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Xbox Live Games with Gold: A Serious Revamp Is In Order

Xbox Live’s Games with Gold works in a similar way to Sony’s PlayStation Plus service, there’s no getting away from it. Both offering to its paying subscribers free games every month. But when compared, the quality of games offered and general promotion of Games with Gold is fairly woeful. Xbox needs to step back and re-valuate the promotion, because it feels like a waste, it’s as if Microsoft only runs this service because Sony does.

For the month of April, Xbox Live Gold subscribers will be able to claim a copy of Hitman: Absolution between the 1st and the 16th. From the 16th onwards a copy of Deadlight will be free until the end of the month. Hitman: Absolution is a good game, I’ve played and enjoyed it and it scored well with reviewers. However, here in the UK, you can pick up a copy of this game new for £7.50 from Amazon, or you could get it used for as low as £1 (ONE POUND!). This is an excellent example of the core problem with Games With Gold. Yes, they’re offering you a free game, free is free, but the actual added value it gives a Gold subscriber is minimal.

Here’s a rundown of all the Xbox titles offered as part of Games with Gold so far in 2014:

Month Game 1 Game 2
January Sleeping Dogs Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
February Dead Island Toy Soldiers: Cold War
March Civilisation Revolution Dungeon Defenders
April Hitman: Absolution Deadlight

 

At present here in the UK, you can get a new copy of Sleeping Dogs for £10 and a used copy for £4, a new copy of Dead Island will set you back around £8 and a used copy will also be £4 and I can’t find a new copy of Civilisation Revolution because it’s 6 years old, but a used copy will set you back £10 because it’s rare. As you can see, there isn’t really a lot of value on offer when it comes to the titles offered by Microsoft. Now for the kicker, here’s a list of some PS3 titles that have been free on PlayStation Plus this year:

  • Borderlands 2
  • DmC Devil May Cry
  • Bioshock: Infinite
  • Uncharted 3 (US Only)
  • Tomb Raider
  • Metro: Last Light

If you ask me, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth that the people who subscribe to Sony’s paid service receive superior games that are far more recent. Having titles such as Bioshock: Infinite and Tomb Raider represent excellent added value, it’s what you paid for when you signed up to PS+. Xbox Live Gold members absolutely cannot say the same.

Phil Spencer is adamant that Games With Gold is ‘fundamentally different’ to PS+, maintaining that being able to keep the games you download even after your live subscription expires. He also said at the beginning of February that there would be an announcement about Xbox One games as a part of Games with Gold ‘fairly soon’. It’s now April.

What seems clear to me is that Microsoft does not consider Games with Gold to be a paramount part of an Xbox Live Gold membership. To them, it’s not what you’re paying for, whereas people who buy Playstation Plus are essentially subscribing just for the free games (and now online play on PS4). The Xbox titles don’t add value to the service, it’s rarely mentioned in Xbox Live promotional material and is not a highlighted spot on the dashboard and as seen, they promised an announcement about the service in February and we’re still none-the-wiser in April. To me at least, it feels like they provide the service just to ensure Sony aren’t seen to be providing more to their paying customers. At first glance it does seem as though both services offer subscribers free games, which is awesome, but upon further inspection it becomes clear that one company cares, the other doesn’t.

Honestly, it’s daft on Microsoft’s part. If they made Games with Gold a big part of a Gold membership’s appeal and provided excellent titles that are recent in the memory, they’d be seen to be doing something that’s in favour of their customers and not their wallets. Xbox’s reputation took a major hit last summer with the DRM mishap, an enormous hit. Anything they can do to redeem themselves in they eyes of consumers is something worth doing. If it means losing some extra dollars or pounds along the way, then so be it.

Quick little anecdote: I bought Bioshock: Infinite on the Xbox Live Marketplace last Thursday. Having looked around online to find a new copy of the game, the cheapest price I could find was £15. I downloaded it for from XBL for £6. This is the first time in the eight years I’ve been a member of Xbox Live that I bought something from the service and considered it a bargain. So, if they sold recent titles at a heavily discounted price as opposed to making them free, I’d also be fine with that. Especially if they made it apparent and told people about it. My other observation was this: the game was £6, if they made it free with Gold for 15 days would the monetary loss really be such a negative for them that it wouldn’t be worth doing? If anything, it gets more people playing the game and buying the two DLCs which in the long term, means more money in the bank.

I obviously don’t understand the intricacies of how Sony make these big titles free for their subscribers or how difficult it is. However, what I can do is look at the other side of the fence and feel slightly aggrieved. A year long membership to both services will set me back £40 (or $50-ish), they both allow me to play games online and chat to my friends. They do the same thing. However, the folks with a PlayStation also get a hefty number of free games actually worth getting excited about! The added value of the PlayStation Plus membership far outweighs the value I get with my Xbox Live Gold membership.

It would be really smart for Xbox to revamp Games with Gold. It would add to a Gold membership, which would show that they care about those who already have one; it could push some Silver members into dropping the £40 and going Gold. Hell, it could even shift a few more consoles. Most importantly, it would go some way to showing that they are still on the side of the gamers.

Right now, Games with Gold doesn’t feel anything like a premium service. Improving it should be an astute move, one which I hope Microsoft make in the near future.