'Games With Gold' Confirmed For Xbox One
'Games With Gold' is coming to Xbox One in 2014, Microsoft PR man Larry Hryb tweeted today, meaning that Xbox Live Gold members will be able to download a rotating selection of software for free. Though that's literally the only details we have and will have until next January at the earliest, this announcement is more important than you might think.
See, Microsoft are aware that the playing field is changing as the next console generation fast approaches, and that Xbox Live Gold has to evolve in order to compete with Sony's PlayStation Plus service. But can it evolve fast enough?
Every time we sling up a post about the latest 'games with gold' offers, the comments section tends to play host to a very familiar argument. The small selection of often mid-tier or ancient games are nowhere near as impressive as the latest titles on the PS Plus Instant Game Collection, and it's often tempting to take the mickey. But when comparing Xbox 360 and PS3 side-by-side, the two services couldn't be more different, and the comparison more specious.
Xbox Live Gold is a mandatory subscription that unlocks Microsoft's excellent online service, with no real financial reason or incentive to offer more - yet it does. PlayStation Plus, meanwhile, is a totally optional premium service that effectively lets you rent games for the duration of your contract, and access a nifty suite of discounts. It has to offer great games to convince us to spend extra money. It's like comparing Netflix to your internet service provider, except nothing like that horribly tortured analogy at all. I tried to stay awake for the PS4 all access broadcast yesterday. Cut me some slack.
As things stood, a few months ago, the situation was fine. But now, with PlayStation Plus also unlocking online multiplayer on PS4, the balance has completely shifted.
Both services offer online multiplayer, discounts and the occasional freebie. Except that Sony's subscription has better games... on a wider range of platforms. PS4, PS3 and Vita all fall under the PS+ umbrella, making it a far more tempting deal on paper. And in reality. Because it is.
However, this latest news shows that Microsoft are moving in the right direction... and it's unfair to say that Xbox Live Gold offers nothing beyond multiplayer and apps/features that are completely free on all other platforms (DVR and Skype say 'hi'). The Xbox Live Rewards scheme is on hand to offer players store credit on their purchases and simply for playing games, though is much more convoluted and complex than it needs to be thanks to a completely redundant extra currency being introduced into the mix. Gold Members can access some excellent deals on quality software, much like PS+ subscribers can. There'll be a fitness training video application, SkyDrive, and other benefits too.
And, of course, we've yet to fully compare Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network on next-generation consoles. Xbox 360 owners tend to be happy to pay out for a quality service without regular downtime and unnecessary inconvenience - though it looks like Sony have upped their game drastically on PS4, Microsoft's next-gen showing could blow us away with its titanic server infrastructure, dedicated servers, blistering download speeds and nifty time-saving features. We are so ready, though "could" is definitely the operative word. The proof is in the playing.
Going forward, Microsoft needs to ensure that Xbox Live Gold is competitive, not just lazily sitting back and going through the motions. More projects like Happy Wars might be a good start. More current Xbox 360 games to download and keep forever, both in terms of AAA blockbusters and niche downloads. Perhaps some exclusive TV shows, which have been heavily hinted at over the last few months. And, above all, guaranteeing an unimpeachable quality of service.
As always, we'll have to wait and see whether they can move quickly to make Xbox Live Gold a quality 'all in one' package. That is the aim of the game, after all.
What would you like to see included in an Xbox Live Gold subscription? Have you been a subscriber for years, or do you resent paying out for it? Is PlayStation Plus a better deal? Let us know in the comments.