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Did Microsoft Mislead Us With Their Games With Gold Program?
When Microsoft’s Games with Gold program was announced at E3, there was a bit of a mixed reaction. On the one hand, people ridiculed Microsoft for aping Sony’s successful PlayStation Plus program, known for its penchant of giving away great games at greatly reduced prices, and often even free. On the other hand, free games are never a bad thing, right? At the time, Fable 3 was being given away, rather quietly, and, in a slightly confusing manner, Microsoft stated that it wasn’t part of the Games with Gold program, but rather a bonus game to enjoy.
OK, that’s cool. I’d never played Fable 3, so getting it free was unequivocally a good thing, at least for me. Microsoft went on to state that Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed II would be on the list of free games. While both these titles have aged by now, they are both quality AAA games that not many people are going to argue about receiving on the free. We knew the program would start this month, so when Microsoft announced the first title, the only question on most people’s minds was “Is it going to be Assassin’s Creed or Halo?”
It was neither.
Instead, Xbox owners received the news that Defense Grid: The Awakening was the first title on the program. Now, Defense Grid is a perfectly serviceable, even good, tower defense game. Again, we aren’t entitled to free games, so being able to download this for free isn’t a bad thing in general. When we look at the news relatively, though, it isn’t as promising.
A lot of people felt misled. Didn’t Microsoft say we would be getting Halo and AC? Well, kind of. I went back and watched the conference, and, while they clearly stated that these two games would be part of the program, they never explicitly stated they would be the first games available. I feel like they kind of implied it, but it was never stated. So they decided to come out of the gate with Defense Grid.
On the other hand, PlayStation Plus members are getting Battlefield 3. If you assume that Microsoft instituted this program to compete with Sony, and let’s be honest, everything their games division does they do to compete with Sony, then their opening salvo is pathetic. Nobody is dropping their PlayStation Plus account to go play Defense Grid.
In response, Microsoft announced on Xbox.com that the next game would indeed be Assassin’s Creed II. It will be available July 16 through July 31, and you have to claim your copy in that window, or it will be gone. Again, AC II is a fine game, but there have been three other Assassin’s Creed titles released since Ezio’s first adventure, and another one is right around the corner. If this is Microsoft’s attempt to wow gamers, I think it is safe to say it’s falling flat.
This seems to be indicative of Microsoft’s position lately. I keep getting the sense that even the consumer-friendly actions they take are more in response to their competitors then an internal strategy of pleasing the customer. I applaud their willingness to accept their strategies that aren’t working, but I have serious doubts about their long-term strategy. Games for Gold is nice, I suppose, but is it giving anybody a reason to stay their Microsoft course, or, more importantly, switch teams?
How do you feel about this? Do you feel misled by Microsoft, or is this a case of looking a gift horse in the mouth? Are you excited about Games with Gold?