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Microsoft: 'Games With Gold' is very different from PS Plus, but the selection will improve

Jonathan Lester
Games With Gold, Playstation Plus, Xbox Live Gold

Microsoft: 'Games With Gold' is very different from PS Plus, but the selection will improve

'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.

Microsoft argues that these comparisons are based on faulty reasoning due to the nature of the games themselves - and their terms of use - but still pledge to offer Xbox Live Gold members more bang for their buck over the coming months.

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.

Add a comment7 comments
googleberry  Mar. 10, 2014 at 14:30

In a world where entertainment content is generated at pace one cannot keep up with, owning old games forever seems a bum deal.

In the main I'd much rather have access something that is still current, alive and hot of the press than an older title forever, even if it's only for a short while. I can decide if that "new" thing is worth keeping from the taster by a subsequent purchase, or feel content that I tried the new thang that everyone is talking about and know it wasn't my cup of tea.

dumbjam  Mar. 10, 2014 at 16:58

Phil Spencer also seems to forget that PS Plus gives access to PS4, PS3 and PSVita games every month. I don't expect free Xbox One games until 2015 at the earliest unfortunately, as Sony's reach out to Indies has allowed them to offer some really good next gen freebies. PS Plus is really good for those games you might otherwise pick up second hand if you missed them at release, Games with Gold has only ever offered Sleeping Dogs that I had not already bought (and already had been released on PS Plus some months before).

wightmad  Mar. 10, 2014 at 21:31

Phil Spencer should stop talking rubbish about gaming and go back to what he knows best - Location, Location, Location.

Crazy Jamie  Mar. 10, 2014 at 22:49

This is semantic nonsense. In reality for the majority of users there is no practical difference between the two. In fact the whole argument is disingenuous because Games with Gold was clearly brought to help Microsoft compete with PS Plus, so now suggesting they are different isn't convincing anyone.

If the issue with the difference in game quality compared to the two schemes (and there is a massive difference) is down to securing rights for ownership v rental then Microsoft should just adopt the same system as PS Plus and offer a selection that rivals Sony. Because frankly the only thing that the consumers care about is what the games are, and in that department Microsoft is trailing so far behind Sony it's embarrassing.

Anarchist  Mar. 10, 2014 at 23:38

My thoughts are, that this issue comes down to how the funds collected from the respective licensing models are used.

Microsoft use the majority of the subscription funds in developing the superior online infrastructure. It's much more stable, copes with bandwidth demands better, etc. it's built upon the very robust and proven azure platform and as Microsoft themselves build and maintain their own infrastructure, they have a much better control over it, but their games with gold service quite frankly sucks.

Sony use the majority of their subscription funds on licensing their PS+ games rental/subscription licensing model. Offering far more, better games, newer games. But ther online infrastructure is still considerably behind MS's.

I agree with crazy Jamie, in as much that the difference between the two licensing models of games with gold and instant game collection, is semantic nonsense, and is just spencer trying to save face.

The two services are however still not directly equal, and not directly comparable. Live gold is cheaper than PS+ (live is pretty much always available for £25 ish, ps+ is rarely available for less than £40, although goes down to £30 occasionally). Live gold gives you a better online infrastructure, PS+ gives way better games (ignoring semantics).

Following on from all this, I believe there is literally only one clear question to ask the xbox owners...

"Would you be willing to pay an extra £15 a year (or whatever) for a better games subscription service?"

My answer is yes. Yes I would. If MS make the gold subscription £40/45 through the dashboard, and stopped their resellers selling it for less than £40, this would be an obvious start.

Crazy Jamie  Mar. 12, 2014 at 11:03

Anarchist; one problem with your analysis is the price. Your average man on the street is often going to pay the most accessible prices for these services. If you search on Amazon for the respective subscriptions one year of Gold is £35.07 and one year of PS Plus is £34.85. Now that destroys your 'PS Plus is rarely available for less than £40' statement, clean out of the water, but that isn't actually my point.

My point is that these subscriptions are always available cheaper if you bide your time for the deals. That is true of both services. So even on your cheapest case scenario you cannot suggest the difference is £15, because if you give your Gold consumer the credit of getting a cheaper deal, you have to assume your PS PLus consumer does the same thing.

If you bide your time on a PS Plus deal you shouldn't be paying more than £30 for a year, possibly less in some rare instances. Gold is normally a smidge over £25. That realistically gives less than £5 difference for those who look, whereas those who don't (i.e. most people) will be paying about the same.

The upshot is that the difference is minimal in terms of price, but here's the kicker in terms of your comparison generally; the Xbox 360 infrastructure is meaningless for me because I don't really play on my Xbox 360 anymore due to my time being taken up with the PS Plus games. I have to pay more for the 360 games that I want to play, which I am not willing to do because I get so many through PS Plus that I do want to play.

That is Microsoft's real problem here. The fact is that PS Plus isn't just offering a better service, it is offering a better service that means that people are playing on the their PS3s and not their 360s, because Sony are giving them reasons to use their console. That is the bottom line, and one that Microsoft need to correct if they want to compete in the next generation, because plenty of PS3 owners (myself included) are not only using the PS3 more, but are also building up their PS4 collections already for free without actually owning the console. Microsoft need to pull their finger out or they will lose significant ground because of this in the coming years.

Late  Mar. 12, 2014 at 11:28

I agree with Anarchist that xbox's online service is generally available cheaper than playstation's.
I spent three years on xbox live at £1 per month (as did thousands of folk thanks to a glitch a while back). It's definitely not the norm, I couldn't renew it again now at that price, and only a fraction of the service's subscribers ever knew about it, but I doubt thousands of folk have had psn for £12 per annum.

That glitch aside, you regularly see xbox subs for around £23-£25, whilst it's considered "hot" on hukd if PSN subs can be found for less than £35. Post on the site that you've found xbox subs for £26 and you'll see your submission freeze in record time.

I don't think it's unfair to say Microsoft's subs are cheaper than Sony's.

That said, I'm totally in awe of PSN's game giveaways. I agree with those who say the "Games with Gold" initiative is to all intents and purposes the same deal as Sony's "Playstation Plus". I will likely always have my subs running, so whether a game is mine to own (but not resell) or mine to rent only whilst my subs are live makes absolutely no difference at all (and even if my subs lapsed it's unlikely I'd want to play a game I got a couple of years ago. In the extremely unlikely event that I did want to blow off the dust from that ancient game then I'd have options to renew subs or just buy the game.).

I'd much prefer to "rent" AAA games from a year ago than own games that were okay 7 years ago or were crap indie things from a couple of years ago.

Of course the free games aren't the only factor to consider when comparing the two services, and xbox live is more favourably rated by most than psn (I've not tried the latter so can only go on what I've heard). But in this article we're not looking at the many facets of each service - we're looking only at the games we get to play for free.

And in those terms Sony blow Microsoft out of the water completely. Utterly. Obliterate them.

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