Maybe trying to compare Games with Gold to PlayStation Plus is a bad idea, but if you look at some of the releases that PlayStation Plus has had over the past few months, its makes it difficult not to. Recently, they have had such titles as Tomb Raider, Remember Me, Bioshock Infinite, and Metro: Last Light as part of their instant game collection. They have even released five free games for the PlayStation 4 since its launch, while Microsoft hasn’t released one game under the Games with Gold program for the Xbox One.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like Microsoft is in any rush to adjust their program. The March title Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution originally released in 2008, and Dungeon Defenders originally released in 2010, which has me in no rush to download either. In a Q&A with Polygon following his SXSW gaming panel, Phil Spencer stated that Games with Gold would become “more true” to what consumers wanted in the future. He also stated that he is now working monthly with the team that picks the titles for Games with Gold and “playing a more active role” in picking franchises that show up in the program.
Time will tell what will happen to Games with Gold. Will it stay the same program, add in newer games that Xbox Live Gold members get to keep, or possibly turn into something similar/more competitive to PlayStation Plus? For now, Games with Gold still feels like we are watching “new” episodes of Knight Rider in a little Eastern European country.