'You get to keep the game'
Now that PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold are head-to-head rivals, Microsoft's free 'Games With Gold' perk has found itself the butt of many unfavourable comparisons over the last few months, due mainly to the underwhelming selection of older titles.
Outlining the state of play in an SXSW presentation attended by Polygon, Microsoft's Phil Spencer brought up the elephant in the room. "One of our issues with Games with Gold – not ‘issues’ but differences between the other system we get compared to – is the fact that with Games with Gold, you get to keep that game, regardless of whether you continue to subscribe,” he said.
“And the business around Games with Gold, for us, is just fundamentally different from some of the other programs that are out there, which does put a different financial picture on a — you’re gonna go buy a game that’s brand new, the cost of putting that in, just to be kind of blunt about it.”
In short, Spencer argues that the main difference between Games With Gold and PS Plus is that you can download and keep games forever, as opposed to only being able to access them for the duration of your subscription. It's the difference between a freebie and a rental, and as such, securing the rights to offer Games With Gold is much harder - hence the smaller, older selection of titles.
He's correct, though many gamers would retort by suggesting that they'd obviously prefer to play through newer games a couple of times rather than keeping ancient XBLA titles forever. Myself included, in all honesty, as much as I love Dungeon Defenders.
Spencer is aware of these concerns, however, and is apparently working on making Games With Gold "more true" to what gamers expect from the service.
“I have been sitting down, monthly now, with that team – some of the earlier months were already programmed – and playing a more active role in picking franchises that show up in Games with Gold, and I think you’ll see at least something that feels, at least, more true to what I think Games with Gold should look like with the constraints that are there,” Spencer continued.
“For us, in the long run, as an industry, giving away content like that is just … I think there’s some steps and some evolution of what Games with Gold or any of the other systems will go through to their full potential. You have things out there that are kind of bigger subscription services, where I get access to a lot of content. Games with Gold is kind of this step in the middle of, ‘I get games, and how do I feel about those games.’”
2008 4X game Civilization Revolution is the current Xbox Live 'Game With Gold,' which will be phased out by Dungeon Defenders next week. Meanwhile PS Plus is offering access to Tomb Raider, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons and Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition amongst others - so long as your subscription lasts.
Does Microsoft need to up their game? Is it fair to compare Games With Gold and the Instant Game Collection? Let us know where you stand in the comments.